Tisca Chopra and the art of making a short film


CREATIVE SPREE: Tisca Chopra
CREATIVE SPREE: Tisca Chopra

AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS DISCUSSES HER NEW JOURNEY AS A DIRECTOR

by MOHNISH SINGH

PROLIFIC actress Tisca Chopra has shown off her versatility in films and on television with interesting roles that have left a permanent mark, including a winning turn in Taare Zameen Par (2007), which was put forward by India for the Oscars.

She recently added more feathers to her cap by producing, directing and starring in acclaimed short film Rubaru, where she portrays an actress trying to deal with her middle-age and various professional insecurities.

Eastern Eye caught up with award-winning star Tisca Chopra to talk about the various creative hats she wears, beginning a new filmmaking journey with Rubaru, her silver screen idol, big turning point and future plans that includes directing a full-length feature film.

You added another feather to your creative cap by directing short film Rubaru. Were you wary about beginning this new journey?
No, I don’t think I was at all trepidatious about this new journey because I had already produced two short films, Chutney (2016) and Chhuri (2017) before. And, of course, I have been a part of so many films from the inception. So, no, it was not causing me any trepidation. There was, in fact, much excitement and a lot of work to do. But I had a wonderful team that made it so much easier for me to write, direct and act in Rubaru.

How challenging is it to tell a complex story within a short film format?
When you have 15 or 20 minutes to narrate a story, you have to make sure that you hit the ground running. Every single word, sentence, shot and frame matters a great deal, and everyone has to work extremely hard. Each line has to mean two or three things. For that reason, I think it’s a work of great craft if you are planning to make a decent short film. You don’t have time to expand and explore characters or show back stories.

How do you get around that?
You have to think of clever ways to bring the past into the present. The way I would best describe it is that it’s a tiny piece of jewellery with a lot of small minakari work. It requires lots of exquisite, small work because you don’t have a large canvas in terms of time. That’s where the trick of a short film lies.

Did you write the protagonist’s role keeping yourself in mind?
Yes, the protagonist Radha Malhotra’s character was always going to be played by me. There was somewhere an idea of creating a production house for such films, to be able to back stories I believe in. It’s not mandatory that I would act in every film, but at least starting out the idea would be to get those stories made and play those parts, which otherwise probably are not coming to me, or being written. So, yes, I was always going to be playing Radha Malhotra. Additionally, there were certain things I felt I could bring really well to the table in terms of theatre.

Tell us more about that?
I have done about 10 years of theatre and an intense number of plays. So, I know how anxiety-producing that moment is when the audience fills into the theatre finally and how that becomes a point of no return for an actor. Before that you can always say that I am not well, I cannot do the play today. But once the audience comes into the hall, there is no getting away from it. No matter how scared, under-confident or fearful you are, you will still have to go and give your best.

How was the experience of working with the other cast members in Rubaru?
The cast of Rubaru was fantastic. Of course, you know Arjun Mathur from Made In Heaven (2019), who was nominated for the International Emmy Awards for his work on the Amazon Prime show. I have known him for many years from afilm I did with him called Ankur Arora Murder Case (2013), where he was fantastic. Chitrashi is such a wonderful energy and such a fine human being, actor, and collaborator. All the other cast members brought their best to the table. They stayed long hours and worked very hard, despite not having the biggest parts. I am extremely grateful to each and every one who supported me in my very first film as a director.

How surprised are you with the positive response your short film has garnered? 
I am very pleasantly surprised with the kind of response that Rubaru has got. It’s a time where people are consuming a vast amount of content. They are watching all sorts of things. Sadly, they cannot go and see movies and  as a consequence, things online are doing really well. In that sense, Rubaru getting more than a million views and two awards in the very first two weeks of release was thrilling.

Would you want to explore directing further and can we expect a full-length film from you?
Oh, yes, I am very excited about my role as a director. I think it’s very satisfactory to be able to tell a story well and meticulously in a way you want to. As an actor, you are one part of someone else’s vision and that’s wonderful too. But to have control over how the narrative is being shaped and to be able to bring the best out of your entire crew is something else. It is wonderful to be able to work with people and bring everyone to the same vision that you have in your head. I am most definitely going to direct a feature film, sometime in August 2021. That’s the plan.

Do you remember when you decided that you wanted to be an actress?
I don’t think it was any single performance that made me decide I wanted to be an actress. I think there were many things from school and college. I have always been involved in participating in plays during college. So, it was a forgone conclusion that I would be acting in some capacity.

What connected you to films?
What attracted me to Hindi movies was when I saw Sridevi in Chandni (1989). I just couldn’t get over her performance for many, many days. I was still in school then. I saw her and felt that it was magic. If you can affect people this way, my God, you have power! And so much power over other people’s imagination! I continue to be a die-hard fan of Sridevi. It was one of the saddest days for me when she passed away. I continue to miss her, but the good thing with an artist is that you can always play an old movie and enjoy a performance all over again. So, I guess, you can say that she is one of my biggest inspirations. You starred in ground-breaking film Taare Zameen Par, which recently clocked 13 years since its theatrical release.

How important was that film in your life and career?
Taare Zameen Par was a game-changing film for me. Not just did it change the topography of my career, but also got me recognition, nationally and internationally. People all over loved the film. But what I am proudest of is that it was not just any film or just a box office blockbuster, but a film that gave a lot back to society. It changed the way people looked at their children, and our education system became more inclusive. I will forever be grateful to the universe for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a significant film. People started taking me very, very seriously as an actor after Taare Zameen Par. It was a very crucial film. I am very grateful to Aamir (Khan) and the entire team of Aamir Khan Productions for letting me be a part of such a groundbreaking movie.

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