Richa Chadha on doping in cricket: I want to believe the game is pure

The actor chats about the second season of Inside Edge, the reality of performance-enhancing drugs in cricket, portraying Shakeela Khan in her next, and learning kabaddi for Panga
Richa Chadha on doping in cricket: I want to believe the game is pure

The first season of Amazon Prime Video’s Inside Edge was a glitzy dive into the scandalous world of T20 cricket. The second season, set to premiere on December 6, extends that canvas, focusing on the subjects of doping and global expansion. The key players — Richa Chadha, Vivek Oberoi, Angad Bedi — are back and they are joined by new faces like Aamir Bashir, Sapna Pabbi, and Makarand Deshpande. Like the first season, the story is pivoted on Zarina Malik, a fading actor and co-owner of the Mumbai Mavericks. A top team in the fictional Power-Play League, the Mavericks are gearing up for a searing contest, led by an aggressive and power-hungry boss.

“My character is tired of getting screwed over by other people,” says Richa, who plays Zarina. “The new season starts off with her wanting to be a real stakeholder and actually control things. She gets a little ambitious, and is tempted to go over to the dark side.”

In the trailer of Inside Edge 2, players are seen using performance-enhancing drugs to win the PPL. Luke Kenny (Sacred Games) joins the cast as Wolfgang Hummels, a member of the anti-doping cricket body. Richa calls doping a ‘global phenomenon’, but clarifies the angle is fictional. “I know cricketers will hate us, but this is not based on any reality. I want to believe the game is pure. Yes, our show does touch upon controversial subjects, but that’s because it’s a show and needs to work like a thriller.”

Inside Edge was among the first shows that kicked off the OTT revolution in India. Two years on, the medium has all but dispossessed the theatrical mainstream. Richa credits it all to a change in audience perception. “The huge number of domestically-produced shows we have now, it was something waiting to happen. The cost of tickets in cinemas was going up for a while. There was a whole bunch of people watching digital shows made abroad. They were not relating to the shows and films being made in India. With Inside Edge, Amazon had the first-mover advantage to tap into the situation.”

While thrillers and crime dramas litter the digital space, Richa wants to break out and explore a lighter zone. She lists shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Comicstaan as her favourites (she recently tried stand-up on Amazon’s One Mic Stand). “I would love to do a light-hearted romcom. Sadly, this industry is very myopic, especially the casting directors. My inbox is perpetually full with roles that I’ve already done. It’s extreme stereotyping and lack of imagination. Also, I don’t think the industry will find a dusky, unconventional person like me beautiful and fit for a romcom, unless I was some kind of a star kid.”

Richa has finished shooting for the Shakeela biopic, directed by Indrajit Lankesh. The film traces the journey of adult film star Shakeela Khan. Born in a conservative family in Chennai, Shakeela emerged as a sex symbol during the 1990s, appearing predominately in the Malayalam softcore industry. Her films were also dubbed in foreign languages and distributed in the subcontinent. The biopic looks at the difficulties faced by Shakeela in a male-dominated industry. “In many ways, the film world is still like that,” Richa says. “Today, people have the guts to make women-centric films, but won’t let the publicity material be driven by women. Can you imagine? So there are so many small battles that we continue to fight.”

On that note, Richa is also a part of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga, about the life of a female kabaddi player. The film is fronted by Kangana Ranaut and also stars Neena Gupta and Jassi Gill. “I loved working on a sports film,” Richa shares. “Kabaddi is a contact sport and a fun experience to learn. As an actor, your prized possessions are your face and your body. So it was fun doing a film where you have to leap and fall into the mud. It destroys the illusion of beauty.”

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