[T]he raw and feisty Nagma Khatoon in Gangs of Wasseypur played by Richa Chadda perfectly complemented her gangster husband Sardar Khan (Manoj Bajpai). In her second ever role, Chadda got noticed by the industry and reviewers alike. She doesn’t want to limit herself to offbeat films, but says that ‘masala’ films aren’t her cup of tea either. Richa Chadda in a conversation with Nandita Dutta:
How do you look back at the experience of shooting Gangs of Wasseypur?
It was the most fun experience of my life. I had never imagined I would get such a big break. The film went to Cannes, it won acclaim there. Now it’s doing well here. I am getting good reviews. It’s like a dream come true for any newcomer.
How was it working with Anurag Kashyap?
It’s anybody’s dream to work with Anurag. He is very polite and warm person. He makes his actors feel comfortable because he understands they can perform well only when they are comfortable. He makes you feel secure and confident.
Wasn’t it a challenge to feature opposite an actor like Manoj Bajpai?
How did you prepare for this role?
I just let myself go and used my imagination. I had no connect whatsoever with a character like Nagma Khatoon. But Anurag didn’t want us to do a lot of character study because then it all looks mechanical. I just imagined her and it wasn’t that hard. Especially when you are acting opposite Manoj, you just have to react and support him.
Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2 was a lot more tough. I play a character from age 16 to 60. I have an experience of being 16. But when you are acting 60, what do you see? There is no reference point. I can’t relate to a woman with a husband and children who wants to take revenge. The character graph of Nagma Khatoon would have been tough for any other actor.
Which actors inspire you?
In India, I like Madhuri Dixit, Rekha and Madhubala. That’s it. In the West, I like Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep.
Why didn’t you take up projects between Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Gangs of Wasseypur?
I wasn’t getting anything up to my liking. I didn’t want to do the same thing as Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!; it had already been praised. I didn’t want to be stereotyped. So I kept myself busy with theatre: I did a Bollywood musical with Khalid Muhammad. Then we started shooting for Gangs of Wasseypur in 2010. So it wasn’t really that big a break.
What kind of roles you want to do?
Good, substantial roles. I am not fixed on any genre or filmmaker, nor do I want to confine myself to offbeat or alternative films. I want to do good cinema. That’s why I was waiting for so long. But now it seems the wait is over. I am happy with the way things are moving.
Are you open to doing mainstream Bollywood films?
My next film is a commercial film: Tamanchey with Nikhil Dwivedi. In that sense, Gangs of Wasseypur is a commercial film as well. The lines are blurring. But if you mean to say a masala film: no, I wouldn’t do a film where I have nothing substantial to do.
Is it true that you have bagged two international films during Cannes Film Festival?
Yes, the talks are on. But it will take time. I’m still in the process of finalizing things.
Tell us about your background.
I come from a simple middle class family in Delhi. My mother is a professor in Delhi University while my father is a management person. My brother is still studying. I have been doing theatre since I was 12. I started doing professional theatre since the age of 16. I came to Mumbai 5-6 years ago to make a career in the industry.