Richa Chadha on Bollywood speaking about social issues: Why is nobody questioning our elected leaders?

Aishwarya Sahasrabudhe

Jul,17 2018 11:36:59 IST

Convictions for human trafficking are disproportionately low compared to sex trade crimes in the country but films like Love Sonia will start a much needed conversation.

“Because we need a conversation and we need legislation for preventing these issues,” says actress Richa Chadha who won the Outstanding Achievement Award at the London Indian Film Festival, for her role in the upcoming drama.

Richa Chadha received the Outstanding Achievement Award for her role in Love Sonia at the London Indian Film Festival.

Richa Chadha received the Outstanding Achievement Award for her role in Love Sonia at the London Indian Film Festival

Better known as Bholi Punjaban (her character in the Fukrey franchise) who has never hesitated from speaking openly about social issues steeped in controversy – be it the row over Section 377 or the corruption in showbiz – Richa, was in fact reluctant to be a part of Love Sonia which is set to open the Melbourne Indian Film Festival in August.

“The director (Tabrez Noorani) will tell you that I am the only actor he had to chase. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I will do the film or not because it’s a very sensitive subject and I am very skeptical of whether people will handle it with delicacy. But when I saw how much he has interacted with actual victims and how he has worked with them for 15 years, I was convinced.”

Love Sonia follows the story of a village girl, portrayed by Mrunal Thakur, who gets trapped in a global sex trade network. Noorani had worked with women who had suffered the ordeals of human trafficking and had been crafting the script for over 10 years.

In the film, Richa essays the role of a girl who is abducted as a child and is forced to work in a brothel. She grows up in that environment and becomes a part of the system in spite of being abused as a child. “It’s her journey and how she contributes to the world. She was the most interesting graph in the film for me and that’s why I chose to play that character," added Richa.

Following her work in Love Sonia, Richa, who had received a major breakthrough after her stint in Gangs of Wasseypur, also participated in crowdfunding campaigns against human trafficking. On being asked what insights she gathered from her interactions with the victims, the actress says, “I mean what do you expect, their life has been made hell. They were all girls who had been sold by family members; some sold even by their first husband, second husband. Some were young women – girls who were 24 or 25 – having 12-year-old sons, some of them had drug problems.”

A report released by the US State Department’s annual trafficking in Persons Report for 2018 has continued to place India in the ‘Tier-2’ category urging the country to increase prosecutions and convictions for all forms of trafficking. “I feel like it is modern day slavery – trafficking and holding people in brothels,” Richa says. “So we have to be vigilant. Suppose we see a young girl or boy with an older person looking uncomfortable, something should be done about it.”

The Love Sonia actress, who received critical acclaim for her role in the 2015 film Masaan and who is currently working on Shakeela, a biopic on the Malyalam adult film actress, says that she picks those films that will make a difference in her life. “Sometimes I don’t get to do good films, I make mistakes. Being an outsider, I have to be very careful in my choices,” she adds.

The outspoken actress, when asked if celebrities ought to be more vocal about social issues, points out, “The problem with the country right now is that people are only asking film stars, what about Bollywood, why is it silent? Nobody is asking our elected leaders.”

Recently, the actress had tweeted about two prominent figures who committed suicide. She argues that public personalities do not need to carry the burden of responsibility because they are already vulnerable.

She points out that there are some commercial films like Swades, PK and Bajrangi Bhaijaan done by the top three Khans, which manage to carry a message delicately woven around a story. "But to say, 'Aap films mein aise kapde pehente ho to aap jawab do' (you wear revealing clothes in films so you are answerable) follows the same trail of thought that perpetuates that films are responsible for social evils."

Richa adds that a lot of factors bear responsibility in shaping the discourse of a country. “The way our politicians attack each other also plays a role in how people in the country start talking or how we get attacked on social media,” she concludes.

Love Sonia, comprising a talented ensemble of Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher, Rajkummar Rao, Sai Tamhankar, Demi Moore and Mrunal Thakur, is slated to release in India in September.

Updated Date: Jul 17, 2018 12:19 PM