Indian indie cinema’s newest poster girl, darling of the critics and hotly pursued on the internet – Radhika Apte is evidently having her moment.

In just over a year, the 29-year-old actress has assembled an eclectic body of work across independent and mainstream Hindi movies, regional language productions and plays. She appears to be as comfortable doing unprintable things with an ice cube (The Ye Na Saajna song in Lai Bhaari) as she is mopping floors (in the play Uney Purey Ek Shahar). Most recently, Apte plays the modern-day version of the mythological adulteress Ahalya in Sujoy Ghosh’s short film of the same name, and her sexual wiles are among Ahalya’s highlights.

Ahalya follows a similar on-screen bold move for Anurag Kashyap’s Parched, a 20-minute short that’s part of an anthology featuring international filmmakers of acclaim. The video was leaked through WhatsApp, ensuring Apte’s addition to the list of most searched for Indian actresses on the internet. It appears that Apte is following the formula that has worked for such actresses as Mahie Gill, Vidya Balan and Richa Chadha, especially in the offbeat film space: in order to be noticed in a male-dominated industry, shed your inhibitions.

However, Apte’s filmography suggests a fair degree of diversity. She appeared in Marathi films from 2009 before making her debut in Hindi cinema in 2010 in Ram Gopal Varma’s Rakhta Charitra. Shor in the City (2011), directed by Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru followed, but Apte took a break and went to study dance at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in the United Kingdom, where she met and later married musician Benedict Taylor.

This year has been her most significant, with the movies Badlapur and Hunterrr and the television adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s Chokher Bali. Apte will feature in the August releases Kaun Kitne Paani Mein and Manjhi The Mountain Man. Meanwhile, her public profile and social media persona are being steadily built on a foundation of unusual roles and outspoken interviews. In an interview, Apte makes the distinction between "sex" and "bold" and discusses her approach to cinema and theatre.

You have played a diverse set of characters in just one calendar year. You have often said that you fight against being typecast. Is that why your slate this year is the way it is?
I prefer to take things as they come. It is not as though if I have played a dancer, I am not going to play a dancer again. An actor’s job is to be versatile and step into the other person’s shoes and play a different character in every film. Unfortunately in our industry, to a large extent, people tend to typecast you. If a certain project or character clicks, you only get offers to play that character.

Has it happened to you as well?
Yes! After Shor in the City [in which she plays Tusshar Kapoor’s wife], I only got sari-clad lower middle class woman’s roles. After Badlapur [in which she strips for Varun Dhawan], I only got offers for erotica. I wondered if they realised that Badlapur was not erotica! It is unfortunate and I am trying to break that perception.

You have done a fair share of regional cinema (Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam). Have you been typecast there as well?
In our country, and I am sure this happens in other film industries as well, image is very important for an actor. You want to build an image and are given certain attributes, which you carry with you. Men, especially, are very particular about this image. But you fall short as an actor if you carry forward those attributes to all characters you play. If a good guy suddenly plays a baddie, people have issues with it. Yes, regional cinema typecasts as well, by calling it "our culture". Yes, there is a lot of path-breaking, edgy, experimental films being made, but a majority tend to typecast an actor.

But given that you just did Badlapur, Ahalya and have a nude scene in Anurag Kashyap’s short film Parched, can you really escape being typecast?
I have also done Rakhta Charitra, Shor in the City, That Day after Every Day, Manjhi, Chokher Bali and Hunterrr, in which I play a girl next door. I don’t see why that should happen at all. I also play a kaamwali bai in one of my plays. People choose to see what they want to see.

But when you strip for 20 seconds, it gets more bandwidth than two hours of a cerebral role.
That’s human nature! My work as an actor is over the moment the shoot is over. The audience wants to see it one way or the other, they have the freedom to do so. I can agree or disagree, but that’s about it. We make films and we want the audience to watch it. Seven billion people will have seven billion interpretations and perceptions.

So how did you react when your nude scene from Parched was leaked onto the internet?
I have a lot to say about this. I have been silent because the film has not released. No matter what I say now, people won’t understand or believe me. If I say that scene was the most asexual scene in the entire film, they are not gonna believe me. Especially because of the way it was leaked. I did not leak the scenes for publicity, so it is best that I explain everything, including how I felt while doing the scene, only after the film is released.

You were talking about image management. You have signed up with the celebrity image management companies Kwan and Spice. Why do you think you need professional help?
I never thought I would be doing what I am doing today. I believe much of my image is because of the way I speak my mind.

Kwan and Spice have been in the business for a long time and if I have plenty of experience in some areas, I definitely need help with the others. And they are better clued into what is going on, and help me get work. It is a wonderful support system.

You are known as a "bold" actress. What is your definition of bold?
I love your question! I think it’s a relative and subjective. People will find something bold depending on where they come from. Where I come from, what I say or do is not being bold. It is who I am. I think "bold" requires courage.

Have you done anything that is bold by your definition?
I don’t think so. The subjects in my films, according to a lot of people, are bold. The physical aspect, the subject, content, my thoughts are seen as bold. Maybe because I am honest and not scared of how people will judge me.

For the Indian audience, bold always has to do with sex. And "sexy bold" has a very limited shelf life.
Bold is not just to do with sex. It is a limited, finite usage of the word. Courage is a more positive thing. I remember as a kid I watched [the television soap] Bold and the Beautiful and laughed at it.

How does your agency pitch you to prospective collaborators?
You ask them! Well, they say I am different.

Different from?
What probably makes me different is the fact that I come from a different place, I have had a different non-film upbringing, my mother and grandmother and now my husband have been the most liberal people ever, staunch believers of gender equality. Also, backpacking solo in India and Europe changed me as a person. And I take responsibility for all my actions, including my fuck-ups!

Which are?
Just because I am honest, am I supposed to tell you about the skeletons in my closet? No way!

You took a year-long break to study dance in the UK and also married Benedict Taylor, who scored Ship of Theseus and Killa. Actors don’t even want to acknowledge their relationships, let alone get married so early on in her lives. Did anyone tell you it was a bad idea?
Many, many people! This is what I meant by image.

I don’t believe in cultivating this image of an actress who is single and available. I am an actor and my personal life is entirely my business. If people think that I should be available by not getting married, I am not going to do that.

We were living in, we wanted to be together… I don’t see how anybody’s opinion would influence that decision.

Your father, Charudutt Apte, is an eminent neurosurgeon. You studied mathematics and economics at Pune’s Fergusson College. At what point did you decide to become an actor?
I absolutely loved maths and feel that someday, I will pursue it again.

My grandmother, Madhumalati Apte, was a mathematician who studied in India and went to France to do her PhD and was also a teacher. She was a late night person and stayed up till 5.30 solving problems and sums on recycled paper and refilled pens. I stayed up with her as well as she taught me the core, the basics. I later realised I am not good with multitasking and after graduation, I had to choose one over the other, and it was acting at that point for me. I promised myself I would get back to maths later. And I hope to do that.

I started with a theatre group called Asakta. I have been doing theatre for 14 years now.

Did theatre help you get comfortable in your skin and before the camera?
People do theatre just for the sake of theatre. There is nothing attached to it. They are really passionate and serious about the work and there is no money in it at all. It helps me stay grounded.

Sometimes you have to perform before just seven people, but do it with all your enthusiasm, energy and involvement. It builds a sense of discipline. My commitment to theatre has often taken precedence over everything else, even big film projects. I know if I miss a show, it will affect everyone who is doing it for the love of the craft.