By Rohini Banerjee for Youth Ki Awaaz:
You might know her as the spunky, motor-mouth Nagma in ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’, or the conflicted, subdued Devi in ‘Masaan‘ — Richa Chadha has quickly emerged as a force to be reckoned with, both on and off screen. Her interesting film choices set her apart from the herd, but more than that, it’s her vocal stance on various social issues – such as body-shaming, and recently, human trafficking – that make her a truly honest, dedicated and unique individual. We got the chance to have a quick chat with her, and here’s what she had to say about films, social change and fighting the patriarchy!
Rohini Banerjee (RB): You have always been outspoken about issues that matter, and you recently spoke at length about bulimia and body-shaming. What prompted you to talk about this, and what was the response to it like?
Richa Chadha (RC): We’re in good times, where people aren’t afraid of speaking up. Nowadays, people actually talk about the issues that affect them, and what they think will make a difference in other people’s lives. I spoke up because I thought that if somebody else can learn from my experiences, it’ll be good. The response to it was overwhelming, and people were encouraged to talk about their issues and experiences as well. Lots of women came up and spoke to me about how their daughters go through eating disorders, and the struggles they face—which was amazing.
RC: First of all, I don’t always play strong women and I think the press likes to typecast me in those roles—my last two roles (in ‘Sarabjit’ and ‘Main Aur Charles’) have been quite timid actually! (laughs)
However, why shouldn’t I play strong women? When those roles come my way, obviously I will pick them up, because they’re great parts, and I think I’m fortunate enough to get them, so I do them! Generally, I have a lot of respect from the film fraternity for the roles I play, and while that makes me happy, I also value it a lot.
RB: What do you think are the problems with how our mainstream Bollywood cinema portrays women?
RC: We’re living in a patriarchal society, so the portrayal of women in cinema is obviously going to reflect that. There will be objectification, and women will face hardships. Having said that, I still think Bollywood is doing pretty well in recent times, because it’s talking about issues that are not spoken about in other industries. Women in Bollywood are also doing pretty well and they’re even telling stories and becoming producers, so I have hope for the future.
RB: Do you identify as a feminist? Why do you think many refuse to identify as feminist?
RC: Do I call myself a feminist? Yes, definitely. I think people refuse to call themselves feminists because they get confused with the terminology. I don’t think they mean to say that they’re not feminists, I just think they are not sure about what the term really means, and they go off track there.
RB: While many of your films deal with social issues, in real life too, you have just tied up with a Ketto campaign to help survivors of human trafficking. What motivated you to join this campaign?
RC: I’ve actually wanted to use my social media following to do something worthwhile for some time now, and when this campaign came my way, I was convinced that this would be an important cause to take up. So I became a part of this, and we’re taking this step by step, and are trying to reach out to as many people as we can. I just shot a three-minute video for it with the help of a studio and all around, we’re doing pretty well. It’s been about a little over a week since the campaign launched and it’s already gained momentum, which I’m very happy about. Hopefully, it’ll end up helping people.
RB: Do you think it’s important for actors to take up social causes?
RC: No, actually! If somebody wants to do it, they can, but it’s not important for them to take it up. I wouldn’t like to burden actors with this responsibility, because there are plenty of other people in the world who can do it, and are already doing it with great success. Because they’re in the limelight, there is always this added expectation from actors. I believe in using the attention you receive as an actor, to do something good for society, but having said that, there are (and there should be!) better role models in our country than just actors.
RB: What is your quick tip to fight the patriarchy and everyday sexism?
RC: I think the fight against patriarchy and sexism can only come with general awareness. The way society looks at boys and girls differently—that must change to not just end sexism, but any kind of discrimination. To beat that, we need to be aware of what we’re fighting against.