Interview | Tisca Chopra says Bollywood films are stuck in formula: 'If you know the trick, it's no longer magic'
Tisca Chopra talks about her new Disney+ Hotstar show Dahan, and the trend of women headlining mainstream web series.
Tisca Chopra is currently seen in the new Disney+ Hotstar show Dahan. The supernatural thriller sees her in the role of an IAS officer with a scientific mindset, caught amidst situations she can’t explain or understand. In an interaction with Hindustan Times, the actor spoke about what made her take up the show, women headlining major series on OTT, and why Bollywood films haven’t fared as well in 2022. (Also read: Pallavi Joshi on why Bollywood films aren't working)
Tisca says that she said yes to playing Avni Rawat in Dahan because of director Vikranth Pawar’s explanation of what the show stood for. “I rely very heavily on my directors. I am almost in an intense relationship with them because we are co-creating. I’ll call them many times, message them at 2 in the morning and just engage a lot. Vikrant told me early on that it’s a story set between science and superstition. And I couldn’t get that line out of my head for the longest time. The dramatic conflict in the premise is so strong that I was drawn to it,” she says.
She describes the show as an action thriller for herself in jest, and that is because she suffered a nasty injury while shooting it: one that required her to be hospitalised briefly. Much of Dahan was shot in 2021 and 2022 in Rajasthan. Recalling her injury, Tisca says, “I had a terrible shock, actually. We were shooting this sequence at my character Avni Rawat’s house and it was an old haveli. The floors had become all slippery and smooth due to years of use. The scene required me to run through one stretch. I was running and suddenly I went legs up and fell straight on my butt. Everyone gasped. I got up and continued shooting for a couple of hours, when Vikranth saw my face and the colour had gone.”
She says the crew almost panicked and rushed her to a hospital, which gave her further anxiety as she was dreading a trip to the hospital in the middle of a Covid wave. “They did their X-rays and we were in the middle of Covid, and I was scared that the injury is one thing but I don’t want to get something here now. It was insane. Luckily, nothing was fractured but I had a few misplaced things in the body. We had physiotherapy going on for the next few days,” says Tisca.
With Dahan, the actor joins a growing list of female actors who have headlined successful web series in recent years, be it Shefali Shah, Raveena Tandon, Sushmita Sen, or even Madhuri Dixit. To Tisca, this shows progress. She explains, “We have fabulous series like Aarya, Aranyak, or Delhi Crime, which are succeeding like never before. So, the audience clearly got a palette for it. I’d also like to say it was a long time coming. Dahan has been written by Nisarg (Mehta, the writer) and Vikranth, both men. But they have written a female protagonist so well. For me, that’s true progress. Of course, there should be more women writers and creators, but for men to write complex female characters like Avni is true progress for me. Because that means men are now lensing themselves differently and looking at female characters differently.”
In a recent interview, Tisca had reacted to the frequent calls for boycott of Bollywood films and said artistes like her exist because the audience watches them. Talking about why Bollywood films--barring notable exceptions like Brahmastra, The Kashmir Files, and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2--haven’t worked this year, Tisca says it’s because of people looking at things commercially. She says, “A lot of the makers are men of commerce. They will constantly look at things from a commercial point of view. For them, commerce involves economies of scale and a formula because you have to sell stuff. However, the business of entertainment relies on pulling a rabbit out of a hat. If you know the trick, it’s no longer magic.”
However, she argues that it is not a permanent problem, but a phase that should pass. "Somewhere every few years, there comes a little bit of a seismic change where the makers--which include the producers and directors--need to understand that things are getting predictable and repetitive. Now, we need to rethink. Change is the order of the day,” she says.
The actor even suggests how this change can be brought. She argues, “If a little bit more energy and emphasis is put on writing and developing writing as the base upon which you build a structure, you will have far better and fresher content at all times.”