A still from the movie
A still from the movie

Richa Chadha has always taken the path less travelled when it comes to film selection. Be it hard-hitting gangster sagas like Gangs of Wasseypur, social dramas like Masaan, or even the fun, comedy Fukrey — Richa has never shied away from opting for unconventional roles, which she nails with panache. And, now, she is back again with yet another jaw-dropping, sultry avatar in the eponymous biopic of the Southern adult star Shakeela. Oozing oomph and glamour, Richa pays the perfect ode to the South siren who ruled the roost in the ’90s. And, as the movie gears for a Christmas release, the actor opens up about being Shakeela, facing comparisons with Vidya Balan’s The Dirty Picture, and more... Excerpts from the interview:

What as it like, playing Shakeela?

It was a fun and different experience. I am playing a character of an adult actress for the first time, who is also dancing and doing a whole lot of other things. It was a new kind of cinema setting, and you will get to see a lot of South flavor. As an actor it is our job to give our best and work sincerely, so that the character looks real on screen.

Shakeela has been tagged as an ‘adult star’. Are there any ‘controversial’ scenes?

The film is about her personal life. So there was no need to show sex/bold scenes, and I wasn’t uncomfortable in anway while shooting the part. Like I said earlier, as an actor it’s my job to play my part in the story convincingly and trust the director’s vision.

Comparisons to Vidya Balan’s The Dirty Picture are inevitable. What’s your take?

We can’t stop comparisons from being drawn between the two actors and the films. But, I think there is a big difference between Silk Smitha and Shakeela. Shakeela was not ambitious. Both of them were different in real life too.

The film is going for a theatrical release, do you think it would get audience in such times?

It’s a challenge to release films in theaters, but I am happy that its releasing. Actually, the makers were planning to release Shakeela in March. But that didn’t happen owing to the pandemic. And now how much can they wait? We cannot hold it indefinitely right? The film has to release. So, when they got a chance to release it before the year ends, they are releasing it.

You were one of the early actors to take up web series. And, now that it is blooming, how do you see the OTT space?

It’s become a platform. Everybody is getting a chance to be part of good shows, and tell good stories. Many Bollywood stars too have taken a detour to the small screen, and people wait to watch their shows. I am very happy that people are enjoying watching shows/films on varied platforms. This is like bridging the gap between series and movies too. OTT will flourish until this fear of Covid lessens. But it can’t be compared to cinema.

While most Bollywood actors refrain from commenting on hard-hitting issues, you don’t.

I don’t think that’s the case anymore. It was earlier, but now everybody is ready to speak up. Look at the recent support that came in for farmers. Actors are speaking too, and it’s a good thing... bolna bhi chahiye.

So what’s next on the work front?

I am doing Fukrey next, then there is Madame Chief Minister, a political film, which I always wanted to do, it’s like a dream come true. And then there’s another season of the web series Inside Edge. There is a lot more happening, which will be announced when the time comes.

How Richa transformed into Shakeela...

One thing about biopics is that the actor playing the person in the film (in this case Richa playing Shakeela) needs to undergo tremendous transformation to look the part. For the movie, fit as a fiddle Richa had to look voluptuous like Shakeela. How did she manage to achieve that feat? “You just have to keep hogging fried stuff and eat lot of sweets, and flour-based foods. And since I had to wear saris, it had to look real, and hence we didn’t opt for prosthetics to make me look voluptuous. If I wasn’t required to wear a sari, I could have done padding,” Richa says.

And, now that the shoot is over and life is back to normal for Richa, how did she manage to loose the excess weight? “I did a lot of running and continued with my gym routine. I stopped eating fried food, sweet, flour, etc. All those eatables that helped me put on weight were stopped at once! They become a BIG no!” she says.

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