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Very Easy To Sit There And Be An Armchair Critic: Richa Chadha On Madam Chief Minister Casting Backlash

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Actor Richa Chadha has taken on a powerful role, that of a Dalit woman with political ambitions, in her upcoming film Madam Chief Minister. The film’s poster, now retracted, was in controversy for showing a Dalit woman holding a broom, a stereotypical representation of the community according many critics, and for using the word “untouchable” on it. Social media activists are also questioning the filmmakers on why Dalit actors are not in the film to play the film’s Dalit characters. Chadha speaks to Shaili Chopra in a brutally honest interview and talks about the casting backlash and says, “If you are not willing to look at me as an actor and will reduce my identity to my caste then how are you different from the ones you are opposing.”

In her conversation with Chopra, she further adds, “I get it. I get this representation debate. I get it more so in the case of African American actors or Asian actors in Hollywood when they say they want to tell stories of their ethnicity and our lived experience. There is a racial, I mean you cannot have a white person do black face and perform as an African American actor. There I get it. Here, when you say pass the mic hum log koi group discussion nahi main baithe hain aur koi bhi baat kar raha hai so it’s so easy to pass the mic. It’s a little bit I feel holier than thou because they are not aware of the reality of the film making process. They are not aware that I perhaps have to snatch this role from very undeserving nepotistic hands or that my director may be pressurised by a previous producer to take a more saleable girl, more commercial or an item song girl or a star kid. They don’t know those things. And they are not willing to see that in the film making process, there is a commercial reality to face. It’s showbiz. It’s a business. It’s not a play where we are gathering a small group of people and talking of live experiences. A film of this stature and scale was hardly justifying even with an anchor like me headlining it. So when people say pass the mic, it’s very easy to sit there and be an armchair critic and say pass the mic but then they are also reducing me simply to my caste. If you are not willing to look at me as an actor and will reduce my identity to my caste then how are you different from the ones you are opposing. That’s first.

Secondly are we going to check caste certificates outside a movie hall and say only you can or you can’t watch it. What’s the presumption to assume that I cannot empathise?”

Sharing the kind of backlash she faced on Twitter for her casting Chadha further adds, “I was called an upper-caste leach on Twitter for agreeing to doing this film. I was like do you really expect me to turn down meaningful rewarding work? Do you really think I will get a really good part, and a really good script and I will be like ‘no I am really sorry.’

I will tell you when I have done that. When this representation thing really matters. I was offered a role for a woman from Arunachal Pradesh. That is a racially different thing for me to portray. I politely declined and said, “look I know somebody has done it in the past, however I think you should look at actresses from the same belt. I am a greedy actor but I am not that greedy.”

“If you are not willing to look at me as an actor and will reduce my identity to my caste then how are you different from the ones you are opposing.”

“Why they didn’t ask Vicky the same question, are they sexist that they didn’t ask Vicky why he was cast as a Dalit person? Was Om Puri cast because of his high caste in Satyajit Ray’s film Sadgati? I feel like its a double edged sword, if you are considered woke, and progressive and whatever and ‘we love Richa Chadha but…’ Then please don’ love me because I am very imperfect because I am very regular who is trying to figure out life. I am trying to purify my self with the new knowledge that I get.”

The actor, with brilliant films like Masaan to her credit refuses to get ‘bullied.’ “To hold me up to a higher standard than the others, I feel is really ridiculous. I will not be bullied into saying no to something which I think is important for me. I know the reality of films. If I have to pick between the real telling of the story or watching it go into really undeserving hands, I am not ok with that. I want the story to be told. I am ok with people hating me for it because I am not profiteering off the caste system. This is the liberal problem the world over. We attack our own and we are so quick to judge. And put people through a purification process.”

Madam Chief Minister Trailer
Earlier Poster for Madam Chief Minister

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Very Easy To Sit There And Be An Armchair Critic: Richa Chadha On Madam Chief Minister Casting Backlash
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