Richa Chadda roots for healthy food and challenging roles

“You don’t feel hungry while doing this column,” interrupts Richa Chadda as one lobs some warm up questions at her. With Richa what you see is what you get. “In a way we all are working for food only,” she again chips in as one explains the concept and the impracticality of combining writing and talking with eating. We are at the bustling Café Uno at Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel and the actress is not in the best of moods. Her luggage has got misplaced in transit and she is struggling to keep herself awake after getting only three-hours a day to sleep in the past fortnight as she is busy promoting Fukrey and shooting for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram Leela.

With time at a premium, she opts for buffet and keenly scans for something that is light and healthy. “One has to be careful while travelling. Recently I was in Dubai. It was my first trip and being a vegetarian I struggled. Fortunately, I found hummus and had plenty of it. I love food but actors have to restrict their choices because when there is no time to exercise there is no point having rich food. Anyway, I don’t have a palate for very heavy food anymore,” says the Delhi girl, who misses her hangout zones in North Campus. “I was in St. Stephens and there used to be Nescafe joint right in the centre of football field and a bhelpoori outlet opposite the college.”

When she shifted to Mumbai it was very difficult for her because at home she was never seen in kitchen. “Once in a while I would bake a cake. That’s all. I had to learn from scratch. Now I have a full time cook with me but often I cook myself because I feel when you cook yourself you can ensure better nutrition and hygiene,” she muses.

She cites rajma chawal as her speciality. “I make it in curd. It makes it a little tangy and at the same time keeps it light.” For now she is proud to have figured out some healthy options from the buffet. “See, this is upma, beetroot’s tikki and dal aur palak ka shorba. Interesting yet healthy! I don’t want to eat bland food in the name of health food.”

With Najma of Gangs of Wasseypur, she has eclipsed the Dolly of Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, and Richa avers this is her gameplan. “I don’t want people to slot me. I want to keep that power to myself. Gangs… changed things for me. I don’t have to chase directors anymore. I am getting some really challenging parts but I am hungry for more.”

This past week she emerged as a villain in Fukrey. “I accepted it because it is not just the strongest female part in the film; it is the strongest role in the script. How many times do you see a girl pitted against four actors? And since it is a light-hearted film you never really feel bad for the antagonist.” The character seems to be inspired by Sonu Punjaban and Richa says it is just the outline. “I haven’t come across any such character in Delhi. What I picked was the milieu and the accent. Bholi speaks typical trans-Yamuna and Old Delhi kind of language. Old Delhi has a distinct character and that’s why you find it often on big screen,” says Richa adding that the film should interest college goers. “It talks about cut offs, the social status of students enrolled in correspondence course…things which used to bother us.” Working with four young actors must be fun. “I got all the attention without any baggage! One of them changed the settings of my phone, another got me medicines… I was pampered.”

Sometimes an actor’s eating habits come in the way of a scene. “In a scene I was supposed to eat chicken but I am vegetarian,” relates Richa. “But the production people respected my choices and arranged soya chop which looks similar to chicken on screen.” She recalls how film people miss home-cooked food during the shoot. “When we were shooting for Gangs… in Benaras, Anurag Kashyap used to get home-cooked food. He never shared it with anybody. He will just disappear from the sets for an hour.”

Richa has been quite open about the fact that she doesn’t want to be the next doll on screen. “I feel I can play a glamorous part anytime. First I want to get a good foothold in the industry and I don’t think much about the supposed politics that goes on behind the scenes.” She holds that definition of the Hindi film heroine changes every two years. “Today a heroine is somebody who is an active participant in taking the story forward as opposed to somebody, who is just incidental to the story.”

She agrees that there is an image that people have of her. “I try to break it with what I wear, what I say. When a female actor gets an author backed role after 30, people say ‘Oh! She can also act.’ I never want to be in that position. Acting has to be my core competence. Yes, I can also dance, I can also sing, I can also do an item song if I want to. These also-s should remain secondary. I am glamorous in my personal life. That’s why I have no insecurity in looking non-glamorous on screen. If somebody asks me to dye my hair white or put mud on my face, it doesn’t bother me. I am comfortable in my skin. I am doing a film with Neil Nitin Mukesh where you will see me in a very feminine, fragile character. In Tamanchay, you will see me in a passionate avatar and in Ram Leela, I am doing a God fearing and peace maker kind of role,” she sums up but her concern for one’s lunch persists.

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