Archita Kashyap - 55 weeks ago
At 45, Tisca Chopra has re-invented herself by producing and writing Chutney, the world’s most popular short film and playing the lead in popular web series Hostages. The actor walks us through her evolution as an actor, producer and potential director.
(Tisca Chopra in a still from Hostages (Image courtesy - Hotstar)
In 1999, Tisca Chopra etched in my (the author’s) memory with her performance in an episode of what was India’s original mini-series, Star Bestsellers. Few today would remember that these long form episodes on Star TV back then gave an opportunity to direct to many leading filmmakers of today. Chopra starred in an episode with Irrfan Khan and Himani Shivpuri. In this space, Tisca’s work has come full circle with Hostages, on Hotstar. An adaptation of the Israeli TV series Hostages, Sudhir Mishra directs this edgy show with surprises and twists and turns that keep one engaged, even if consideration at a later time throws up flaws in the plot. Chopra plays the lead as Dr Meera Anand, delivering a taut, measured performance that holds this series together. “With a filmmaker like Sudhir Mishra in charge, it would have been a waste to adapt the Israeli original exactly as it. So you see those changes that he has made. I enjoyed shooting for this series thoroughly. The character of Mira Anand is so strong and sassy, I agreed immediately (to be part of the series). We had a long continuous schedule of nearly 50 days. You can do something so intense only if you like working in it, getting up every morning and going to a set. “
Having been part of mainstream films and the occasional TV show for some time, Tisca has turned around her image with the record setting short film, Chutney, that she wrote and produced in 2017. With over 124 million views on YouTube, Chutney is the most watched short film in the world. It has won awards at Filmfare and the prestigious HBO Audience Choice award in the short film category. “After Chutney, much changed externally. But for me, what changed internally was that from being somebody who was always trying to fulfil someone else’s vision, you are now driving your own. As producer, I had to take tough calls with parts being redone and some parts being re-shot. It gave me internal confidence that I am on the right track, I am getting people interested in what I have to say, at the end of the day. People like Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali, Ratna Pathak Shah and Naseeruddin Shah, even Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan went bonkers with it.” Rasika Dugal who acts in the film, considers Chutney as the digital film that brought her maximum exposure. A good friend to her, Chopra acknowledges that Chutney did become something special for most in the team. "It’s a huge encouragement. Rasika benefitted a lot from the film, as much as we benefitted from her being in the film.”
Aside from this short, Tisca has consciously picked independent films driven by solid content for some time. The Hungry, that premiered at TIFF in 2017, is popular amongst alternate cinema viewers on Netflix. Be it Bioscopewala or Qissa, her films have been seen at international film festivals and also applauded. Consequently, quality parts from overseas have begun to come her way. She is part of Beecham House, a TV show by British broadcaster, ITV. “There’s a couple of feelers that have come my way and its very interesting stuff. I will announce that as soon as I confirm something. I am still reading and discussing something with the managers,” she says. Ask her if she consciously made choices that bring international opportunities and her response is, “If you know me well by now, you would know that I am not a person who is well marketed. I am lazy towards this purely because I find it very boring. You need to get ready for three hours, get ready, drive to an event for 30 minutes and then commute for 3 hours. For me, all of this is a fringe distraction or a fringe benefit. I simply enjoy the writing process and the process of developing a story,” she responds.
(Tisca Chopra and Irrfan Khan during a screening of Qissa)
With Hostages reproving her ability to top line a project, Tisca Chopra establishes the fact that a paradigm shift in writing and audience interest has made room for entertaining and intelligent content that feature mature female actors. Keen to take forward her foray into filmmaking, Chopra has plans to direct a feature. She features in Good News, a Dharma Productions film with Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani. Chopra co-stars with Adil Hussain in this one. Striking a balance between mainstream cinema and quality content across mediums, the unforgettable mum from Taare Zameen Par has many more roles to bring to life, and tons of stories yet to tell. We can’t say that we aren’t looking forward to that!
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