Tannishtha Chatterjee, the face of alternate cinema, is happy binge-watching Netflix, reading Sex and the City, and listening to item numbers.
A string of acclaimed indie and crossover films, check. A regular at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Cannes Film Festival, check. No Bollywood potboilers, check. Actor Tannishtha Chatterjee (36) certainly has done everything you expect of a quintessential art-house star.
When we meet her for an interview, we first spot her looking frazzled as she struggles to find a parking spot. She introduces herself as “the busiest broke in town”. We’re meeting at The Little Door in Andheri and not at her residence, because she is currently “homeless”. “I sold my house a few months back and, since then, I have been looking for a flat, but in vain. Finding a house in this city is like a match-making process,” she laughs.
Once in the café, Chatterjee talks without restraint. Noticing our photographer, she is quick to replace her worn out flip-flops with a pair of stilettos. We ask her how she feels about being tagged the poster girl of alternate cinema, and she is frazzled again. “That’s the perception the media has created — you guys are the ones who feel that way. I don’t follow such brackets; they only limit the scope,” she says.
To make her point, Chatterjee lets us in on her playlist. It features everything from Mozart’s symphonies to Munni Badnaam Hui (Dabangg, 2010). She adds that she binge-watches Netflix, she enjoys reading all sorts of books, including Sex and the City.
The fine line
Chatterjee has had an eventful year, full of releases — Island City, Lion, UnIndian. Today, her film Parched gets a theatrical release, after doing the festival rounds (it was screened as part of Special Presentations at TIFF 2015). “These smaller, offbeat films should remain in that space. The moment you become mainstream, you start succumbing to market pressures, and you lose your freedom as an artist. An underground movement should, and will always, be there to push the boundaries,” says the actor.
The perks of having a father with a transferable job found Chatterjee growing up amid eclectic cultures in Tokyo (Japan), Perth (Australia), Nairobi and Mombassa (Kenya), and London (UK), before returning to Delhi. As a result, she felt somewhat disconnected from her roots. It all changed when she joined National School Drama (NSD), Delhi, for her graduation. “I had not really mingled with Indians from different backgrounds. But at NSD, people from various strata lived and worked together. It was an eye-opening experience,” says the actor.
In fact, when she first moved to Mumbai, she was busy with theatre. While plays have taken a backseat with multiple film projects, she is currently co-writing a new play with Divya Jagdale. “It is a comedy and will premiere in December at NCPA’s annual theatre festival, Centrestage,” she says.
Parched, by Leena Yadav, starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla and Lehar Khan releases on September 23.