“Bollywood is still a very imaginary landscape for me”
By Ankita R. Kanabar
(From the Diwali/Anniversary issue of Super Cinema dated, November 7, 2015)
If one had to define Richa Chadda in one word, one could probably call her ‘gutsy’. That stems from her choices and also what you take back about her after a rendezvous. She calls a spade a spade and isn’t scared of being herself. On the parallel side though, she’s also a vulnerable, sensitive girl at heart. With her hair let loose, dressed in a white t-shirt clubbed with denims and just a hint of make-up, Richa comfortably settles down as we have this freewheeling chat.
When you’re doing layered characters like in ‘Main Aur Charles’ or ‘Masaan’ especially, isn’t it difficult to deal with them emotionally?
That’s why I don’t do method acting. I’m very sensitive, so if I do that, then every film I do will leave me crazy. What if someday I have to play a murderer? I’d read that Danial Day-Lewis was working in a butcher shop for six months to prepare for ‘Gangs Of New York’. I would puke at that thought but that’s how real he wanted to get! For me, I work on instincts and spontaneity. But it takes a toll on you. After ‘Masaan’ I had to write a whole blog post, about detaching from the film. I was so irritated with the character because she couldn’t speak up and I’m a very vocal person. At that time, it was difficult for me but when the film was releasing and the process was ending, that’s when I realised that I was so involved with that character – her job, her father, her little house, clothes, backpack. You don’t realise it when you’re shooting, but eventually, you give a part of you to every part you play.
What is it that reflects such unique choices?
It seems unique here, but if you see globally, actors all over the world explore themselves. I’ve been lucky, that I’ve been in this industry and had the opportunity to explore myself like that, with films like ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’, ‘Fukrey’, or ‘Masaan’.
But sometimes is it challenging to take the less popular road?
It has been a struggle, because you have to keep working, you have to make money and you have to be seen, but at some stage, you think should I even do this? It’s not like I’m averse to formulaic song-and-dance films. I’m doing a film called ‘Cabaret’. But I have a problem with being used as a prop in a film. That I don’t think I can do, and if someone gives me that then it’s a waste of my caliber. People will be like, you have 20 days free, do two songs, ten scenes and the film will get over. I cannot do that. But when I do a film like ‘Masaan’, I know that even 15-20 years down the line, I’ll be proud of the work I’m doing. It won’t be dependent on the weekend opening collections that you later forget about.
The good part is that you’ve got critical acclaim for most of your performances. You still don’t think of yourself as a star though…
In fact, my first review for ‘Masaan’ was bad – they openly said, ‘Oh she’s so terrible’. So, to each their own! But I’m trying not to get complacent, more than ever, because it’s so easy to get lazy. I have to keep improving each time because otherwise there’s no fun also. I think I have managed to stay grounded because I don’t take any of this too seriously. I don’t think I’m a star or I’ve accomplished a lot. When I sit in my apartment and see Shah Rukh Khan or Deepika Padukone on TV, I feel they’re big stars. And here I am, involved in my daily ramblings with my driver, hair-dresser and doing so many other things. There’s no time to think, ‘wow I’m so cool’ (laughs).
So you’ve managed to stay out of the bubble?
Why do you feel so?
Because star kids are people who’ve grown up knowing that a Friday is something different. I’ve also tweeted about my life changing on a Friday because my life literally changed on a Friday. But does it mean that my life will change every Friday? No. Does it mean that someone else’s film is releasing on a Friday, so my life is changing and I’m crumbling? No. That’s what I mean. I don’t have this whole machinery around me to tell me it’s Friday, and what’s happening with someone else’s film. Also most star kids grow up in a filmy background and have friends from the industry. On the other hand, I mostly have friends outside the industry. Bollywood is still a very imaginary landscape for me in that sense.
And how do you see your growth in this imaginary landscape?
Finally I’ve come to a point where I’m more disciplined than ever before. I’m really working on making my craft better. So now I feel bad for directors who I’ve worked with in the past, because people working with me now are getting so much more. It’s more collaborative now. For instance, now I’m working with Pooja Bhatt, and I’ll see how she’s scripting, so meanwhile I’ll do something else. Or suggest that we could club two locations. So, it’s not like I’ve suddenly become a production assistant, just that I know so much better now. Earlier I was a dear in headlights. Now I’m more involved and it’s also important because film-making is such an expensive art form.
Your next film is ‘Cabaret’. How’s the experience been so far?
It’s great fun and I hope people are not terrified of watching me in a song and dance film. They shouldn’t say why is an art-film heroine doing ‘Cabaret’? But it’s challenging. For instance, during one of the shoots, I was wearing a wig, false lenses, lashes, heels and tight costume. Despite all this, you have to be in that zone and dance when the camera rolls. So, anyone who has ever judged an item girl or an actress for dancing really needs to re-access because it’s a difficult job.