Playing the game and how

Fresh off the success of Amit Sharma’s Maidaan, SlowCheeta aka Chaitnya Sharma who played the role of renowned Indian footballer Pradip Kumar Banerjee, talks about his journey as an actor and rapper.
 SlowCheeta aka Chaitnya Sharma.
SlowCheeta aka Chaitnya Sharma.

An actor, a rapper and above all, a storyteller. This was the brief that we had of Chaitnya Sharma aka SlowCheeta based on his recent stint in sports drama Maidaan co-starring Ajay Devgn and his latest rap track with Ranveer Singh titled ‘Kar De Kaa?’ from the EP Scene Main Bawaal.

His wife, actress Shweta Tripathi Sharma, is the light of his life. But what explains his stage name, SlowCheeta? He tells us that his mother calls him Cheetah and his brother Sheru.

So, when he had to pick a name for his rap tracks, he zeroed down on Cheetah. But why slow? Well, for Chaitnya, slow and steady wins the race. “I went with ‘slow’ because everyone has this stigma about rapping that it needs to be fast-paced. You see artistes like Notorious BIG and Snoop Dogg and you realise that they used to slow down their rap pace and my style is also very similar to theirs. Plus, growing up, I loved this band, Red Hot Chili Peppers who had a song named ‘Slow Cheetah’, which I loved.”

Excerpts from the conversation:

A rapper first or an actor?

I recently wrote a song called ‘Chai Biskoot’ where I address this very question that I am very frequently asked. The song looks at how I can’t figure out who I am and I do not wish to also. We have all grown up learning to put everything in boxes because it is easy to process. I feel like that is a limitation in art. Art is very fluid. We are all everything that we choose to be. I enjoy expressing myself, so, whatever stage or medium I find, I am happy to be there.

I have been acting professionally since 2011. Basically, I have been acting much longer than I have been rapping and I was on my way to becoming an actor when life humoured me. There was a lucky draw newspaper article about an opportunity to rap with Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy in 2017. I filled in the lucky draw, got selected from out of over 1,000 entries and rapping took off. Rapper or actor, I see both as a win-win situation.

You clearly had a lot going on the sets and given that you played such an intense character (footballer Pradip Kumar Banerjee), tell us a little about the training that went into it?

I was almost like a pickle that was kept in the sun to absorb more flavour. We got to live with the script for three years and really marinate into all of that information to bring out the story. We lived like players for three years. We woke up, trained 7-9, ate a healthy breakfast with no cheating and then we also had acting workshops. For three years we called each other by the character names and I think eventually we all just started living the part. Then obviously when I met Pradip Kumar Banerjee, I was blown away. I was looking for similarities between us and I remember when we went to his house and took a photo with him, he moved us all closer to a picture of his wife who passed away. I was so touched by that. I feel the same way about love and my wife. That’s how I started building on his character.

Did the rigorous training in the film impact how you approach fitness now?

One of the biggest gifts Maidaan has given me is fitness. It educated me about fitness and I realised a lot of our body goals are aesthetic dependent. Our process to address fitness is very surface-level. Every body type is different. We have to educate ourselves on that and taking care of it is very important. Else, it is game over. You don’t need to have six-pack abs or look thin, you need a routine and discipline. Fitness is an ongoing process and you need to trust it.

Apart from fitness, we have also noticed your evolution in fashion…

I am a recent addition to this style situation. Earlier, I only had black T-shirts in my wardrobe. Living with Shweta, who is so ahead of the curve, really inspired me. I figured that what I considered a safe combination was basically laziness and now I have started to enjoy fusion styles. I found a lot of desi brands who are doing my flavour of fashion.

Lastly Chaitnya, where can we see you next?

There is another film in the works called Sumo Didi. It is about India’s first professional sumo wrestler, Hetal Dave and it is currently doing the rounds in film festivals. It should be out in theatres in the second half of the year and my song, ‘Kar De Kaa?’ is now out. There is loads more in the pipeline to watch out for.

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The New Indian Express