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Falling in love with cinema all over again

FIGHTING SPIRIT: Chitrangada Singh
FIGHTING SPIRIT: Chitrangada Singh



WHETHER it is being selective with her projects, choosing to take a break or making her debut as a producer with sports biopic Soorma, Chitrangada Singh has always done things on her own terms since making a stunning debut in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi.

Today, the striking beauty is looking to carry on walking down her own creative path with interesting projects as a producer and performer in diverse mediums. By doing things her own way, she has also become a strong symbol of woman power.

Eastern Eye caught up with Chitrangada Singh to talk about her connection to cinema, lessons it has taught her, future plans, fighting spirit and hopes.

Do you remember the first movie that made a big impact on you growing up?
The first movie that made a deep impact on me, not just as entertainment, was Umrao Jaan starring Rekha and directed by Muzaffar Aliji. It wasn’t just the cinema, but the character she played, the story being told and the way it was told. It wasn’t dramatic like other films at that time, but there was something about it and somewhere it made me want to be her, be in her place and be able to act – maybe become a performer someday.

How did you feel facing the camera for the first time in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, directed by Sudhir Mishra?
The first scene he gave me had no dialogues. It was just me reacting while thinking of someone, so I had to be really careful of the energy I was carrying with me in that scene. I found that difficult because there was nothing to emote with. But I have to thank Sudhir Mishra for managing to get me so much into the moment that I didn’t realise when the camera went on and what I had to do. I was totally into the moment when they finished and it was an okay take. (Laughs) So my first take was an okay take, which was a big deal. I just felt it was right and something that I should do. I felt very comfortable; there was a certain amount of ease there.

What’s the biggest lesson the film industry has taught you?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is that as a creative person, we do have fragile egos. So the one thing you have to learn is to be stronger when you have to take a no. And you will have to take a lot of nos before you get a yes. Somewhere, it makes you tougher as a person and that’s probably the one thing I have learnt. Every time you hear a no, it shouldn’t affect your self-worth.

Is finding good roles the biggest challenge you face?
Yes, finding good roles is always a challenge. For actors, we always try to look for the best, but for me personally, it is challenging. Also, a lot of times when you begin your career with a certain kind of film, there is a certain image that gets stuck to you as a performer and then it’s difficult for you to get rid of that and find another image. So, that is a bit of a struggle to try and find a role that fits you the best.

Today what kind of projects are you looking for?
The most important thing for me is the writing and the director. Everything else such as the producer, platform or channel are secondary.

What are you working on now?
I am looking to produce two different projects; there are two scripts that I am looking to put together. As an actor, I am looking at a web series, and we are still in discussions. So that is the other thing, which is in process at the moment.

What is the master plan going forward?
I don’t think I have been a person with much of a plan, but yes, what is driving me at the moment are a couple of stories and scripts I have written, which I would like to produce. I produced a film in 2018 called Soorma, which was a biopic of a hockey player; it was my first production and I found it satisfying. I am hoping to do something in the coming year, and remain a cinema person.

Tell us more…
Cinema is sort of a passion – not just as an actor, but also to write and put a good project together, to produce it and to remain involved as a cinema person. That is the master plan and how I go about it will keep changing, depending on what works best for that particular project. But yes, I would like to remain involved in every way.

Do you have a dream a role?
(Laughs) Umrao Jaan was the film that made the biggest impact; so, a similar role of a woman set in a period or some historical sort of character would be my dream role. I find women from that time interesting. The kind of lives they lived; they were a lot more modern, especially a courtesan like Umrao Jaan. They were strong, modern women – the feminist of that time; so something like that with their vulnerability, given the time they were living in. I would like to play a woman with a certain contrast or opposites, so something similar to Umrao Jaan would be nice.

Who would you love to work with?
(Laughs) There is a long list; there are such amazing directors today like Raju Hirani, Vishal Bhardwaj, Meghna Gulzar and Mr (Sanjay Leela) Bhansali. I loved Raazi and its simplicity, so there are so many people I would love to work with.

What about doing projects in the west?
As I said, writing and director are the only things that matter. It doesn’t matter which art form and where you are – the kind of stuff that is being done right now, roles that are getting written for people from different ethnicity, it’s like a very big door that has opened. So, I would love to work in the west, it’s a much bigger platform and the thought of it is very exciting.

You have a fighting spirit, where does that come from?
I guess when you are passionate about something and you find a way to do it, you can call it a fighting spirit. But if my heart was not in it and this didn’t give me a creative satisfaction then I don’t think I would find the right thing to go after it. So you have to want it bad enough, and if you do, then you find a way to do it.

How important is girl power to you?
I am all for girl power, but I am also for taking responsibility, not just fighting for our rights. I do think that girl power should not only be about asking for rights, but also about making yourself capable enough. Not to say that we don’t have to choose our battles, we must, but we should also look at making ourselves strong enough and not be dependent on other people’s opinions or decisions. So instead of going around and trying to change their decisions, if we make changes within us and make ourselves capable, it has a better chance of working.

Today what inspires you?
Every exciting piece of writing that I see, whether it is Netflix or any international series or films inspire me. Also the stuff that we are doing in India; one of my most favourites is Mirzapur, I thought it was amazing writing. Sacred Games was another one that made such a huge impact on the content that India is creating. Everything like this that you get to see, inspires me.

What are your big passions away from your work?
I do like to travel; it is something that adds to your life as an actor. But other than that, I have done some skydiving and some adventure stuff such as scuba diving. I am a huge tennis fan, so I can sit and watch tennis for hours on TV.

Are you keeping a new year’s resolution?
Every year, my resolution would be very similar to the one from the previous year. It is just about staying excited about what I am doing and not so much about where it takes me. The idea is to stay in the moment. Other than this, keeping fit, travelling and being with family, those kinds of things.

Why do you love cinema?
I love cinema. Somehow, being in cinema now makes more sense to me than it did when I actually came into the movies. When I worked in my first film, at that time, the idea was to just be in a movie, but now it has changed over time and the whole reason of being here has changed. Now, it is far more valid for me to be a cinema person than it was when I was starting off. I love cinema more because it’s got this amazing way of touching people with the stories that you tell. It’s like a dream you can take somebody through and make them believe it.