Making it big in Bollywood doesn’t come easy. At SheThePeople.TV’s Bombaywaali event, actress Tisca Chopra spoke about her journey into filmdom and shared several anecdotes, some shocking and some hilarious.
Growing up in Noida, Delhi, moving to Bombay was a culture shock for her. Right from finding a place to live to navigating the streets of the city, Bombay was an entirely new experience for her.
On her first break:
The story of how she got her first film is also tied to her experience of finding a place to live in the city. Her first landlady was very bizarre, she says. She and the other landladies were all connected and would get together and gossip about their tenants. Tisca hadn’t told her that she was auditioning to be an actress. It so happened that she went to audition for a director who was the son of someone the landlady knew. When Tisca came back from the audition, she found the door locked. She could see the landlady’s feet through the door chain, but she didn’t answer. That night, Tisca slept on the steps outside the house. The landlady had found out about the audition and was upset. She and Tisca had a face-off for many days, till the landlady fell sick. Her son didn’t care and she had nobody to take care of her, so Tisca stepped in. After she recovered, the landlady got the director (her friend’s son) to the apartment, and that’s how Tisca signed her first film.
But Bollywood in the 90s wasn’t what Tisca expected. She realised that there were not many interesting roles for women. “The kind of acting required so much makeup that if you took the makeup out, it could act by itself!” she says. Very little was right about it, she says
She went back to acting school and trained in theatre. Luckily, in the early 2000s, the wave of better films had started.
On dealing with the casting couch:
“The casting couch exists in every business where there is power dynamics and manipulation,” she says. If your first film flops, then you are not above being susceptible to it
She managed to evade her unsavoury experience through quick thinking. A well-known director was casting and she hadn’t worked in a while. When he asked her to meet him, he told her that ‘she must learn how to walk in heels and how to ooze’.
“So I said ok I will learn, and I got cast in the role.”
Everyone told her not to work with the director. But nothing happened. On an overseas trip to the US, she was sure her nightmare would come true. And at one point, when they were shooting an intimate scene, he did say come to my room and discuss the script, she says.
She bought a huge cake, chocolate and flowers and went to his room. She gave him a big hug and saw that he was surprised. He didn’t expect the fly to be so enthusiastic in the spider’s web, and not be the frightened mouse she was supposed to be.
“I had diverted all calls from my room to his son’s room, and the entire team was waiting to go out for a plan. So I kept getting calls and I kept saying I am in sir’s room, I will be down in a minute or two. By then, sir had lost all his desire to discuss the script,” she says.
On producing Chutney
It’s great fun to shape destiny rather than wait for things to happen. It’s the most watched short film in the world, and has over 78 million views. If you are willing to risk your heart and failure, things do work out. Tisca says that she wanted to portray the everyday lives of people, and that she been thinking about this for over 15 years.
She is someone who was unafraid to follow her dreams, despite what anyone said. She has shown everyone, including her now proud father, who had wanted her to become an IAS officer, that dreams can come true.