Richa Chadha has received good notices for her role in the recently released Sarabjit but she wouldn’t know – she says she doesn’t read reviews. The feisty and outspoken actress is more worked up over the canning of scenes featuring her character, the wife of Sarabjit Singh who is jailed in Pakistan and accused of a crime he did not commit.
The actress from Gangs of Wasseypur, Fukrey and Masaan will be seen in a different avatar in Pooja Bhatt’s co-production Cabaret, astride a crimson stallion and gyrating in a pool. There has been unverified speculation that the June 10 release, apparently written in two weeks after Bhatt first came up with the title and asked debutant director Kaustav Narayan Niyogi to come up with a story, was inspired by the life of Helen. Chadha also stars in Love Sonia, an under-production drama about sex trafficking. Every new project for her is a gamble, she tells Scroll.in.
What has been your response to the reviews of ‘Sarbjit’?
I don’t know. I don’t have time for reviews.
What about the feedback for your own performance?
My friends, colleagues and well-wishers – whose opinion I trust - have liked the film and have said good things about my performance.
There is also the opinion that you were wasted in the film and people wanted to see more of you.
Yes, I am aware of that. When I saw the final edit, I realised more than half an hour had been chopped off. It was getting too long at more than two-and-half hours. There was so much material to begin with that some scenes had to be dropped. I had some crucial scenes that were not there in the final edit.
Do you regret doing a movie in which your character is considered insignificant enough to be pared down? Especially since you have talked about how you would never do a film like ‘Goliyon Ki Leela Ram Leela’ again?
I would like to correct a misconception here. I never said that I would not do a film like Ram Leela again. I meant I would not like to repeat myself. I did Ram Leela because I wanted to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Similarly, I do not have any regrets about doing Sarbjit. I know very well that it is the film that gets priority over an actor.
Your next film is ‘Cabaret’, which sees you in a very different avatar. What made you sign up for the film? Is it because Pooja Bhatt is known for bold commercial films?
It was just the opportunity to do something very different. If you look at my repertoire, the only thing that is consistent is that I have done different kinds of roles. Besides, Pooja is ballsy. Someone who is willing to take a chance. She wanted a commercial solo poster heroine. That is exactly how she described it.
She was debating whether to get a dancer who could act or an actor who could dance. Sometime in the end of 2014, they approached me. I was very excited at the prospect of doing a song-and-dance kind of Bollywood film.
Would you say it is the first ‘Richa Chadha’ film?
I would not say that. It is also Pooja Bhatt’s baby – she has been completely involved with the project, right from the concept to production design, everything. Yes, you do see me in the promotional material, but even in Masaan my face was dominant in the posters but it was in the end an ensemble with Vicky Kaushal and Sanjay Mishra putting in brilliant performances.
Do you think playing bold and liberated characters can be a trap in itself? While it does get one noticed easily, is there a danger of being typecast?
If you have seen Sarbjit, you would know this is not true in my case. And how come one never asks these questions to the actors who play the same characters with the same names – Pooja, Priya, Ayesha – year after year? They all follow the same trajectory of falling in love and eventually getting rescued by or married to the guy they love? It is a problem of perception. Every film for me is a gamble. I have never wanted to do bit roles and will continue that way.
It is said that women from outside the film industry have it tough here. Do you agree that Bollywood is difficult for women with no famous last names?
I don’t think so. I think women have it easier than the men, especially the A-listers. It’s a male-oriented film industry and there is a lot more at stake for every male star – especially the ones who have been dominating the scene for decades now. There are debtors, producers, distributors and a whole lot of people to whom they are answerable. In our country, it is the hero who draws people to the project and the theatres. But also look at Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif. While I do not question their choice of films, I do appreciate the fact that they are not from film families either and yet have achieved a lot in their sphere.
As far as I am concerned, I look at my career from Gangs of Wasseypur onwards, which was in 2012, and I see a body of work I am happy about. I have no famous surname, I do not come from the beauty pageant community. And yet I have worked with some of the most influential and talented filmmakers of the day. Yes, there are films that never got released, but you take things in your stride. Masaan took me to the world. But I also look at Mr [Amitabh] Bachchan’s life and see there are a lot of instances where he put in a brilliant performance, but the project got shelved. It is a lesson for all of us.
You have always been in the news for being your own person. How easy or difficult is it to maintain a certain image and yet stay rooted?
It is the way I am. I do not live a frugal life, I do not give in to peer pressure either. I am a Punjabi. I have a robust appetite for all the good things in life. But I prefer to make sound investments – devoting myself to a charity I believe in, getting a good stylist or PR, buying a good, fuel-efficient car only when I could afford one rather than splurge on the latest mobiles and glitzy cars and live in debt. I see a lot of my peers in the film industry fall into this trap. At the end of the day, the choice is entirely up to the individual.
I cannot keep living in the world where Marion Cotillard is my friend or I have dinner with Francis Ford Coppola and then come back to my life in Versova and reconcile to it. It would be very difficult for me to continue this way.