It was only right that on the eve of Children’s Day on November 13, Bollywood actress Nushrratt Bharuccha rolled out her social comedy ‘Chhalaang’ on Amazon Prime Video. She believes that her new film, directed by Hansal Mehta and featuring Rajkummar Rao, Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik and Zeeshahn Ayyub, is one of those rare movies in Bollywood that appeal to children and adults alike. It’s a tale about two small-town sports coaches who embark of a battle of wills and ideologies. Bharuccha plays Neelu, a popular schoolteacher who catches the fancy of the warring male coaches.
“I have always found that there’s a conflict with parents when they have to watch a film together. Very often, they have to wait for their kids to be in bed before they watch a film. For example, I have this family night with my dadi [grandmother], but most movies aren’t light-hearted comedies and I end up watching it alone as she leaves after 10 minutes,” said Bharuccha in an interview over Zoom.
But ‘Chhalaang’ isn’t some sanitised PG-rated film, she adds.
The self-made star, who is known for her romantic blockbusters such as ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’, is working with director Mehta for the first time in her career. She couldn’t believe that the National Award-winning director found her acting abilities worthy of featuring in his brand of cinema.
“I kept asking them if he knew my name and that he actually wanted me to be a part of his film,” said Bharuccha with a laugh.
“I was looking for validation as an actor, perhaps,” she added.
The year’s unpredictable turns such as the pandemic didn’t help.
“I have learnt that the ground under your feet can be pulled off at any moment. You can’t always have a backup plan because you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow … So we shouldn’t stress about anything ideally … All I want to do right now is showcase a nice movie like ‘Chhalaang’ and chill out as you watch it … I have learnt that there’s no point of stressing about the future. It is time to let things go and put your hand up and have fun,” she added.
Excerpts from our interview with Bharuccha on her new film, surviving the pandemic and more …
Tell us more about ‘Chhalaang’, your new comedy that’s streaming now?
‘Chhalaang’ is a film that was conceived from a simple point of view: ‘We have very limited films that kids and adults can sit and watch together’. This film is equally a kid’s story and an adult’s story. There’s also a nice romantic angle thrown in. The rivalry between Raj [Kummar Rao] and Zeeshan [Mohammad] — two sports coaches — is another twist. You don’t know whom to root for. So there’s full-on masala and drama along with a lot of humour. We also have great actors who bring their bits to life. Being on set with them was a laugh too.
In an era where streaming platforms have embraced edgy and violent content, will ‘Chhalaang’ be relevant and manage to charm viewers who have access to the best films and series across the globe?
A family-friendly movie can never lose its charm... It’s not a children’s film solely nor is it a PG film. It exudes that liveliness that teachers experience when they are teaching young minds.
Did you audition for your role?
No, but I knew the film was being made by producer Luv Ranjan but I didn’t know that Hansal sir was going to direct it. One day, I asked him [Ranjan] what he was working on and he said he is going to do his next film with Raj and I asked him if he thinks I can fit in or whether the director would like me. And then, I get a call one day saying: ‘Hansal sir wants to cast you in his film’. I was shocked on various levels because I didn’t think my body of work qualified me to be a part of his film or be an actor in his brand of cinema. I thought I had a long way to go before he would even want to collaborate with me. I kept asking if they were sure that he knew my name … I was fishing for validation, perhaps. Many people think I am my characters — Cheeku or Sweety, the stalker girlfriend [from previous films] … Now that I have a Hansal Mehta film under my belt, many may probably feel that I can do a variety of roles. For my character in ‘Chhalaang’, I had to learn a new dialect and be a part of a different world altogether. This role could prove my versatility and instill faith in others about my acting abilities.
What was your equation with Rao?
A: The whole set was filled with great actors who are known for their splendid works. So you don’t have any option but to do a great job. I don’t have the liberty to drop the ball here. My performance has to be on-point. I hope that I have done justice to my character Neelu, a teacher, and the film.
Have Bollywood films set in small-towns become passe though?
I don’t know. Only an audience can decide if they have seen enough of a particular kind of film. But I can tell you from my experience that the way my film ‘Dream Girl’ [set in a small-town] took off, I have never seen something like that. As long as we are offering something new in a film, the audiences tend to love it. If they are done with a particular genre, they will let you know.
What have you learnt from 2020 and how do you keep your faith alive?
What keeps my faith alive is the belief that what goes down will have to come up eventually. It can’t be night forever, sunlight will stream in at some point for a brighter, different day. This pandemic has taught me about the importance of adapting to new situations. If we don’t adapt we will actually be stuck in our own expectations and in our own sort of disappointments. Remember, we can always snap out of a situation and find new ways to survive by adapting to the new normal. Whatever happens, you need to look at life and the world and believe that you can only find peace within yourself. I did a lot of cleaning, mopping, chopping veggies every day to get through those tough days. I just kept working, working and working at home …
Don’t miss it!
‘Chhalaang’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.