Chitrangda Singh plays the roles of Mandira Ben, the wife of Saif Ali Khan’s character Shakun Kothari in the recently released Baazaar. In this interview with indianexpress.com, Chitrangda talks about her character in the film, her Bollywood comeback and plans to produce films.
Q. You have played varied roles in films. What, according to you, constitutes a strong, impactful role for a female actor?
I get offered roles where my characters are an important part either in storytelling or the plot, even if the length is not that much. But I have been on both ends of the spectrum. I have played ‘strong woman’ roles also. I don’t know why at times a ‘strong woman’ is completely misinterpreted as modern and promiscuous. People would offer me the role of a seductress, the other woman or the cheating woman. So, that was one side of the spectrum. The other side is when I have been offered only a few good roles. For me, it is a strong female character if she is an important part of your screenplay and storytelling. In Baazaar, my character Mandira Ben is a very strong character. When Nikkhil (Advani) came up to me, he described Mandira as someone who is not just married to the richest man in the city, but also someone who has a lot of dignity, a certain class about her. She is the only person who can stand up to this man who is the most powerful one in the game. So, he wanted that kind of balance in the marriage of these two characters.
Q. When you made your debut in Bollywood, you were compared to Smita Patil. What did you think of that comparison?
Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi were my mother’s favourite actresses. I remember watching movies like Arth, Mirch Masala and Mandi with her. These were the women my mother used to look up to. She used to look up to their work. I didn’t understand much at that time. But when I saw myself for the first time on the big screen, I could understand why so many people were saying that. It was a huge comparison, and of course a compliment because people were comparing me to a woman whom my mom used to look up to. Smita ji had achieved so much ahead of her time.
Then there was a flip side to this comparison as well. I did a song, Kaafiraana, and people started feeling that I am letting them down, and that I haven’t lived up to the image they have compared me to. However, I would still like to remember the compliments. It was and is a big deal for me.
Q. Your debut with Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi in 2003 was quite impactful, but then you took a sabbatical. Did that affect the kind of projects that came your way after your comeback?
It makes a difference, it definitely does. It was a long break. It was almost a 6-7 year gap, that’s too much in our industry. I lost on all the momentum that I sort of got from my first film. I lost all the appreciation that I got. So, yes, I do think that made a big difference and I had to start all over again. And to again make a splash, I am constantly on a look out for a good meaty role. But it takes time, and it depends on one’s destiny.
Q. Did that change your motivation to do films?
Not at all. In fact by staying away from it, I realised how much I enjoyed it. It is not just about being in front of the camera, it is really the whole medium. I really enjoy cinema, and that’s also a reason why I ended up producing a film (Soorma). I have written two scripts that I want to set up. So, I am more excited about cinema than ever.
Q. What is after Baazaar? What direction will you take from here professionally and personally?
We can’t always predict. I am hoping to set up two more projects, both mainstream films. We are just about to lock a web idea too, but it needs a lot of writing as you have to write so many episodes. But again, this idea is very close to my heart.