Richa Chadha on her role in Sarbjit and surviving with grace in Bollywood

The actress has come a long way since her Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye days. For The Gangs of Wasseypur and Fukrey actress, it's all about never giving up.

Richa Chadha portrays the wife of Sarbjit Singh (Randeep Hooda) in Sarbjit. Courtesy Grand Showbiz Media & Entertainment
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Richa Chadha is living the dream.

The 29-year-old Bollywood actress, who has a canny knack for bagging strong, interesting roles in an industry awash with weak female characters, has portrayed the firebrand Bholi Panjaban in Fukrey, the strong-willed Nagma Khatoon in the Gangs of Wasseypur franchise, and as the stoic Devi in Masaan.

Ever since her first brush with Hindi cinema in the 2008 comedy Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, the Delhi-born Chadha has grown from strength to strength.

“I never give up,” says the 29-year-old actress, adding that it is a quality that has helped her find her place in the industry. “I don’t want to give anybody an opportunity to write me off.”

In her new film Sarbjit, opening on Thursday, May 19, in the the UAE, Chadha shares screen space with two top actors – Randeep Hooda, in the titular role, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The biographical drama is based on the true story of an Indian farmer who mistakenly crossed the border into Pakistan, where he was arrested, convicted of spying and put on death row. Chadha plays Sarbjit's wife, Sukhpreet, while Rai Bachchan portrays his sister, Dalbir Kaur, who launched a massive campaign for his freedom.

“Sukhpreet is like the backbone of the family,” says Chadha, adding that she enjoyed her role in the film because “it shows the suffering of a woman without being very preachy”.

Next comes the thriller Cabaret, releasing on Thursday, May 26, where Chadha is "doing something with songs and dance." It also stars Gulshan Devaiah (Hunterrr) as her love interest.

“My character, Rosa, is a girl on the run who decides to fight instead of being a victim, and that’s where the story begins,” says Chadha. “As the film progresses, she keeps changing her identity and continues running.”

Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra's Dasdev, an adaptation of Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 1917 novel Devdas, will be releasing later this year.

Chadha claims that her character Paro, Devdas’s love interest, is empowered, unlike the previous two Bollywood adaptations: 2002’s starring Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and the 1955 version with Dilip Kumar and Vyjanthimala.

“I’ve given the character my own swing,” she says.

Director Howard Rosemeyer’s Jiah Aur Jiah is also due to release later this year, and again has Chadha in a plum role.

“Jiah aur Jiah is a beautiful, slice-of-life film, where I play an heiress, and take a trip together with Kalki Koechlin’s character Jiah,” she says.

Chadha recently bagged a role in an Indo-American film, Love Sonia, which is the directorial debut of Tabrez Noorani (producer of Slumdog Millionaire, 2008). Produced by David Womark (Life of Pi), the story revolves around a village girl who becomes a victim of trafficking.

It was her character in Masaan that made the world sit up and take notice. “Devi’s was a very unusual character, one that could alienate a lot of people in the first five minutes of the film,” she recalls. “Instead she received a lot of love and praise.”

Masaan was the first Indian film to win two awards at Cannes last year: the Fipresci, the International Jury of Film Critics prize, and the Promising Future prize in the Un Certain Regard section. Closer home, Chadha received the Editor's Choice Performer of the Year at the Stardust Awards 2015 for her performance in the film.

But awards don’t define her success.

“I don’t think much about them,” she says. “It’s not like life changes a lot after that. I’m happy if I get them and if I don’t, I don’t really care.”

With two new films going on the floors this year - Fukrey 2 and Three Stories – Chadha's hands will be full for a long time.

“I’m living my dream,” she says. “Working in films is what makes me happy and I will be doing it for a long, long time.”

Sarbjit opens in cinemas on Thursday, May 19

artslife@thenational.ae

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