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Breaking the mould

Banners don't make a difference, scripts and directors do


Chitrangada Singh's approach to her screen career is as unconventional as her earthy looks are in Bollywood. The 36-year-old tells TOI-Crest why she breaks the mould.

Do you feel that these are good times to be a heroine?

Absolutely, the best I think. I think it's probably the best time for heroines. But I would say that Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Vyjayanthimala or Hema Malini also did strong roles in their time. Maybe there was a bad patch and now we all are coming back to those meaty roles. Credit goes to Vidya Balan for changing things around with the Dirty Picture.

You ventured in the industry post-marriage and then post-motherhood. That is a very unconventional debut.

I was not even thinking of being in the movies when Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi happened to me. So the question of what people would say did not matter. There were zero expectations from the film, I really didn't think anything will come of it. Fortunately, no one in the industry has raised the issue of my personal life - at least on my face. I don't think it's affected what I've done and I think it's a really good time to be in movies. I feel so happy that I have a family. It makes me feel grounded. As a result I can focus on what I really want to do.

What is Sudhir Mishra's role in your career?

Huge, I would give him a lot of credit for everything that I've done so far. He saw my talent even though I'd never acted before. He saw me through Hazaron...though I had no clue of the language of cinema.

Do you think 'Hazaron... ' put you into a niche?

I would love to do a film like Hazaron... again. Geeta Rao is my all-time favourite character. I think she was brilliant - she was with three different men and you still couldn't judge her for that. She was a very modern woman in those times. I loved her.

And then you went and did 'Desi Boyz'. What was all that about?

(Laughs) It was just for a lark - just to give a shot. Rohit (Dhawan) said: "This is my first script and I'd like you to do it. You will be a really hot teacher. " And I was like really (laughs). So that's how it happened. The movie had good songs and I really enjoyed doing it. It depends on what is being offered to you. Then of course there is the director. So being a part of a really big banner doesn't make a difference to me.

Tell us about the song Kafirana in 'Joker'.

I love dancing. I never did any theatre but would participate in dance competitions in school. Never took it seriously though. For this song, unfortunately we only had a day and about seven hours to rehearse.

Lavani is suddenly all over popular Hindi cinema - there was Katrina's Chikni Chameli (Agneepath) and Vidya's Mala Jau

De in 'Ferrari Ki Sawari'. Was it tough matching their crackling performances?

No, there was no pressure. I think Farah (Khan, who choreographed both Chikni and Kafirana) was aware of the fact that Chikni had been shot and we hadn't seen Vidya's song till then. Farah was very clear about the concept and said that she didn't want to do a typical lavani - she said it didn't have to be a strong lavani number and that we would Bollywood-ise it a little bit. The reference was actually Madhuri Dixit's number in Sailaab. So we had that whole look - the nath (nose ring), the hair, the whole look.

What's your current wish list?

I would love to work with Saif Ali Khan, who I think is a fabulous actor. I would really like to work with Aamir Khan, again because he's a fantastic actor. Farhan Akhtar, both as an actor and as a director is really good. Then therere Anurag Basu and Vishal Bhardwaj - I've been wanting to work with him for the longest time.

I believe that post 'Hazaron...' he wanted to write a script for you?

Yeah, he's been saying that for the longest time. I'm waiting.

Directors like Sudhir, Vishal, Anurag Kashyup are changing how the industry works. How do you see this new crop of films?

There's always been a different set of directors who've done their own work and made a mark. They manage to make films that are timeless, minus gimmicks. You can watch a Mirch Masala or Mandi. You can watch Sholay even today. It was very real but stayed within the commercial framework. When something like Gangs of Wasseypur comes along I celebrate. I think it's fantastic that we have an audience for films like these.

How do you deal being compared with Smita Patil all time?

I see it as a huge compliment and it gets people to warm up towards me. She was a very special person.

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