In these testing times when the second wave of Covid-19 had wreaked havoc in the country, actor Tisca Chopra stepped up in big way to help people in need via social media. Recently, she distributed rice packets to theatre workers. In this interview, Chopra talks about her responsibility towards the society, how she battled anxiety during the second wave, juggling acting, producing, directing and writing a book and why getting back to shoot feels therapeutic.
You recently distributed rice packets to theatre staffs and have been engaging in social work throughout the pandemic. Do you think, as a public figure who can set an example, it becomes a greater responsibility to extend a helping hand towards those who need it?
The idea of distributing food packets to theatre workers was something that came purely out of my heart. I think that people not having food in today’s day and age should be a real problem and if we just distribute resources better, this can be a non-issue. If everybody does just a little bit, then there is enough to go around across the world. I’m no economist but that’s what I feel about basic needs like food.
The past few months have been difficult for all of us. What did you do to battle the stress and the panic?
My family and I were in Delhi when the second wave hit. Delhi was really struggling at that time. What really helped me at that time was to work off my social media and help as many people as I could even when I was battling Covid-19 myself. I think that reduced my anxiety because I saw so many people’s sufferings which were so much larger than mine. Also, the idea that you are able to do something of value always gives you a bit more courage and energy. Not just being too over-focused on oneself while seeing the larger picture and keeping a very firm eye on one’s fitness and immunity levels helps. I don’t excessively watch the news to continuously update oneself on what all is going on. I should be aware in a general way as to what is going on and follow basic Covid appropriate behaviour. All of this helps you keep yourself sane. If you are obsessed with all that’s happening, one could have a tendency to become neurotic.
You have resumed work now. Is it proving to be therapeutic?
As an actor, I am blessed that my passion is also my day job. Obviously focusing your energy and attention on something other than the grim circumstances outside is enormously therapeutic. Plus meeting so many creative people and being enormously busy through the day is extremely welcome after a period of inactivity that we all have had.
You are also an author now. What made you want to write books?
What Up With Me is the second book that I have written. I think writing books comes more naturally to me. Everyone in my family is a writer. My mom has published books. My father has several published books. My husband has got three books under his belt. My daughter, who is just 8 and a half, is also compiling a book of short stories that she has written for kids. So everyone is kind of writing. It is a natural form of expression for the clan. I think it is an extension of acting for me. While one is a physical way, the other is the written word. It is something that I have always been doing, even as a so child.
Actor, director, writer, producer… You are donning multiple hats. How are you balancing them?
Believe me, I question myself the same as to why do I do so many different things. Perhaps I am easily bored. Or maybe, I have many ideas. I actually don’t know. But I find it interesting to do multiple things. I really enjoyed directing and I am looking forward to directing my first feature at the end of this year. Writing is something that just happens. Vidhi Bhargava, my publisher, came to me and asked me if I would like to write this book. I have to admit to the privilege here – I am very blessed that that happens automatically. Acting is of course my bread and butter. They seem to happen to me, and I seem to have the energy for them.
Many actors have said that they have turned a producer because of a dearth of good content and they wanted to come up with something that they believe in. Is that something you resonate with?
If you look at stuff like Big Little Lies which Reese Witherspoon produced along with Nicole Kidman, or True Detective which Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson produced, or Sandra Bullock who has made Gravity, you see a pattern. I think everyone likes to put their weight behind stories they believe in. I think that is the central idea. You have more creative freedom. You can make it the way you would like to make it. There’s not necessarily a dearth of good content. People are making fantastic stuff all around. For me, it is that there are stories that I want to tell and I want to tell them in my way. So you have a certain sense of how to put the team together, how it should sound, how it should look, how it should work and that is the reason to want to produce stuff.