Exclusive: We don’t generalise about our netas, why do that for abhinetas, asks Richa Chadha – Times of India

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Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death has opened a can of worms. Some want to know the truth, foul play if any, some are looking for a deeper understanding of mental illness, some want the Hindi film industry to introspect, but mostly everyone wants closure. The case has spiralled into various raging debates. A few actors have come forward to oppose the generalisation of Bollywood as drug mafia and others insist it needs intervention. One of the feisty voices, Richa Chadha, opens up on it all, in an exclusive interview with Bombay Times. Read on…

In over three months since Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death, there have been many allegations and conspiracy theories, which include nepotism, drugs, depression and even homicide. As someone who knew him personally, what are your thoughts today?

Had Sushant been here, it would have saddened him. None of us have had the chance to grieve, without being triggered by the news. Not everyone was okay being seen as long-lost friends who climbed out of the woodwork, because complete strangers were giving interviews. Can you blame them? Look at the naked TRP contest it became, even in the middle of a pandemic!

Lately, a lot has been spoken about Bollywood — that it is apparently a drug mafia, and full of bullies who encourage nepotism. You are also an outsider. How do you see these claims?
It’s definitely true that such characters exist in the film industry, more so in the underbelly. However, to generalise is foolish. Even though there are examples like Kuldeep Sengar, who tried to run over his rape victim and got her father killed, or Chinmayanand, who used religion to cover up his deeds, we don’t call all politicians rapists because of these men, right? In fact, we love and respect our leaders. If we don’t generalise about our netas, why then do we generalise about our abhinetas? This argument doesn’t hold. Both my parents are from academics. No member in my entire family has anything to do with films. I am thriving here, despite being an ‘outsider’, a woman with a mind and someone who hasn’t really bothered to fit in, in terms of heteronormative beauty ideals. I want people reading this to know that if their kids want to join the entertainment industry, it’s no more or less risky than any other industry. The bulk of my work has come from production houses owned by second-generation Bollywood. The thing is, who’s making these claims? I have been using the word my friend coined — ‘khurchans’ of Bollywood. People with not one worthy film in their whole biography have suddenly started posing as intellectuals and experts. They’re out to settle personal scores and it’s obvious. Those, who don’t identify as ‘khurchans’, have very clear political ambitions. Otherwise, how can the industry be amazing on Monday and hell on Wednesday?

It’s being said that the aim is to make the industry ‘better’ for outsiders.

You want to speak for ‘outsiders’ by routinely attacking them, okay, but why not laud the achievements of your own fraternity? Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple won big at Berlinale. Applaud that. Give outsiders work in content you produce, don’t edit them out of movies. Don’t flex. It’s up to all of us to create a positive work culture. People, who are vilifying the film industry, are costing lakhs of honest crew their livelihoods, especially in these times. Try renting a flat as a single woman even in the poshest societies. They want to take selfies with you and deny you space to live in this city, where you’ve come to work. And this will only get worse now, because of a bunch of ingrates and news anchors. I also think this is a poor strategy. You’re proving to be untrustworthy, because of flip-flopping on issues repeatedly, and berating your own business. Do we want our leaders to be offensive loose cannons? And it’s not wrong to have political ambitions — look at Sunil Dutt ji, Paresh Rawal ji, Shatrughan Sinha ji. For instance, Sonu Sood who has relentlessly helped out the needy is using his position for good. I will be happy to see him in an actual leadership role, because he has empathy.

Some are wondering why a lot of Bollywood actors who didn’t speak before, are now defending the industry against the vilification. It is being interpreted as ‘fear’ of being exposed by the NCB, hence, the unity. Your comment?

By and large, the film industry isn’t too vocal. But mostly it’s because pig wrestling is an exhausting and tacky sport. The second claim sounds like it’s come from tongue-clucking judgemental neighbours. To be an artiste, one needs discipline. We sleep on time, work out, learn new skills and eat clean. Can’t you see their skin, bodies and behaviour? Does Bollywood sound intoxicated, or do these news anchors and rabble-rousers? Again, I am not denying that there are people that have issues with substance abuse and alcohol, but many have bravely spoken of their battles. Like Pooja Bhatt. So, who’s hiding what exactly? Also, the NCB has repeatedly claimed that the media frenzy is hindering the investigation. So, let the investigation agencies do their job, if you respect them, that is.

What do you think of this sudden need for cleansing Bollywood, which has in recent times been referred to as a ‘gutter-like’ industry?

A whole lot of subsidiary industries benefit from Bollywood — fashion, fitness, music, beauty, lifestyle industry, tabloid news, and tourism, just to name a few. People want to cleanse the industry, but not discuss real issues of pay parity, royalty and ticket prices. This is noise and name-calling; it’s not a discussion. Bollywood is a microcosm of society, it’s no different from the world.

You are not from Mumbai. What are your thoughts on the city?

No one is saying that the city is perfect and that we love the potholes. But, I have taken a local train ‪at 4am‬, a rickshaw while wearing shorts ‪at midnight‬ and I’m able to drive around even now, at any time. I am grateful for this freedom, because I hail from Delhi, which often makes headlines for disturbing gender crimes.

In the middle of all these accusations being thrown at the industry, as an ‘outsider’, what advice would you give to others who dream of making it in Bollywood?

1 That it’s true being from a film family will help, especially with the break and in terms of access.

2 That hard work and talent pay off always, even though some people get success at 20, some at 40 and some at 60. Be patient.

3 There’s an email ID attached to my Instagram, if your child wants to be in films, you can reach me for advice.

4 I am a testament to the fact that you can have a career without having to sleep with anyone or doing drugs, all the while choosing scripts you like, making a living and being happy.

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