Richa Chadha is arguably one of India’s finest female actors in the Indian Film Industry. Her choice of roles contributes just as much to her career as her talent does. From playing the lead protagonist’s sister in Oye Lucky Oye to blowing the world away with her performance in Masaan, Richa’s evolution as an actor has come at the right time in the evolving world of Bollywood.
At a time when discussions around nepotism are making headlines, Richa is allowing her work to argue for herself. To come with the sensibilities of another city and yet make her own space in Bollywood is Richa’s biggest accomplishment as an artist.
Being Indian got a chance to speak with Richa and discuss her life, career and opinions in a candid interview.
Disclaimer: she does not like to be called “Richa Ji“.
Has growing up in Delhi helped you in any way in your career in Bollywood?
Definitely. Delhi is very cultural in that regard. I could do a lot of extra-curricular activities while growing up in Delhi like theatre and the music and dance schools in the Madni House area where I’ve learnt Kathak for almost 7-8 years. Stuff kept happening in Delhi. My mother would take me to places like the National Science Museum, the Doll’s Museum. All those places which people don’t visit anymore but the experience of visiting those culturally rich places stayed with me.
So, what are some of your favourite memories from Delhi? Your hang-out zones?
During school and college, we used to hangout at Khan Market or go to the (Indian) Habitat Center. When I was really little, my parents would take me to open air theatre or the book fair at Pragati Maidan. Somehow in Mumbai, I haven’t really found the time to do so many cool things like I used to in Delhi, like going to the French Embassy and watch some really cool movies. As a toddler, I went to see the Russian Circus and Ballet at the Indira Gandhi stadium, I’m talking about the early ’90s. All those early experiences made me think of performance and acting as career options.
How was the support from your family to pursue performance and acting as a career option?
I give a lot of credit to my mum for that. Even though my dad was the more outgoing guy who was involved with theatre himself during his college days and even when we were growing up. My mum being very quiet and reserved still understood my passion and interest in performance when I was all of 3 or 4 years old. It would mean that she had to work twice as hard as she would take me to dance classes. Since I was too young, I couldn’t travel alone so she would pick me up and drop me. So, I give a lot of credit to my mother because your childhood really shapes you. So, for me it was never a question of acting being a ‘faaltu ka kaam’ as other people treat it. I have always approached it like work.
You’re famous for voicing your opinions without obviously sugarcoating them. That often gets confused with being outspoken. How do you see that?
I’m not outspoken, I’m honest. Look at who’s not speaking up today. Everyone is voicing their opinions. SRK writes an article, Salman Khan puts his political views on Twitter, Aamir Khan speaks, Kangana, Anushka, Deepika, Sonam, Kalki, Swara.. who is not being honest today? I think the media has to keep up as actors are going to continue to speak their mind.
We found out that Nandita Das went to the same school as you. Was she a moral influence while growing up?
Not really, because she was very senior to me so I didn’t come to know that she’s my senior till after I became an actor myself. Not just Nandita Das, I think Konkana, Swara, Shahana Goswami, Aditi Rao Hydari.. these are all my seniors, only Shahana was my junior.
How has your experience in Bollywood changed now that you’re no longer an outsider who struggled to get roles?
Honestly, not a lot. I still have to work hard for all my roles, I still have to put myself through immense hard work to prove to the filmmakers that I’m worth investing in. Because cinema is a commercial art. The makers of a film need to see you as an asset to their vision. In order to achieve that, I have to work twice as hard because all my contemporaries are also extremely hard working people.
Right now, there’s a culture in India where actors are expected to give opinions on everything that happens in the country, even something that’s far away from the world of movies. As an actor, does this ever bother you?
See I think as actors, we have some moral responsibilities to bring about stories that touch the average Indian. And because India is a country that loves its films and filmstars, it’s natural that we actors become the subject for a lot of discussions. It’s great that actors have opinions about various topics and matters. It’s just that it’s unfair to have film actors as your icons. There are better icons out there whom we as a country need to listen more to. Actors are going to continue to speak, just don’t make us your icons. We have better people in the country for that.
Since Bollywood has this immense influence on the public, do you think the industry also gets unfairly blamed a lot for the things that aren’t even associated with films?
Sure, but then that’s true for every film industry around the world. I’m not saying that Bollywood is doodh ka dulha. I did a video with AIB where we pointed out the misogyny shown in Bollywood films for decades, so I’m not at all saying that Bollywood is all innocent but there are more pressing issues in our society that we need to address but instead we blame them on the kind of films that are made in the country, which is not the solution.