'Ultimately it boils down to the environment where we have to work together in tandem,' she says of working as a woman in Bollywood
'I would love to play a dark character': Chitrangda Singh on #MeToo and roles for women in Bollywood
Chitrangda Singh is wearing black and white at an event to promote her next film Baazaar, but shades of grey crisscrossed through her conversation. The actress tells about her new film's uniqueness, the kind of roles she has been offered as well as her experience of the #MeToo movement, which has seen a surge in recent weeks in India.
The actress plays Mandira, the wife of businessman Saif Ali Khan in Baazaar, which releases in the UAE on October 25. The film is the third time in four months that she has been in movie news after her turn as a producer with the hit Soorma, which released in July, and her role in Saheb Biwi aur Gangster 3, which did not do well at the box office.
Her anxiety is evident when she asks for feedback on the trailer of Baazaar, in which Khan plays an ambitious man looking to carve his name in the stock market, something that has not been shown in Bollywood, a fact Singh is quick to point out.
"Usually you have a grudge or a love story, but share markets have not been done before. People do no attempt stories something like this, which is dry of other fluff which we usually have. It is a thriller, about games people are playing. Everybody is grey in this, with people and their ambitions, their wheeling-dealing, and all that. It is very edgy."
Chitrangada gives away some of the details about her role. "I am the only one with a clean image. As you will see, when the story unfolds in the end, she becomes a too important part in the game even though she is not involved in it."
Being on the periphery in this phase of her career troubles the actor, and this is evident when we ask about her weaknesses and she says: "I don't get a chance to play different kind of roles. I have been boxed in either roles which have me presenting either an erotic image or a total lack of glam.
"There are other kinds [of roles] in the middle that I would like to play, which have more layers. There are limited offers for such roles, but those are offered to those who have already done such. I wouldn't know if I haven't tried. I would love to play a dark character."
With the #MeToo movement finally boiling over in Bollywood, Chitrangada opts to look at the big picture when asked about her experience. "I think you have to create an atmosphere. You cannot make laws about everything. Ultimately it boils down to the environment where we have to work together in tandem."
Singh mentions that she did have her share of bad experiences two years ago, and explains how she dealt with it. "It was when I was doing Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. I just chose to walk away."
Singh does not reveal anything more than that to us, but she did open up later to the Bollywood Hungama website and said actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui looked the other way when it happened.
The actress recalled details of how she was asked to shoot a vulgar love-making scene which she refused. "The director told me not to fuss and just do what was required. I was intimidated, bullied and threatened into doing it. But, Nawaz just sat there waiting for the storm to blow over,” she says.
Singh alleged that she was declared "troublesome" and "moody" before she was asked to "pack bags." She was later replaced with Bidita Bag in the film.
Back at the sit-down with the Baazaar team, Singh concedes that women actors must learn to walk away from such ugly moments, also realising that it would mean less work and be fine with it as she is.
This more-than-an-occupational-hazard remains at the back of the mind as she seeks out more serious, and less sultry roles, at this stage of her career.