Tisca Chopra on making her directorial debut with a short film and the challenges that come with the format
Radha Malhotra has been at the top of the game as a popular leading actor. From turning heads wherever she went, she now struggles to stay relevant. Away from the glitz of cinema, on stage to enact a play, she has to perform on a day when things look bleak. Enacting Radha Malhotra is Tisca Chopra, who has written and directed this short film titled Rubaru, which also stars Arjun Mathur and Chitrashi Rawat.
“This is a fictional story, born from an amalgamation of what I have heard from many people,” says Tisca. She cites the example of Nina Gupta lamenting the lack of roles for mature women actors in India. Globally, Tisca points out how Lebanese actor Nadine Labaki turned director, and actors Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock went on to produce films and star in them.
“Meryl Streep spoke about roles drying up. If that happened to her, can you imagine our plight? This is the reality of women performers all over the world. All these observations led to Rubaru,” explains Tisca, who shares the screenplay credits with Namrata Shenoy.
The age barrier
She feels the time is right for such stories, given that the audience has been appreciating a variety of content — web series such as Scam 1992 and Paatal Lok or the feature film Badhaai Ho. “Once a female actor is 35 or 38, her utility as an object of sexuality is considered to be over. However, summer romances aren’t the only kind of films that can be made. There are zillions (sic) of women on the planet, from astronauts and scientists to domestic help workers… and incredible stories can be told.”
Tisca notes that while the audience laps up films featuring actors with air-brushed faces and six-pack abs, they also watch fragile emotions of the characters where vanity takes a backseat: “As women write, produce and direct more content, the gaze with which stories are told will also become sensible. Female actors will make their own content, if no one else will do it for them.”
For her directorial debut, she teamed up with Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films, after the short film Chutney (2016), which she produced for the platform: “They have supported independent, strong voices to narrate incredible stories,” says Tisca. A first-time director, she concedes she had none of the ‘extreme nervousness’ and was “all charged up” on sets. The challenge, she says, was to narrate a complex story within a short time. “In less than a minute, you have to establish the characters.”
Wearer of many hats
Rubaru had more footage than what made its way to the final cut. Didn’t she consider making a feature? “When we were working on Chutney, a colleague suggested that we make a feature, showcase it internationally and make money. However, it worked extremely well as a short and is the most viewed short as far as I know (132 million views). A short film is short on duration but big on story.”
Directing Rubaru gave her the confidence to further explore her new role. She is working towards directing a feature film soon. In 2021, she will begin acting in a new web series, and later co-produce and act in another web series she has written. “I like to act, write, produce and direct,” she says.
The book Acting Smart (Harper Collins) which she authored, was recently turned into a masterclass for the Graphy app, where she discusses acting, image building, publicity and managing contracts, all of which go into making an actor.
Rubaru can be viewed on Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films YouTube channel