“I am never bothered with the length of my role in a movie,” says actor Tisca Chopra as she gets chatty about her upcoming release Bioscopewala. Her statement takes us back to the powerful characters the consummate theatre and film actor has played in her more than two-decade-long career. Be it Ishaan Awasthi’s mother in Taare Zameen Par or her latest character of a submissive housewife in her short film Chutney, irrespective of the duration she has stayed in the frame, leaving the audience hooked and wanting to see her more on the screen.
Now, after playing varied roles, Tisca checks another box of her acting career as she gets into the skin of a burqa boxer for Bisocopewala. The film directed by Deb Medhekar is inspired from Rabindranath Tagore’s short story Kabuliwala and stars Danny Denzongpa, Geetanjali Thapa and Adil Hussain in pivotal roles. In the words of Medhekar, his film is “a tribute to the cinema because the bioscopewala taught her (the protagonist) how to tell stories and she has gone on to become a filmmaker and we explore what role cinema has played in her story,” she says.
In a conversation with Tisca about the May 25 release Bioscopewala, we ask her if it was the character of a burqa boxer which pulled her to the movie. Giving an affirmative nod, the 44-year-old says, “Definitely yes. In the kind of films that are being made these days, roles for women are improving but they are still very stereotypical. So, playing Wahida, a burqa boxer was interesting as I got to know a lot about Burqa boxing which is still practised in the slums of Kolkata.”
Another reason for Tisca being so convinced about the role was it being of an Afghan refugee. “I grew up in Afghanistan in Kabul and speak fluent Persian, so the chance to play an Afghan refugee was too tempting. Though the role is not that big, it didn’t really matter to me. I just think, as an actor, you get to play different sorts of characters and experience different kinds of lifetimes within your one lifetime,” adds Tisca.
Sharing her experience of playing a distinctive role, Tisca says, “The entire shoot of the film was a huge learning process for me. I had to learn mix martial arts, street kind of boxing and work with a trainer. First, I had to play the age group of 23-25 and then I had to present myself as a woman of 45. I had to lose weight and knock off the pounds for the portions where I was a 23-25-year-old girl. There were so many ups and downs within this character that I could not say no to it.”
Bioscopewala has veteran Bollywood actor Danny Denzongpa playing the titular role. The class apart actor is entertaining people even at 70 and is still a regular in movies. Owing to his onscreen image, many may think of Danny as a serious person who might be tough to approach but for Tisca, he is the ‘nicest and the kindest’ man. “While shooting, I had to keep telling myself and pinch myself to believe that I am not watching a film but acting with him. You have seen so much of him onscreen that it’s unusual to share the screen with him. He is the nicest and kindest man. He is gentle, calm, soft-spoken and a polished man. He is well aware of what’s happening in the world and is extremely classy. We became pretty friendly on the sets of Bioscopewala,” quipped Tisca.
Ask Tisca about her opinion on the atrocities around the world against children and she says, “It’s just terrible. The school shooting that happened in America or whatever is happening to kids around the world, they are victims in every sense of the word. They are not responsible for any problem but still, they are facing the consequences of it. Their childhood and innocence are being robbed for no fault of theirs. It makes them into dysfunctional adults since they are growing up in so much violence, hate and fear in them. We are sort of sealing our own fate, we are making sure that the next generation grows up to be fearful, violent and rebellious. As an artist, we can only wish that we do work which has more joy, peace, hope in it.”
Lastly, the actor talked about casting couch in Bollywood and how the world of cinema is becoming gender balanced. She said, “I have always believed tolerating wrong is as much as doing wrong. If someone wants to make a choice of trading their physicality for a role or for any other thing, that’s their personal choice and I am nobody to pass a moral judgement on it. But I think its a great time for cinema because finally, you will see a more gender-balanced approach to cinema. There are as many women on the sets as there are men on the sets of the films I am shooting for. Gender is not a qualifier in the industry any longer. It is the talent of a person, their intrinsic qualities as a human being. I think this what Me Too campaign has or should accomplish. Even if people are pushed into a corner, they should not be afraid and should have the courage to fight back.”