Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil were Richa’s inspiration for Love Sonia
Actress Richa Chadha, who has been breaking barriers for doing unconventional roles right from her first film, is at it again. Currently, the Masaan actress is busy shooting for her next film a biopic on Shakeela, the adult film actress and is all geared up for her next release Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia. The film has been well received at all international festivals where it was screened and is slated to release in India on 14th September. The film touches on a very sensitive subject, the international crisis of sex trafficking. Richa will be seen as a sex worker in the film.
Though many renowned Bollywood actors have played the role of a commercial sex worker in films it is never easy to play such a part. It takes a lot of effort and preparation to portray a character with certain finesse without giving into the stereotypes, especially one as touchy as a sex worker. One of the best films to have been made on the subject was 1983′ satirical comedy on politics and prostitution called ‘Mandi’ by ace filmmaker Shyam Benegal. The film starred Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Saeed Jaffrey, Neena Gupta amongst many others. The film is undoubtedly a masterpiece. It was extremely different to the Bollywood films of the times that treated sex workers either as victims or villains and constantly acknowledging them as the ‘other.’ Every little detail was taken into consideration. All the female actors performed to the best of their abilities and it is considered as some of their finest work till date. The makers of Mandi constructed a set of a brothel back then, where the typical diction, accent, language, attire and body language were portrayed by all the actors. It was the truest someone had come to in portraying a sex worker as an individual too.
Richa watched the film Mandi a number of times to pick up diction, body language and clothing tips to get into the skin of her character Madhuri. Shabana Azmi played the role of brother owner in Mandi, Richa taking the cue from Shabana’s role prepared herself to play the part.
“Mandi is a classic, a film and a compelling story told on celluloid by the maestro Shyam Benegal. Shabanaji and Smitaji essayed their roles with such ease and perfection. I idolise them in my real life too and I have great admiration for their work. When love Sonia came to me, and when I begun my prep for it, I wanted to study as much as possible to be the character Tabrez had etched for me. I took to watching this movie specifically. For anyone who’s seen this film, will know the nuances the film has essay so well. The world created in Mandi was a great reference point for me. The diction, the body language, the behaviour of the characters on screen, it really help me do justice to my role of Madhuri in the film. I tried to copy Soni razdaan’s body language as well! Actresses like Anita Kanwar were so uninhibited.“
This role is Richa’s ode to all the brilliant actors who were on that set, who helped change the way Hindi Cinema looked at sex work, the lives of sex workers and the paradoxes within society that lead to their marginalization.
Love Sonia is all set to release on 14th September across India and cast included Manoj Bajpai, Mrunal Thakur, Richa Chadha, Frieda Pinto, Sai Tamhankar, Rajkummar Rao, Anupam Kher and Demi Moore.