Actress Chitrangda Singh, who plays an aspiring novelist Latika in the Amazon Prime Video anthology series ‘Modern Love Mumbai’, recalls a telling interview of her director Nupur Asthana where she spoke about how stories with a female gaze are having a moment.
“I remember her saying that had ‘Cutting Chai’ been made eight or ten years ago, it would have been told from the point of view of Arshad’s character and not mine. A woman’s point of view would have gotten less eyeballs back then, but now there’s a change happening gradually,” said Singh in an interview with Gulf News.
Written by Devika Bhagat and directed by Asthana, ‘Cutting Chai’ is a gentle relationship story on how Latika struggles to pursue her writing ambitions and begin her novel because she’s busy playing a good mother to her two adorable kids, which she shares with her husband and consummate hustler Daniel (Warsi). Life has got in Latika’s way and she wonders if it’s worth keeping her dreams on the back burner.
The Singh-led chapter ‘Cutting Chai’ is the ultimate episode in ‘Modern Love Mumbai’, culled and tweaked from the personal essays from the New York Times column, and is India’s answer to the hit English-language series by the same name set in the New York metropolis.
“This is Latika’s story and you even hear what’s going on in her head throughout the short film. I dubbed those inner voices and you are constantly in her mind, and it’s told from her point of view entirely,” said Singh. ‘Cutting Chai’ is her web series debut and it took her less than 15 minutes to jump aboard this prestigious project.
The actress, who was recently seen in films such as ‘Bob Biswas’ and ‘Inkaar’, claims she was sold to the idea even before she knew that this anthology was the Indian adaptation of the hit ‘Modern Love’ series with immense street credit.
“After I read the script, I didn’t have a single question and I called Devika right back and said I wanted to do it … This series isn’t preachy and our anthology has a woman who has regrets about her life when responsibilities keep piling up … But one day, she just snaps,” said Singh.
The actress, who is a self-confessed incurable romantic, found Latika a compelling character to play. Her existence will mirror millions of women who sacrifice their dreams and aspirations at the altar of maintaining domestic bliss and peace, believes Singh.
“Not just women, but men will relate to the series too. A housewife and a working woman will also identify with Latika … But towards the end she comes to term with the realisation that life will be always be a bit wonky and not to waste a lot of time perfecting it,” said Singh.
In ‘Cutting Chai’, Singh builds a strong case around Latika and her life choices. The trailer reveals how Latika is facing a perennial writer’s block and her husband’s patronising comments hit a soft spot in her.
“The beauty of the series is that Latika figures out a lot in the local train … The realisation that her life is beautiful with how things already are and how life will never be perfect is told beautifully,” said Singh. The series also address how several women feel a sense of ‘facelessness’.
“There are many times in a woman’s life where she becomes invisible and is taken for granted. Latika’s emotional ups and downs are tapped into. And honestly, I sometimes blame women for being in that place,” said Singh. Perhaps, she has a point there.
“They [women] don’t prioritise themselves and they tend to be this all-sacrificing figures. If a man is ambitious, he’s admired for it, while a woman is often lauded for being ever-sacrificing. It’s all bred into our society,” said Singh. Those flaws in the system are all tackled in ‘Modern Love Mumbai’.
“The series is based on the articles written by people for The New York Times. We are talking real people with real stories and that’s the beauty of it. The connect that you feel in ‘Cutting Chai’ will be real. Their ordinariness is lovely … Sometimes we lose the connection when we narrate larger-than-life stories … ‘Modern Love Mumbai’ is about what we are all living through right now.”
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So what’s her take on love and deal breakers?
Singh, who counts the complex infidelity drama ‘Silsila’ as her idea of a perfect on-screen romance, believes that love can conquer all. The cult love triangle which saw Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha and Jaya Bachchan explore relationships in all its complicated glory is her favourite because it was a ‘mature love story’.
“I have been through my share of ups and downs in love. But I have not gotten cynical, but just wiser … Love is the most beautiful feeling and so how can it be wrong?” said Singh.
In fewer than 40 minutes on screen, actors Warsi and Singh have joined hands to prove that there’s incredible beauty in love. It’s Singh’s first time acting with Warsi, one of Bollywood’s consummate and underrated actors.
“He’s such an effortless actor. He’s amazing at his craft and he’s kept is real here … He’s not a mean husband who beats her up nor does he say mean things … So I didn’t have those crutches of extremes in a relationship, but it’s still not a perfect relationship,” explained Singh.
Singh has done remarkable well in Bollywood by selecting roles that exhibit her range as an actor since her debut in 2005 with ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’.
“There is a feeble attempt to experiment … I love doing different things and so far I hope I have done well,” said Singh. Very soon, she will also be seen sharing screen space with Vikrant Maasey in ‘Gaslight’.
“I have just finished shooting for ‘Gaslight’ which is a thriller and it should release by the end of this year. It’s a wicked film and I hope I continue to surprise my fans,” said Singh.
Don’t miss it!
‘Modern Love Mumbai’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video now.