“Who wants to play a good looking doll on screen?”
Asks the fiesty Chitrashi Rawat in a freewheeling chat with MAM about her new film Black Home and her career since Chak De.
The first thing that hits you the moment she starts speaking is that she is a live wire. Much like her debut as Komal Chautala in Chak De India, Chitrashi is fiesty young lady who knows her mind and does not mince words. Eight years in the industry and a few films old, while she hasn’t really managed to reach the top she has built a consistent reputation of being an actor who delivers.
She describes her journey in the industry as “fruitful”, starting as a national level Hockey Player representing Uttarakhand at the National Hockey Tourney in Jabalpur, Chak De India happened cause of a whim. “Everyone in my team was auditioning for this film on sports, I wasn’t the one to be left behind. We had thought it must be a documentary or something, I mean who really makes a film on sport in India, that too women’s hockey?” she asks. Who does indeed. Yet Shimit Amin’s SRK starrer did manage to see the light of day and is till date a definitive film on sports in the country.
Little wonder then that Chak De Girl is a tag Chitrashi has to live with even eight years after. “And I do not mind it” says she, “Chak De is what made me a recognizable face, gave me all that I have got in these eight years, made me what I am. I am proud of the film and the fact that this is my identity.” In an industry where image is everything, does Komal Chautala’s fierce fiesty character prevent her from getting the goody two shoes docile Hindi Heroine roles?
“Who wants those roles?” she bounces a volley back to me. “I am an actor and the only thing i look forward to is to play characters that are not me , to live lives that are not mine. I look pretty and girly dressing up in high heels and lovely clothes in my life all the time, so doing the same on screen, look good and dance and fall in love is not what i want to do”. Clearly her choice of roles reflects this conviction amply as well.
She followed up Chak De India with a small role in Priyanka Chopra starrer Fashion, “small but significant” she interjects. “Even today people remember my role and the dialogues I had in a film that starred Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut, that is an achievement for me.” Fashion was followed up by Luck and Tere Naal Love Hogaya, both of which had a lead heroine to do the regular heroine’s job. “I like it that way, I am doing roles that push me as a person and am loving it” she adds.
Her latest release, Black Home, is also not a regular mainstream film. “In fact it is absolutely not mainstream and completely different from all my previous work”she insists. A story about the plight of young gilrs in juvenile remand homes run by the judicial system. “We are not up against the system or the government with this film” she hurriedly explains “it is a film based on solid research and facts, and aims to show the general public the darker side to remand homes. How girls who are abandoned by their families cause they are girls, are forced to live with juvenile offenders and suffer unspeakable things in the name of rehabilitation”.
So does she prepare differently for a film like this? “Every film needs preparation, to get into the character’s skin, but a film like this is tougher. My upbringing, my environs do not have such a side to life. The things I learnt of and saw during the course of the film shocked me. There were times when I would ask my director to tone down the lines since i just could not mouth them. I have seen a lot of rage expereinced a lot of angst dying this film’s shoot and it all has been a part of the character as well.”
Chitrashi really seems moved by the plight of these girls the film talks of, continuing passionately about the juvenile system in the country she adds “The Nirbhaya case, that 17 year old buy was tried as a juvenile. How can you? If you are grown up enough to rape someone, you are grown up enough to be punished accordingly no? “. Black Home, she says, is their attempt to honestly bring to light an issue that we conviniently put under the carpets and ignore.
Carpets brought out another tangent in the conversation, more akin to what filmy types are used to- PR and the art of being visible across all the time in the media. Does someone like Chitrashi find the need to work the PR machinery now and then? “Do you see me in these page 3 pics and news?” comes her quick salvo. “I have my friends in the media call me and say tell us something going on with you and we shall make them into stories”she says animatedly, adding that she does not feel the need to be in the news and be visible. “My work speaks for me. Yes I do attend events and do’s whenever I am asked to, like this one a few weeks ago at Doha where I was attending a hockey meet. Otherwise I speak to the media when I have a film coming up, like now”.
Is she in touch with her Hockey days? “I am a hockey player first and an actress second. I cannot tell you how much I miss playing the game” she says, her voice hinting at a longing to get back on the field. Does she find time? “Rarely, but yes. I play once in a while. I do not have the stamina I had when I was training full time, but the skills are intact.”
As she continues about her first love Hockey and how it has been her passion since childhood, I wonder if it is the discipline and rigour of a sportsman that keeps her going in this rough and tumble of tinsel town. “I am enjoying myself thoroughly. Be it films, or T.V. with F.I.R., I am enjoying the journey. Working at my pace, sometimes for money, sometimes for the love of it” she says. There is no room for any regret she insisits, “I have said no to roles that would have been conventionally good for me in the industry sense, but i did not want to do them. Saying no to friends, mentors, its tough but I do things on my own terms.” “I do wish I could represent India in Hockey before I took the plunge into acting though” says the sportswoman in her. On the field or in front of the camera, it is clear Chitrashi is here to make a mark on her own in her own unique way.
As we sign off, I am amazed at the purity of thought and effortless sincerity in her demeanour. An earnest request to watch her film Black Home that hits the theaters this Friday is what she leaves me with, not because it is her film, but because it is a story that we all should know of and think about. Such conviction is rare in the world of make believe glitz. Such good souls are rarer still.