Actor Nushrratt Bharuccha’s upcoming film with Rajkummar Rao, ‘Chhalaang’, embodies a message that is close to her heart
Pulling a muscle or two as we resume fitness-related activities after the pandemic-induced layoff is to be expected; Nushrratt Bharuccha knows this all too well. The actor, who stars alongside Rajkummar Rao in the Hansal Mehta film Chhalaang, heard her back go “Oh, no!”, she says, laughing, as she took part in dance rehearsals for another film in mid-October. “It was a terrible pull. It took a few sessions with a physiotherapist to come back to normal,” she adds over phone from Mumbai.
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In Chhalaang, she plays Neelima, a school teacher for whom Rajkummar’s character Montu Singh, who is the school’s physical education teacher, falls in love with. “She is the type of girl who could have had a better life and lived in a city and yet, she chooses to come back to her village to give back to the kids. She sees Montu and realises how lost he is. So, Neelima turns her focus on Montu and through him tries to help the children realise their potential,” she says over phone from Mumbai.
How difficult was it to attempt the Haryanvi accent for your role?
People were sceptical if I could speak the language. The belief is correct to an extent because it is quite a task for actors like me who have grown up in cities to speak a rural dialect with authenticity.
I had reading sessions with Raj (Rajkummar Rao) who is from Haryana to understand how he speaks or if he had any tips to share. I also hired a dialect coach and we read scenes of other films that had Haryanvi dialogues to widen my vocabulary.
I didn’t want to stick to learning just my lines in Chhalaang. The coach was also present on the set and I had to do retakes, even if the scene was correct, just to get the proper diction.
Does constantly thinking of getting the accent right affect your performance?
It does sets you back when trying to internalise a scene. I was out there spending my free time on set bettering the accent instead of focussing on my performance. It was a bit of a conflict because I kept thinking that I could have done a bit more in a particular scene. But I guess the accent is also intrinsically a part of the character.
Was it added pressure to work with a National Award-winning director-actor combo?
I admit that I was a nervous wreck. Look, I don’t have a problem accepting my flaws. I have gone up to Hansal and told him that I’m the weakest performer in the cast and he could bring me up to task if he ever thought I was slacking. But he told me that I was taking this far too seriously (laughs).
He trusted me 100% and did not ever make me feel that I was making a mistake. So, Hansal not only calmed me down, he also gave me the freedom to play my character. He is an actor’s treat.
Is sports education the crux of the film?
Yes, but the message is this: that you might not be the fastest runner in the group but it doesn’t mean that you don’t run the race.
Is there a personal connection to that message?
Of course. Every single person all my life has told me that I could never be an actor or even be in films. That was my race. I was way behind and there were 100 people in the line before me. So, the start and finish line was out of sight (laughs). The fact is I may not be the smartest, fastest or well-trained runner out there, but I will still run the race even if it is not on the track.
What are your upcoming projects?
I’ve finished work on Hurdang; it will be my next release. I have now started work on Chhori.
What do you make of Chhalaang’s releasing on an OTT platform?
The charm of the cinema [theatre] is something we can’t let go. That is where the heart truly belongs. Having said that, we find new ways to move ahead. OTT platforms were a blessing during the pandemic, otherwise the film industry would have been completely stranded. OTT has given us a new lease of life. It is taking our content to newer audiences, and I honestly think that without the pressure of box office results we are able to reach a truer audience group, one that watches films for its content and the talents in a film.
‘Chhalaang’ streams on Amazon Prime Video from November 13