Richa Chadha is keeping things pretty real when we meet at a coffee shop in Andheri West. “I picked this place because it’s right next door to a parlour. I’m in the green phase of my upper lip growth, and I have to get dolled up later,” she said. Nevermind the mooch, she’s come straight from the gym, looking sharp, like a model advertising a sports brand. The 30-year-old has had a busy summer — producing a Punjabi short film, Khoon Aali Chitthi (Letter Written in Blood), writing her debut book, and now, starring in Inside Edge, an Amazon Prime Video original show. Produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s production house, Excel Entertainment, the series premieres on July 10.
Set in Mumbai, in the backdrop of the Powerplay League, a fictional version of the IPL, Inside Edge follows the Mumbai Mavericks through a season. Chadha plays Zarina Malik, an actor who owns a cricket team. Directed by Karan Anshuman, (who made his directorial debut with Bangistan in 2015), the 10-episode series also stars Vivek Oberoi, Sanjay Suri, Sayani Gupta, Sarah Jane Dias and Tanuj Virwani.
Weary of answering questions about the similarities between her character and Preity Zinta, Chadha would rather talk about moving sideways from the big screen to the digital scene. “Karan Anshuman and Guneet Singh, the director and writers of the show approached me with a kick-ass part. I knew there was an opportunity to do something new here. I feel alienated from the content on Indian TV. This is a regional show, in the sense that the characters speak in Hindi and English, there are subtitles. If it doesn’t work, it’ll be just another lofty experiment. But if it does, maybe we can get a second season,” she says.
Shooting for Inside Edge was more demanding than a film, says Chadha. “When you’re working on a film, you have the whole script and you make a graph for your character. But here we shot episodes as they were written, and one has to constantly remember the character’s relationship with other characters, be mindful of the dynamic. That was very tricky,” she says. Chadha began work on the show last September till November, and laughingly calls the experience “very meta”. “Zarina is an actor and she’s going through a lot, so I started wondering if I’d find myself in the same situation — people backstabbing you, deleting my scenes from a project. And things were happening in my career as well, so at one point I did wonder if life was imitating art,” she says, sardonically.
Chadha hopes to take some time off now to finish her book. “I was asked if I wanted a ghost writer, and I laughed. What’s the point of putting your name to something you aren’t going to actually write,” she says. Chadha used to write a blog when she first moved to Mumbai over eight years ago, but abandoned it when her career began to take off.
“My publishers, Penguin Random House, approached me after I did a TED talk about body image and eating disorders last year. My book will address the ingrained sexism and misogyny in our society. I’m trying to analyse that in my own way, and also talk about things like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, and Leonard Nimoy’s The Full Body Project. I want to talk about body image and how technology has changed the way we perceive ourselves; the kind of hyperreality we are living in and how it’s making sociopaths out of us. I think my book will have little to do with acting, or whatever else people think it will be about,” she says.