PeepingMoon Exclusive: 'Gained weight after being immobile post surgeries, people wrote crap,' says Ritabhari Chakraborty; promises to empower women through cinema

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'Bong Crush'- That's possible the apt and most beautiful title suiting actress Ritabhari Chakraborty. Starting her career at the age of 15, she made her big screen debut in 2012 after working briefly in the television industry. While being an A-lister in Bengali cinema, Ritabhari went on to act in Hindi films like Pari

Dismissing the notion that Bengalis don't know Hindi, Ritabhari impressed everyone with her command of the language. In an exclusive chat with PeepingMoon.com, she said she didn't take diction classes or hire tutors for Hindi. Her reason-"Hindi was the second language in school. My parents parted ways when I was 4 years old. My mother separated from my father in December and put me into a school where the second language was Hindi. My grandfather was super paranoid as he is a proud Bengali. He would teach me Bengali. As a result, I ended up having a lot of non-Bengali friends. Due to this, I connect with Hindi as well as Bengali-speaking people. Kabhi kabhi khichdi bhi ban jati hai but I try to keep it neat as much as possible. These days, logon ko bahut jaldi bura lagta hai. Pura English bole toh bolenge, "Why don’t you speak in Hindi and Bengali?" If I speak Bengali, people will assume, "Isko English nahi aati." 

As we spoke about online trolling and negativity, Ritabhari said, "I feel people are angry. Social media has become an easy place to vent. If people notice celebrities are vacationing in the Maldives, people will say, "I am sitting at home with multiple issues and this person is enjoying his/her life. So, let's find some flaws." Even if there’s nothing to feel offended, voh kuch na kuch nikal hi lenge. It’s like, "They are having a life, I am offended."   

Does trolling bother her? Ritabhari told, "I do get affected; not an iron woman certainly. I would be lying if I say I don’t get bothered. I wouldn’t care about such things earlier. I started working at a young age. Looking at Bollywood heroines, I desired to have a bikini body and achieved that goal. When I did so, there were two contrasting reactions. A section of people gave me the title of Bong Crush. Earlier, in Bengali cinema, actresses would make their identity in the industry and then wouldn’t work hard on themselves. They never paid attention to their looks as there wasn't much competition. Now, women are really hardworking and are trying to take our cinema to a global audience. On the other hand, some people slut-shamed me for sporting a bikini and were quick to blame my mother for not raising me right. Throughout my career, I have received only and only love from people. I couldn't understand the reason behind the brutality." 

"After that, I took a few days to process the hatred. Later, I got angry and realised I didn't do anything wrong to offend people. There was no need to be apologetic. It’s my body and being an actress, I can feature it the way I want to. That's when I decided to answer those people through my work. So, around that time, I wrote a short film called Naked. I reached out to Kalki Koechlin. That was our answer to people who said rapes happen because of actresses and what they wear. When we released it on Women’s Day (2017), we were expecting negative comments. Much to our surprise, men and women stood up with us. That was the first time I felt the power of creating content. I knew nobody else would produce Naked so I did that myself. I had decided to answer through work," Ritabhari shared. 

Her previous film Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti was critically and commercially successful. Talking about empowering people through the medium of cinema, Ritabhari said, "In my last film Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti, I played a priestess. The film is about how women, for years, haven’t been allowed to perform rites. It is believed that if you are not a pure male Brahmin, you cannot communicate with God. It is a patriarchal thought which is not mentioned in any Puranas. Women are impure because they menstruate. In that film, I am performing pujas while menstruating. God is the one who gifted this to women. Without this, the miracle of birth doesn’t happen. Over the years, I have learnt that if you are presenting an issue with a dash of fun, it penetrates the audience who wants entertainment and not a lecture." "The success of Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti was very important. Such content will not be created if producers are not assured that the investment will yield returns," she continued.

While Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti was successful, Ritabhari had to hit a pause from 2020 to mid-2021. She explained, "I had a terrible year from 2020 to mid-2021 with two surgeries, being really sick and depressed. I was stuck in the bed and wasn’t able to come out of my room at all. I was immobile- physically and mentally. Earlier, I was more on the glamorous side with a petite frame but when I returned, I had gained weight. When I did brand endorsements, people wrote crap about me. Of course, it (weight gain) was visible as I had a different body structure. After being polite and silent on the matter, I decided to be vocal and found enough support.        

Opening up on body-shaming, the actress added, "That’s when I realised the problems faced by women in a room where there are skinnier people. People live with such comparisons throughout their lives. I went to the producers of Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti and expressed my desire to do a film on body-shaming but in an entertaining way. For that, they wanted me to gain 20-25 kilos. They gave me Fatafati's script which is about a plus-size model. I fell in love with it after reading and decided to start eating sugar and rasgullas to put on extra kilos (laughs). It is a sweet film." 

Concluding the chat, Ritabhari said the priestess, who was the inspiration behind Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti, has a tight schedule now after the film and will be officiating her sister's marriage too. 

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