Richa Chadha: I want to have a relevance beyond my youth – Richa Chadha has steadily managed to make a mark for herself with her unconventional repertoire. Whether it was as the bold Dolly in her debut film Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, the feisty Nagma Khatoon in Gangs Of Wasseypur, the tackily-dressed yet menacing gangster Bholi Punjaban in the Fukrey franchise or the ambitious Devi, who wants to break free from the shackles of patriarchy in Masaan, she has managed to impress critics and audiences alike with her performances. Now, the actress is gearing up for her forthcoming release, Love Sonia, which highlights the murky world of sex trafficking. She has already won two honours — the Best Supporting Performance award at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne and Outstanding Achievement Award at the London Indian Film Festival — for her adept portrayal of the madam of a brothel. We catch up with Richa for a chat. She talks to us about her ‘sometimes tumultuous, sometimes rewarding but interesting filmography’ and playing ’90s South adult film star Shakeela in her biopic. Excerpts…
The trailer of Love Sonia looks stark. Why were you apprehensive to do this film and what finally prompted you to give your nod?
Director Tabrez Noorani will tell you that I was the only actor whom he had to chase with the script.
Everybody else came on board willingly. When he told me, ‘If you trust me then do this film. Otherwise I will just have to move on and you can leave it,’ that’s when I finally agreed to do it because I realised he was honest with me. I was apprehensive that the film shouldn’t be titillating. The subject is so harsh yet sensitive that I wanted to make sure it had the right intention. When I met the team, I realised the kind of work they had put in.
Tabrez had been working closely for 12 years with NGOs to rescue survivors of sex trafficking, so he’s clearly someone who walks the talk. Once I came on board, I gave it my all.
How did you prepare for your role?
I met commercial sex workers and a lot of girls who are abducted and pushed into the flesh trade; sometimes they are sold by members of their own families. That really opened my eyes to the sickness in our country. There is so much demand, that’s why there is a supply. It made me realise that we are still a poor country where people are willing to sell their children in order to survive. These are the two disturbing insights that I got.
Do you stand vindicated that the movie has got a good response at international film festivals? And you have won awards for your performance?
Yes, this is the first time I have won two international awards for a film that has not even been released. It’s quite flattering. But I can’t say that I feel vindicated. I would feel that way if someone was putting up a resistance. Once you see the film, you will realise it’s coming from such a noble space that there is no cause for resistance. Love Sonia is an important film. I did it for passion just like I did Masaan. Movies like these, which are so truthful, are rarely made. Market ki sensibility bahut logon ko dara deti hai, but I believe that reality depicted and told correctly can be profitable, too.
You have finished the first schedule of Shakeela, the biopic on the ’90s South adult film star. How was the experience?
It’s going well. I am here in Bengaluru shooting for the second schedule. We are making a pretty interesting film about a slightly controversial figure. My interest in this subject is primarily because she had such a volatile life and I wanted to understand her phenomena of success and stardom.
You have also started shooting for Inside Edge 2?
Yes. I’m reprising my character of Zarina Malik. This time, the series is bigger, better and badder. We have gone global and will be shooting in international locations. The research and scripting was good to begin with, but now it’s so much better.
These are exciting times for you as an actor because you are exploring diverse mediums and different roles?
Yes, they are. People are enjoying themselves exploring new mediums. Short films and streaming platforms have come up in a big way. Inside Edge is the first original series to come out of India. I feel proud to be at the forefront of this kind of change. And it’s exciting because this means more work for talented actors. So many new artistes have been discovered in Sacred Games and Inside Edge.
You have completed a decade in the industry. How do you look back at your journey?
I don’t really think of it as a decade because I didn’t work after Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! After that, I went back to doing ad films and plays. I will complete a decade in 2022 when Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW) completes 10 years because it released in 2012. The past six years have been interesting, sometimes tumultuous, sometimes rewarding. But I’m proud of my filmography.
Do you feel that you haven’t got your due as an actress despite your roles in GOW and Masaan being hugely appreciated?
No, I don’t feel like that but when journalists ask me this question, I feel flattered because this means they think that I deserve more (smiles). I have not done even one typical film. I have neither run around trees nor been a prop in any film. Despite playing a person double my age on screen (referring to GOW), the parts that I have been getting are only getting better. I am getting films centered around me, people value me and my name brings credibility. I want to have a relevance beyond my youth and I’m working towards that. People make choices, some do item songs, some take the pageant route and they pay for those choices. I’m happy with the choices that I have made, good and bad. And I don’t think of anything that is due to me. Who will give it after all? Kaun dega humein?
How difficult is it to continue doing diverse roles consistently?
It’s fun. I love having a great hobby, which is now my profession. My work is pleasure, it doesn’t seem like work at all. Of course, it’s hectic and stressful. You have to live away from your family, your boyfriend and your cats for months, but it’s a rewarding line of work.
Do you fear being stereotyped?
Abhi tak toh koi kar nahin paaya, ab kya karenge.
Will we ever see you in an out-and-out commercial film?
Shakeela is a commercial film, even though it’s a biopic. Having said that the actors in it aren’t commercial. It features me, Pankaj Tripathi and other theatre actors from the South Indian film industry. So, it’s a good blend of actors from the North and South. I’m enjoying working in it.