Shakeela hopes biopic will bring crowds back

Shakeela hopes biopic will bring crowds back

She recalls how she became a sensation with her vamp roles

If Vidya Balan played Silk Smitha in ‘The Dirty Picture’ in 2011, Richa Chadha plays ‘Shakeela’ in a film released on December 25. Shot in Hindi, the film has been dubbed in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. The film has released in about 2,000 theatres across the globe and in 200 theatres in Karnataka.

Shakeela talks to Showtime about the making of ‘Shakeela’.

Did watching ‘Shakeela’ bring back a lot of memories?

Yes. I couldn’t contain my emotions when I watched it in Tamil in Chennai. Scenes of my looking out of the car window, when I was travelling to Kerala for my first film, brought back memories. 

How did you get hooked to the big screen?

I was 16 when I started work. I had failed Class 10. And somewhere deep down, I wanted to take up a job that brought me popularity and money. There were film shootings in our school. I knew nothing about acting and approached a few actors who lived in my vicinity. That’s when I got ‘Playgirl’ in which I played the younger sister of Silk Smitha. It has been 28 years since my first film.

You became popular in 2000 with the success of ‘Kinnara Thumbikal’ in Malayalam. How did you handle instant success?

I didn’t know it was a hit. I saw my posters on the walls in Kerala and people began calling out and approaching me for autographs. I didn’t know the language, but I knew something had changed. I didn’t know when I got the stardom, so it never went to my head.

Was your family accepting when you began doing sexually explicit, softcore films?

I had to work to bring my family out of poverty. I never thought it was wrong to do softcore films. I worked well within limits.

How was your experience of working in Kannada?

I did my first Kannada film when I was 19. I can’t speak or understand Kannada well, but the industry was welcoming. There may be differences between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, but I was never treated differently. I was among the very few to be invited to the Kannada Bigg Boss.

Theatres have remained low on business. Do you think ‘Shakeela’ will help?

My films are popular for restarting businesses in theatres. Even in early 2000, when single-screen theatres faced the threat of a closure, my films brought back the audiences. I hope I prove lucky for them again.

Has Richa Chadha done justice to your life?

When nobody was interested in playing me, Richa gladly accepted it. She has done well. This is a biopic on a person who is alive... nobody can give 100 per cent of Shakeela when she is alive.

Shakeela has seen both success and pain: Indrajit

What inspired you to make the film?

Coming from a minority community and a poor family, Shakeela managed to make inroads into the Malayalam film industry and attain stardom. She entered a male-dominated industry and gave many a run for their money. Even after 28 years in the film industry, she strides on with courage, despite all odds. I was inspired by her.

What kind of research went into 'Shakeela'?

I spoke to a lot of people who were associated with Shakeela and had read her biography. I had not seen any of her films before I bought her biopic rights. I got a lot of information after I spoke to Shakeela. She is a woman without any filters. 

Why did you choose Richa Chadha to play Shakeela?

Richa is a realistic and hard-working actor. She spent a lot of time interacting with Shakeela. I didn’t want to find a Shakeela lookalike. Richa perfectly fit the bill.

Why did you choose a theatrical release when OTT offered good money?

If somebody has to bring the audiences back to the theatre during this pandemic, it is Shakeela.