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Interview: Richa Chadha - always ready to break the stereotypes

By Armin Sethi Tuesday, Aug 15, 2017 10:42: AM

Richa Chadha is like a breath of fresh air for viewers, including me. And she is a breath of fresh air when I speak to her as well. When she started off, she was ready to break stereotypes right off the bat – whether it was intentional or unintentional. Today, she is one of the most talented, hard-working actors we have in the industry. She has some interesting projects coming up including Fukrey 2, and she’s already making her mark with Inside Edge. Here’s our exclusive chat with Richa, who talks about the frustrations, the victories, and the realities surrounding what some see as being an “arthouse pin-up”.

In an interview, you said that you’ve taken risks and you’ve dealt with the repercussions of dealing with those risks. For example, after you did Gangs of Wasseypur, you kept being offered roles that were much older – such as being offered the role of Hrithik’s mom in Agneepath.

Yeah, I was 24 at the time.

Is that one of the reasons why your roles have been so different from each other?

I will say that I think my risks have paid off. I want to do memorable films as opposed to do any film for a quick buck. I look at the longevity of the kinds of roles and films I’m doing. With the risks, there are repercussions. Like from Fukrey people just started thinking that I’m loud and rude. Risks don’t always pay off but it is the right thing to do for the short-term and the long-term. We all need some references of risks that are taken and sometimes, when one person takes the first bold step, everyone else does too.

You did mention Fukrey; and Fukrey 2 will be coming out soon. I want to go back to the first installment – Fukrey. I think that was a ground-breaking film. It was a cast of characters coming together for the first time. These were some mainstream Punjabi characters that were not being portrayed in the traditional, stereotypical way they usually are.

Yeah, they are always shown as jokers. Yeah.

I found myself watching it over and over again – it was very satisfying. What was it about Fukrey that made you say yes?

I think it was my character. The film takes off when she enters. She is such an empowered character. Everyone dances to her tunes. There were four boys in the film but still she was able to control, in part, how events unfolded. It’s refreshing to get some interesting parts. It’s not for everyone but since then, I have been to so many meetings, they’ll say that they need a character like that. For me, that’s a compliment. The things that I do, the characters that I play, become references for other people and this I find very interesting. And this has happened to me three or four times. I don’t get arrogant about it but it’s definitely something I enjoy doing.

You’ve shown diversity through the roles you have done, such as Sarbjit, in which you played Sarbjit’s wife. It was a film that you had to go back and reference reality in. As an artist, how do you maintain creative liberty but also balance the reality you must show?

For Sarbjit, I did meet the family in real life so that was nice. At the end of the day, his wife will have to go back to her village and live her life with her children. I’ll be in Mumbai. I had to keep that responsibility in mind. Apart from that, I mean, it wasn’t a very happy film so I won’t say I had fun doing it but it was an experience. I think eventually people spoke very highly about my character. I mean, I did it purely because the two conflicts between the two countries, the way it was portrayed, would affect the larger mass of people – to process change. For that reason, I did it and I’m very happy with the film.

Are you able to be liberal in a creative way though?

I usually don’t when it is a realistic character especially when they are alive, you know. They are casting me as the person, there are costumes, there are background scores – people have already taken some creative liberties, right?

I really wanted to start off at the beginning of the journey for you – you are seemingly not afraid of coming into an industry which “manufactures” artists sometimes. I think that is the phrase you have used before. How do you maintain your own space and integrity then and not allow yourself to be manufactured?

I work really hard – every week, I have two or three days when I am auditioning. Even at this stage, after getting appreciation and winning those awards, I still want to work hard for the roles that I want to do. You know, I’m not a star kid, so I won’t be launched like them. I mean, I have nothing against people supporting their kids. If I had a child, or whenever I do, if they want to be involved in films, it is my duty as a parent to support them. One needs to be mindful of the overall candour of the business. When I look at Ranbir Kapoor, I totally believe he needs to be here – he is a good actor, he is a great dancer.

I mean, it depends on the individual though. I have some terrible days, where I am bummed out, or pissed off but then, I become okay. It is definitely not easy. I keep my interests though, separate from films. I have a friends’ circle which is not really with people from this industry. I am writing a book currently. I watch plays. I try to do other things to keep my intellect alive.

It’s interesting you say that because you have varied interests that you are pursuing and you also produced a short film recently. Was that a conscious decision on your part to make sure you keep your interest piqued?

Well, my friend had made a short film and I helped a friend. Yeah, we are in the process of developing a full feature and that will be next year maybe. We are developing it right now. We will make it in some time. Right now, it is in the very initial stages. I’m selective about the films I do, so I have three months when I am really busy and three months when I have less to do. I can’t live at the gym. I can’t live at the parties. I want to be creatively engaged so I do other things. I tend to operate like I’m living in L.A. even though I live in Mumbai. (laughs). Thankfully, things are changing a bit here as well because in L.A. , actors sing, write, act.

I agree. I also see more females being involved in production and the fact that they are involved in good film-making is a good sign.

Yeah, I mean, I love Priyanka and Anushka and the films they are producing. They are putting out content that is not even in – regional films, good films. I truly think that the times are changing. We have lived in a big box forever, and we had big releases according to our holidays. I think there is a systemic shift in the business now.

I think in an interview you described something you phrased as “the life of an arthouse pinup”…

Yeah! I was writing a short film on that. That’s why.

Does it bother you that even in today’s day and age, like we can talk about the lines blurring between commercial and arthouse cinema, but at the end of the day, I see supporting female actors like Kalki and Radhika quite often, but they are not considered “mainstream”. Is it truly blurring or is it still a different space for you?

You know, it may have blurred for the people but I don’t think it has blurred for the artists, for the film industry. Within the fraternity, there are people who say, oh, these kind of films don’t do business. But for the people, who pay the same amount to watch any film, unless it is tax-free, the lines are already blurred.

So, coming full circle, we’re going to see you in different films coming up again. Are you consciously making an effort to do something that is not familiar territory?

That is actually the reason why I did Cabaret. It’s about dancing, singing, and lots of fun. Unfortunately, it is kind of stuck right now. I’m sure with some time, it will come out. But that’s why I did that film.

And today, looking back, what was the biggest risk you took that has had the biggest pay-off?

I think Gangs of Wasseypur. It gave me a lot of attention and fame. I won awards for it. I became well-known because of that film. It was a blessing and a curse though. A blessing that it changed the perception of what a female actor can do. A curse in that, many follow-up roles were older females for me that were being offered because I was transitioning in the film. Actors and actresses would not be comfortable playing a part like that in their youth, even though everyone in the film was aging. Everyone gets older. I can’t selectively get older. People were thinking: I was brash, uncool, rude – but that was because of the role. There are all these things that people think about me and there is nothing I can do to change that.

Your support system is not from the industry. So who do you turn to?

I’m going to be really girly – my dad. I turn to my dad. My parents are there for me.


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