Ms. Representation: Richa Chadda, Queen of revenge
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week it is about Richa Chadda's character in Fukrey Returns
Richa Chadda’s Bholi Punjaban, who is named so in cheeky contrast to her role which is anything but innocent, in Fukrey and Fukrey Returns, is so good it deserves a third movie just so we can see how she became who she is; the way Naam Shabana explores the firebrand agent Shabana from Baby. Bholi Punjaban in both movies is a ‘shero’ in Chadda’s own words and defies the norms for films, for she’s neither the villain nor the hero in a franchise that has you rooting for those operating in the grey areas between right and wrong.
Chadda is a gangster who dabbles in a bit of everything – from drugs to kidnaps to the skin trade. Bholi’s evolution in the films, in the former you are rooting against her and in the latter for her, is marvellous.
She speaks the language we hear men speak often in roles like this, and without a tinge of irony. She is shrewd and vile when the film requires her to be, merciless when she’s taking the men to task and hilarious when she’s dealing with Choocha (the hilarious Varun Sharma) who’s fallen hopelessly in love with her against all wisdom.
Chadda has indeed been an actor to watch – both on screen and off. In a recent interview, she said she was of course willing to talk about Weinstein-like aggressions and violence in Bollywood but asked for assurance for her career to not die after that. Her roles have consistently helped establish her as a bankable actor, who can rise to the occasion when the script finally calls for a non-stereotypical female role. From Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Gangs of Wasseypur to Fukrey films, her presence has lent many a project the right vibe, if you will.
In the new Fukrey film, Richa varies her role just enough to lend it a breath of newness while retaining the essence of Bholi from the previous film. It’s easy to fall into the trap of a cliché while essaying someone like Bholi – who in the first film ends up in jail as she tries to trap the leading men by getting them to sell drugs to rich partying kids. In Fukrey Returns, she comes out of jail, vulnerable and is caught in the hands of a bigger enemy, a politician. Together the band of men and Bholi try to outwit this shrewd opponent and in the process Bholi’s character grows further, with ambitions for a ‘seat’ in the Assembly.
Here’s hoping we see Bholi as a Mantriji and Choocha as her sidekick, real soon.