Mumbai: 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.