Bold and outspoken, Richa Chadha shares her life as a woman in the film industry...
You recently were part of a AIB show on harassment towards women. Did you personally have to go through any kind of harassment?
Not in professional life but I think personally, every woman growing up in India, more so in Delhi, has gone through some or the other kind of harassment. In professional life, my boundaries are pretty clear; I don't think anyone messes with me.
What is it about people's behaviour towards women that annoy you the most?
I am annoyed everyday about something small that happens. For instance, I was having breakfast with a male friend in a very posh South-Delhi resort hotel. The waiter kept asking the male for all the questions, regarding food etc. Not once did he think the woman should be asked for the feedback. The waiter presumed that the guy is going to pay the bill and women are just meant to casually adjust to whatever and however is served to them. He treated me like a second class citizen, because I am a woman. How are you going to teach people who don't even know that they are making a mistake? What do I call up the hotel and complain about? The waiter just misbehaved with me. He just didn't acknowledge me. I just cannot take shit like that. I am going to call the hotel and give the feedback but, I feel you can't tell a person wrong when they don't know they are wrong. For these people in the servicing industry they don't even behave in a manner that you start with the lady first. He treated me stupidly like a second class person.
What do you think women should do to make the men realise that they are being sexists?
This mentality can only be changed when you make people realise that they are making a mistake and you call them out on their bullshit. You have to change it slowly. When I hired my first driver in Bombay he had a problem of taking orders from a woman. These things are going to take a long time to change but one has to make an effort.
What is the place of a woman in films now?
Place of a woman in films is definitely changing but whats happening is that all the top superstars are in their 50's now. They have had 2 or 3 decades to build their market in India, An actress doesn't even get 10 year span here. The structure of the film industry is such that most of the distributors and producers favour men. So, the hero calls the shot. Yes, there have been a few improvements and there are films being made with women as the lead protagonists, and some of them are even doing well at the box office. There are some improvements that yet need to be made. This sexism is a global thing, not just limited to India.
While you were rising through the professional ranks, did you find that your experiences are different because you are a woman and not a man?
It has nothing to do with a man or a woman, as experience is going to be different for everyone...but, it truly becomes better as you grow.
Do you think a woman needs a man to complete her?
No! Just like a man doesn't need a woman to complete her. Everybody is born complete. If you are incomplete, then you would be born in pairs.
Are there any women related issues according to you that need to be addressed immediately?
There are many issues, and I can look at them as a humanitarian problem not as woman's problem. We should stop saying women problems. If we keep saying it again and again it's never going to change. It's just like saying that Tiger's population is declining; only those who care about Tigers will notice. If you don't care about a woman definitely you don't care about humans.
You are geared up for the sequel of Fukrey...is there any change in your character in Fukrey 2 or will the audience be able to see the same Bholi Punjaban?
No there's no change. Why would you change a hit character like that?
You have donned different roles till now, which role is closest to you?
Yes, I have done all different roles but I don't think I can relate to any one of them in person. But, my favourite film and my most special role is Devi in Masaan.
Your film Cabaret has gone through a lot of difficulty... is there any update when will the film release?
No, that is the question you should ask the producer. We had a tiff and I have got nothing to do with it. I just get my work done.
Apart from Fukrey 2...what else are you working on?
I have completed five projects this year and I have some more of them lined up for next year but, I really want to take a break. I need two months off and I really need to do that.
Ami Sheth, Bollywood News Service