Chitrangda Singh on #MeToo: We can’t leave everything to legal process, should socially ostracise certain people
Chitrangda Singh talks about starring in Baazaar opposite Saif Ali Khan, her return to movies and harassment on the sets of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.
Earlier, Chitrangda Singh would often reason that perhaps she did not push herself "enough to shine like a star”. That the several breaks she took intermittently with her priorities changing, or being trapped in family problems and shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai, affected her career to a large extent. But today, more than ambition, the actor-producer counts on passion. “I don’t know the definition of being ambitious but I am very passionate about cinema. I want to produce, act. I want to be cinema person 360 ways possible. I don’t know whether that means being ambitious but it keeps me going,” says Chitrangda, who will be next seen in Saif Ali Khan-starrer, stock market thriller Baazaar (releases on 26 October). Her last film, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3, with Sanjay Dutt in the lead, tanked at the box office.
“I don’t get that much screen time in Baazaar, so that was a bit of a challenge. Without getting too many lines, I still had to help the plot unravel. One thing that Nikkhil (Advani, producer) told me when he was pitching me this role was to stand up to Saif’s strong character. He was looking for someone who conveyed dignity for this role. Saif plays my husband. He is an antagonist and he has very powerful lines and dialogues. My character doesn’t have those flashy dialogues. I needed to have a strong presence. That was more important than looking just pretty,” she says.
“But my character is warm. Though she is not in love with her partner, she looks at his games in a different way. She is born into a wealthy family and for her, the definition of ambition, greed, happiness is different as compared to the other three characters (Saif, Radhika Apte and Rohan Mehra), who are willing to sacrifice relationships and friendships for power. My character is observing all this, but there are repercussions on their marriage. But more than love and emotional angle, the film's base is the game - power greed and how you manipulate. That is why Saif is an antagonist not the protagonist so to speak” she adds.
Chitrangda shares screen space with Saif for the first time. She sees him as an understated actor with excellent timing. "Saif is a lot of fun on set. There is an easy vibe and when you feel comfortable with someone, then that becomes a pleasure. Also, I like that he underplays his performances,” says Chitrangda. She had a pleasant time working with the other two co-stars as well. “With Radhika, I don’t have much work. We met just for two days. But she was full of stories and I am excited about the work she has been doing."
The actress, however, found it "scary" working with newbie Rohan Mehra. “He is a quiet guy, very earnest. He had learnt the complete script by heart, my lines, Radhika’s lines, everybody’s lines. Tell him page number 72 and he would be all ready to start. I was shocked. I told Gauravv (K Chawla, director) that Rohan is over prepped. It is scary. He is totally into it,” she laughs heartily.
Chitrangda began her career as a model prior to making the transition to the silver screen. She was compared to the legendary Smita Patil in the initial years of her career. In fact, noted director Shekhar Kapur complimented her by saying, ‘You have outdone Smita Patil,’ when he saw her performance in her debut, Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003), which was followed by the 2005 film Kal: Yesterday and Tomorrow (2005).
Then, she took a break from acting between 2005 and 2008 after her marriage to Indian golfer Jyoti Randhawa and made her comeback with the leading role opposite Sanjay Suri in the film Sorry Bhai!. Further, she tried her hands at mainstream cinema with Desi Boyz (opposite Akshay Kumar) and made a couple of special appearances in songs of Tamil movie Anjaan and Akshay Kumar’s 2014 movie Gabbar Is Back. After a few more forgettable films, she reemerged as a producer this year with Shaad Ali-directed Soorma, starring Diljit Dosanjh and Taapsee Pannu.
However, she has not been getting meaty parts as much as she used to be offered in the past. “I know what you mean. You can only choose what gets offered to you. You pick the best out of that. Sometimes you are lucky with good stuff coming your way, or you try and make a mark with what is offered to you. And opposed to it, you try set up the kind of films you want to be part of and make that kind of cinema. These are the only ways that you can still remain excited about cinema,” says the actress, who will act in one of her two productions that she plans to announce soon.
And in the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations, Chitrangda also opened up about her "distressing" experience on the sets of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. Though she did speak out during the making of the film, she feels it is easy to bring out her side of the story given the #MeToo movement that has gained traction in the past couple of months. “There is no structure, no process and no organisation that one could go to voice your grievances and at that time, no such movement had started. So yes, it is easier to talk about it now. Thanks to Tanushree Dutta for taking up the charge and initiating the movement in India,” she says, furthering, “It is a very good and healthy thing to happen to any industry that you do not let people go further, get promoted, get encouraged for the favours being done, or if there are any compromises they are willing to make. That shouldn’t be the basis of their promotions. It should be only on the basis of your potential and talent.”
However, Chitrangda strongly feels that instead of leaving everything to the legal process, the social consciousness needs to be the order of the day. “Most of the times you can’t prove rape. If you are not taken to hospital and get checked. How do you prove it? How does Vinta Nanda prove? But that doesn’t mean she is lying. We can’t leave everything to the legal process. Social responsibility has to grow. We should socially ostracise such people. Consciousness can’t come by filing an FIR at a police station. I hope that my son doesn’t grow up thinking it’s all okay, and that can only happen if we make enough noise now. It's only then that the next generation will know that even a bit of harassment is just not okay,” she says.
Further, giving her views on the chances of certain people misusing the movement, the actress states that they do not deserve to be part of it. “Maybe collateral damage will happen. But I hope people are as truthful and honest for the sake of the girls who have really suffered. At some point, if people have used it as a manipulation and tend to benefit from it, they don’t deserve to be part of the movement. That won’t be fair to the real victims because you become an enabler. You enabled and encouraged this somewhere, as a result of which the same people have expected that from more girls. It’s extremely important to draw the line, and it’s also important for the media and us colleagues and people from the industry to recognise that ,” says Chitrangda.
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