The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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I just need to hold on: Chitrangda

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi has come and gone. But its leading lady, Chitrangda Singh, is a portrait of confidence. Everyone is talking about her resemblance to Smita Patil. 'Actually, a lot of people used to tell me I look like Smita. When I was in Standard 9 I was approached by a documentary maker who was making a film on Smita to play Smitaís younger version. My mother and I didnít take it seriously. But it was the first time that the likeness struck my mother and me. I canít take such an awesome compliment seriously. Iíve a long way to go,' gushes the Meerut girl now residing in Delhi.

Chitrangda is an Army officerís daughter. 'I knew no one from the film industry. I never thought it would be easy for me to be in movies. But Iíve always been a total movie buff ' acting, dancing, singing through school. Then I did a number of ads and music videos. Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi just happened. Someone from Delhi suggested my name to Sudhir Mishra.'

She admits the political ideology of Mishraís film was a bit too much for her. 'Sudhir briefed me about it. But he told me not to get into the politics. He wanted me to look at my character Geeta as just a girl who could belong to any phase or time. ĎDonít let anyone intellectualise the character too much for you,í he warned me. I internalised her to the best of my abilities. But I must admit I was daunted by the complexity of the character. I had never done a film before. But Sudhir was very confident. After release one of the best compliments I received was from a critic who said I donít act, but react. Thatís exactly what I tried to do. There were such fantastic theatre actors in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, I had to go purely by instinct. I kept it simple.'

The Delhi girl is now settled in Mumbai, and looking for greener pastures.

She admits she isnít being offered hardcore commercial cinema. 'I guess because Iíve done the offbeat role well they presume I canít do anything else. Fortunately, Iíve another film coming up. Itís called Kal directed by Sudhir Mishraís former assistant, Ruchi Narain. I play a regular 26-year-old Mumbai girl. Itís a female-centric plot. And itís completely in Hindi. It isnít an out-and-out commercial film. But itís a thriller, a murder mystery. Then Iím talking to other people about other roles'.'

She trails off. And you look at her as yet another avant garde actress unsure of her next move after the first off-mainstream step into cinema. 'The response to my performance in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi has been fantastic. Vishal Bhardwaj insists heíll write a film only for me. Thatís how much Iíve inspired him. Ashutosh Gowariker keeps calling me Ďamazingí. Ketan Mehta has seen the film repeatedly.'

Tell her Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi hasnít worked at the BO and Chitrangda protests. 'I think it has worked on some level. Iíve got calls from youngsters who donít relate to the politics but love the love story in the film. Itís amazing how differently everyone has interpreted the work. Some friends had to sit in the third row of a theatre and watch it'no tickets!!'

Khwaishein producers Pritish Nandy Communications should be happy to hear that. But none of the admiring filmmakers is coming forward to offer her roles. 'I know. But Iím sure they have me in mind. What I did in Khwaishein wasnít easy. If I can carry off that, Iím confident I can carry off any role. Itís fascinating how much variety Bollywood has to offer an actor. Itís like an ongoing party. Everyone is making a film. Some are crossing over, others are going parallel. Itís the best time for an actress to be in Indian movies. Iíd love to work with Ashutosh Gowariker, Farhan Akhtar, Mira Nair...I just need to hold on.'

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