November 11, 2008 2:44:15 am
Then, the adulation flustered Chitrangada Singh; now, she is eager for more
They loved her for her looks; they loved her for her histrionics. Five years ago, most of those who walked out of the cinemas, having watched the end credits roll on Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, got starry-eyed about Chitrangada Singh. Since talented dusky heroines have to be called the new Smita Patil, that moniker also stuck. It was anybody’s dream debut, except that she wasn’t ready for it. “The adulation was too unsettling for me and I did not know how to react. I had to think about what I really wanted to do,” says Singh, at her home in Gurgaon, having returned from a sky-diving camp in Hissar.
So she disappeared from the scene, except for an appearance in the 2005 dud Kal: Yesterday and Tomorrow, while rumours went about in B-town that her husband, the golfer Jyoti Randhawa, had stopped her from acting. Now, after a child, a few charcoal painting sessions and yoga, she is back — in Onir’s Sorry Bhai, that also stars Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani. Singh calls this “a new beginning” rather than a “comeback”, and you can already sense the anxiety in her voice. “I am slightly nervous. It has been some time since I acted,” she says.
The break evidently did her good; for one, she realised that two films are not even a blip in Bollywood. “When I joined, I had no godfather. Now I have learnt to cope with the attention and I don’t discount the fame that my first movie has brought; it has got me where I am today. But there is no pressure to perform,” she says. And Onir called her just when she was eager to return before the camera. “I had changed my phone number and was out of touch with everyone in the industry. I was also hesitant to call up directors and ask for work. Somehow, someone gave my number to Onir, he asked me and I immediately agreed to do the film,” she says, laughing at the serendipity of it all.
The film sees Singh playing a girl caught between the affection of two brothers played by Sanjay Suri and Sharman Joshi. “There is a twist to the love angle. It is dealt with innocently and happily, not like a clichéd love triangle,” she says. Sorry Bhai also sees Singh cast alongside her childhood idol, Shabana Azmi. “I just admire her career graph. She handles and guides the scene effortlessly, which is an art in itself. On the sets, I was a sucker for her and sat for hours watching her. She even advised me against studying acting,” says Singh, as she rates Arth and Masoom among Azmi’s greatest films.
The comeback girl, who calls herself “a director’s actor who can’t act if she doesn’t understand the role”, is not choosy. “Any challenging role appeals to me. Commercial, art house, period — I am open to anything,” she says. After her dream debut with Sudhir Mishra, she will be back on his sets in December for Aur Devdas where she plays Chandramukhi. “He appreciates my acting and I like his kind of cinema,” she says. The Mishra-Singh tango doesn’t end there. She also stars in his Nawab and John Company that releases in July next year.
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