Actress, Writer, Producer
are roles that Tisca Chopra is known to master skilfully. With over two decades of experience in the show business she has managed to create a niche space for herself. She is known for her brilliant performances in Taare Zameen Par, Qissa, and Chutney a short film that she produced as well that has now become the most watched short film on internet (124M views). With experience in feature films, short films, theatre and the web-series format, Tisca has been there and done all of it. Literally!
Having been a critic favourite and a regular in the international Film Festival circuit, Tisca has recently won praises for her performance as the lead protagonist in Hostages (a Hotstar web-series).
In this exclusive interview with BeBadass, she opens up about Confidence Gap, Ambition, Female Gaze and much more.
When and why did you decide to write and produce?
I’ve always loved telling stories. In fact, it was assumed that I would take up writing as a profession. It is my way of connecting with people. Stories to me, are everything. And as Margaret Atwood says, ‘..in the end, we’ll all become stories.’ Over the years my husband Sanjay and I have developed several scripts and screenplays. But it was with Chutney (the short film) that we wrote a screenplay that we eventually produced.
If one wants to shape the outcome of a piece of work, one has to get produce it. That is the only way to make sure its vision stays intact.
Did you or anyone else doubt your abilities?
More than anyone I question my own abilities.
The talent to write or act or any other art is largely accidental- a divine gift. Sure I put in the man hours in terms of the hard work, but so do many people. To have so many people respond to both the writing and acting is a blessing. One hopes that the muses will keep sending inspiration my way.
There aren’t too many women behind the camera in showbiz at the moment in India. Why do you think that is?
Filmmaking has traditionally been a male bastion. It is physically & mentally demanding. As in many other professions women stayed away because there were only a few kosher professions for women, like teaching. The idea that women have to look after the kids and home is not very conducive to filmmaking, as filmmaking has no hours at all. One can be working round the clock in far-off locations which may be family unfriendly.
But many more women are following their passion & are directing and producing now. I believe that that number will go up exponentially in the next few years.
Do you believe there is a gender-based confidence gap in the Indian showbiz industry as well?
This may have been true a few years ago but not now. Women are as confident as men, if not more. Also women tend to work harder and gain positions via deep merit, so their ability and confidence is really high. Women aren’t hired unless they are truly deserving. Women in decision making positions have normally worked their way up. They know their job and know how to get things done.
How did you handle your own confidence gap if and when you faced it?
I have always been gender agnostic. While doing my job, my sex does not factor in. I work extremely hard but I do it because I can’t bear to do a thing badly. I suffer if I don’t do my best. The only way to be confident is to practice and practice and then some more - till it’s second nature. That brings a quiet confidence that is just not replaceable by any other method.
What has been the most challenging aspect of producing your own content?
I would have to say there is nothing to stop me once I make up my mind. But making up my mind takes forever. It has to be the right script. That is an absolute must. We only got around to shooting Chutney once we were happy with the script. The success of Chutney has given me great satisfaction - that audiences likes the stories that I love telling. Then we wrote and produced Chhuri. And now we are ready to make a feature film. The biggest challenge is to write a great script and then get best crew possible - the rest is detailed planning.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of it?
The most rewarding aspect of telling stories is the engagement with people.
I am essentially an introvert - happy with my own company - but via stories I can engage widely. That is my great joy. So if you look online you’ll find millions of comments on Chutney - people have had deep discussions about the ending and there are so many interpretations. I think that is most rewarding - that the film stays with people and makes them think long after. More recently Hostages (on Hotstar) has sparked a whole other set of conversations. I enjoy this aspect of acting immensely - the ability to engage people across segments.
‘Jack of all trades’ or ‘Master of one’?
Becoming a master takes a lifetime and I am far from being master of anything. I can do a few things competently .. that’s the most I can say.
How do you think the female-gaze is different from male-gaze?
The female gaze is very very different from the male one. Women tend to look at the minutiae, the details. Men look at the larger picture. There is an emotional delicacy in the way a woman would see things. But there are many men like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who also have an evolved feminine side.
Why is female-gaze important at all?
The universe is delicate balance of opposites - light and dark, matter and anti- matter and so on. How can this balance be ignored in making films? The female perspective is the perspective of fifty percent of the population. Women must make films - to tell female side of stories - our stories.
Are you ambitious? What drives your ambition?
I am very ambitious.
I feel like I have been given some talents by the universe and I must use them well. For myself, for my family and for people who may be interested in watching my stories. I think I have something to say- a unique point of view. But my ambition is backed by hard work and not wishful thinking. I am a quiet hard worker, possibly the hardest working person I know.
Define a badass woman
Wow. How does one define badass?!
To me it’s someone who will fight for her right and also for those of others who she feels might need her strength. Someone who doesn’t care about the social code of the time and makes her own rules. She is a doer and not a talker. She has no fear of getting down on the shop floor and doing the work herself - if that’s what is needed. And lastly she will laugh her inner toughness away with a bigass grin.
Yeah - that’s what she’s like.
Name some badass women who inspire you
Ismat Chugtai. Mata Hari. Beyoncé. Frieda Kahlo. Oprah.
Your advice to women who are too scared to be ambitious?
Scared of what? Or who? That is the question to ask.
No one is going to dare to stop you if you make up your mind. It’s your life, you don’t want to find yourself at the end of it having lived someone else’s idea of what your life should have been like. That, if nothing else should drive you. It all works out if you are ready to walk the walk. If you are willing to give it your all, you can have it all.