If you look at most of the 1980s Malayalam ‘evergreen’ playlists, there’d be the song ‘Vaachalam En Mounavum Nin Mounavum’. Roughly translated, it means ‘your silence and my silence are eloquent’. Mohanlal runs and Radikaa runs in this dream song that Peter has about Devi – the characters they play in the 1985 movie Koodum Thedi. Both actors were young, in their early 20s, Radikaa by then already a known face in Tamil cinema, debuting seven years earlier with the Bharathiraja film Kizhakke Pogum Rail.
Malayalam movies for Radikaa Sarathkumar have not been too many – she was acting in many Tamil and Telugu films in those years. But up until 1993, she would come and go now and then. In ’93 she played Murali’s possessive wife in Arthana and then disappeared from Malayalam cinema for 24 long years. It was in 2017 that she returned to play the protagonist’s mother in Ramaleela and now she is back again to play a rare character for any kind of cinema – a female don.
“Yes, for The Gambinos,” Radikaa says in a short interview to the TNM as she rushes from a shooting location to a function she has to attend. The movie, apparently inspired by the New York-based crime family of the same name, has Radikaa playing the head of a Malayali family with a history of crime. The actor says she got interested as soon as she heard director Gireesh Panicker Mattada’s narration. “The script and the setting, everything was different. It is a different grey role for me that I haven’t done in a long time. It is a family. Characters are very lively,” she says.
Radikaa took it up because of the challenge. “And because I like to better myself as an actor by doing different roles. It was really fun. When they come to me with such different roles and say ma’am you have to do this, I feel so honoured. I feel very lucky,” Radikaa says.
The Gambinos, which releases on March 8, will revolve around the main character Mamma, played by Radikaa. The others in the cast include Vishnu Vinay, Sijoy Varghese, Sampath Raj, Salu K George, Sreejith Ravi, Musthafa and Neeraja.
The actor doesn’t find the language difficult anymore, even though there has been a long gap. “Sometimes I find it difficult to commit. I do get offers but sometimes it is very difficult to accept movies. Even at the last minute, I have backed out of certain movies,” she says.
Understandably, Radikaa has been busy. She has her own production house, Radaan Mediaworks, which produces Tamil serials. In the 2016 interview she gave TNM, Radikaa said how at one point, she decided to have more control over her career and life, while she was doing it all as a single mother, and went into television.
But the character of Mamma for The Gambinos, who in the trailer says she’d do anything for her children, was an offer she could not refuse. She has also been happily watching the ‘creatively good’ work of Malayalam cinema. She names movies offhand – Premam, Pazhassi Raja and Take Off. “I am happy to be a part of that creativity,” she says.