BANGALORE: Richa Chaddha has the kind of face that the camera conspires with and talks to. It is not a one note face preoccupied with bland prettiness. It has character, strength and in her silence, you can hear the deep roar of an ocean. Watch her in her debut cameo in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008). She was the supporting actor who ran away with every scene she was in. And she was the punchline of Gangs Of Wasseypur — part 1 and part 2. Her Nagma Khatoon was not a Hindi film heroine, she was a life story, almost epic in depth and expanse. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Ram Leela, she was a note of quiet dignity. Post a Filmfare award and unusual projects like Jia Aur Jia (Shades of Thelma and Louise? We don't know for sure though), Main Aur Charles (She won't say whether it is inspired by Charles Sobhraj) and Tamanche lined up in the near future, Richa is going back to the discipline of theatre with Atul Kumar's Trivial Disasters. She will be in the city on July 25 and spoke to City Express despite a long day and a bad phone connection.
Not everyone comes to the industry with a post graduate diploma in social communication media or turns down sex comedies guaranteed to be big hits but Richa does not want to be slotted as a 'thinking actor' because it limits her to just one dimension. She says,"It is a tag given by the press. Do you mean that actors like Katerina Kaif don't think while performing? Maybe the kind of roles she does differ from what I do but that doesn't mean she works any less on her films. Maybe she has dimensions you know nothing about. You could be a journalist and a good cook but I don't know you well enough to know that. Everyone has aspects beyond the labels."
Richa grew up in a culturally rich, literary household. Her mother is an author and an academician but she was never taught to sneer at entertainment. She recalls,"My parents are academicians but they were cinephiles and I got a healthy diet of Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and also Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda."
On how did she decide to be an actor, she says, "I believe you are born to be an actor and then you cannot do anything else. You don't get to choose. You just are. And the lure of cinema as a medium is that it immortalises you. For an actor, that is a hard thing to resist."
And does her academic background colour her film choices? She answers, "There is a certain perspective while reading or understanding a script but then you can't always choose films to please your sensibilities. That way, you will end up broke and without work. Sometimes you choose a film for a banner, for a director, for what a film will be commercially. We work in what is known as show-business and it is a business afterall. People are not just making films for creative satisfaction."
Gangs of Wasseypur though would have been an exception, considering how challenging the role was and how rewarding. She says, "It was a tough role and required a lot of effort and a lot of trust in my director (Anurag Kashyap). Few women would be offered a role like this in our myopic industry or even choose to do it. I took it though there was the risk of being stereotyped. In the films that were offered to me subsequently, there was a bit of repetitiveness. I have consciously tried to not be slotted in only certain kind of roles."
And after all the accolades, is the going any easier? Richa responds,"When I choose work, I do not bring along the baggage of being a Filmfare award winning actor or someone who has been appreciated by the biggest names in the industry. Everyday is still a struggle. I treat everyday as a first day at a job."
And how does an actor go from a Gangs of Wasseypur to the tyranny of glamour in Hindi cinema. "Cinema is a visual medium and so you are expected to look a certain way. And to achieve that there is an entire machinery at your disposal..the makeup artists, the stylists. But today, we also have someone like a Vidya Balan who has redefined what a female actor and her body can look like. She can run movies on her own today and that is great," says Richa.
The gender stereotyping in cinema and misogyny in society provokes her to say, "The Ram Sene incident in a Mangalore pub should be considered an embarrassment. As a nation, we are in a state of transition. From a developing third-world country, we are now on a road map to a global self-hood and the struggles (to resist change) we see around us are inevitable. Everyone is getting affected by the changes, even those who pretend otherwise. But what we see on cinema screens is only a reflection of what is happening in our society. Cinema does not exist in isolation."
She has hope though and says, "I am an optimist. Also women constitute half the population in this country and change is already manifesting with many women occupying positions of power. In the film industry itself, you have women like Ekta Kapoor running big production houses and they cannot be messed with. It bodes well for the future."
Going back to theatre with Trivial Disasters has been challenging.
"Theatre requires an almost super-human commitment. Atul Kumar pushes one hard and allows you the flexibility to work when you can and I had a window for something other than films at this point, so took it up. I also admire Atul's work and look forward to coming to Bangalore with the play," she says.
About the city, she says, "I do hear that the partying is much more restricted now. But I think of Bangalore still as a safe city where I can enjoy a lot of good, vegetarian food."