In an exclusive conversation with ETimes, Ridhi spoke candidly about her journey as an actor, her personal core values and beliefs, dealing with ups and downs in life and wanting the industry to take her seriously as an actor.
This year has been very fruitful for you. Starting from Lakadbaggha, followed by Badtameez Dil and Asur 2, you have been very promising in your performances. How does it make you feel?
I feel like I should keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like I’m on the right track. And I’m not wrong in thinking I can do good work. It’s a good feeling to be able to put my all in my work. I don’t just go and deliver lines. I have built whatever career I’ve had till now one step after another on my own with my own brain. Sometimes I feel like I don’t celebrate myself enough. I should be celebrating myself a lot more. I’m always the one who thinks if something comes out, I feel like, okay, what’s next? I don’t really spend any time reflecting that this happened. People tend to feel you must be so happy, you must be on cloud nine. And I’m like, ‘No, I want more opportunities.’ Honestly, I feel like it’s a direct connection between me and my audience and they love my work. That’s all that matters to me. I feel like now that they’ve appreciated all this, now I have to up it. Now I have to do more, I have to better at myself, I have to find new ways to unlearn and then subsequently learn new things and be more present. I find faults in all my characters. I don’t think like ‘This is perfect and I nailed it’. So my journey is on and my career is actually more about my personal journey and I feel like acting is therapy to me. So it’s a win-win only. I’m actually very hungry for more at this point in my life.
Is it like you’re trying to prove yourself to yourself or to someone else?
I don’t really have the need to prove anything. For me, it’s like, I really respect what creative people do. And I feel quite honoured. And I feel it’s a blessing that I’ve got. That I am an artist. So I just feel a sort of sense of duty, actually. Like a lot of theater people have this. They say this a lot that art should serve humanity. And I want to do that. Very early on in my career, when I was doing television, I had decided the kind of work I want to do. I was not very clear about how to do it, but I knew that I wanted to do something good and do something that would inspire people. I remember when I started acting, the Nirbhaya case happened and I was shaken, like all of us. So I had decided back then that I will not do anything to titillate the audience, because I was so angry at whatever had happened that I said to myself, ‘What’s the least I can do?’ We are protesting, we are getting angry, we are asking for better reforms, we want better rules and everything. What is it that I can do? And I said, ‘I can be responsible, I can take ownership of what I bring out.’ And maybe I’m just one person, but that’s okay. I’ve got my life to live and I will do my bit. And that’s all that matters at the end of it. So I decided that I want to only play female protagonists or parts which have something to say, which have something to contribute, that are not damsel in distress, that are not just a great looking package of clothes and makeup and hair. And even if it’s that, there has to be substance. So that’s been my goal since the beginning.
So that’s why you have been consciously choosing your roles and projects?
Yeah, exactly. That’s why I’ve been working also so less. I think I may have a lot of body of work over the years, but when I see a year or a few years, it feels like I do less than what people do. And that’s okay. It’s a conscious choice. It’s a choice I’ve made, where I want to give my all to what I do. I don’t want to be anywhere where I feel like, ‘haan haan, khatam karke nikalte hain’. I can’t work like that.
Are you an overthinker?
You’re right. I am an overthinker. Actually, I’m now beginning to understand and become aware of it. Overthinking is one thing, but it should help you. It should not put you in a dark spot and it should not take you down a rabbit hole. We all have certain qualities in us. And of course, I’m an overthinker and I am a big time empath also. It’s not something to show off or talk about. But there’s a reason why I’m an artist. And kahin na kahin mujhe khud ko bhi over the years samajh mein aaya that, ‘Okay, this is why you are the way you are, or this is why you are in the profession that you are because of these things’.
Does it put you in a difficult situation sometimes when you over analyse things?
I overthink but I don’t over analyse. I don’t over analyse anything. I’m not crazy. I’m not like sitting and imagining things in my head. Wo nahi karti main. That ‘cheez kuch aur hai aur main kuch aur hi bana loongi’ I don’t do that. But yes, I do. I think I’m pretty hard on myself. I don’t need a critic. I am very critical of myself. I don’t even see my work. If I’ve given a shot, I don’t even go check the monitor. I don’t. I’ve never done it in years. And I’m still like that. I feel like somewhere maybe I should not be as hard on myself as I am. I’m a little self critical. I don’t give myself a break easily. In every situation, I’m that kind of a person that I will always look at myself and what I did wrong. I rarely ever say ‘iski wajah se hua hai.’ Even if somebody else is involved in the situation, I would always take the onus and I don’t give the power to other people so easily.
How do you deal with the ups and downs in life?
I introspect a lot. I meditate. I keep going for spiritual calm. I do Vipassana, I read books. I’ve always been like that since I was a kid. I don’t like talking about my problems to my friends. I feel like problems ka kya hai na, aap aaj baat karoge aur wo chaar din baad solve ho jayegi but do mahine baad aapko aapka dost ya aapki dost yaad dilayegi uske baare mein. And then you will suddenly remember that pain again. I have never been in the habit of discussing what bothers me. Although now I think I’m beginning to because it’s not good to keep everything inside you and solve everything on your own. But that has made me very stronger. And I would say self dependent and self sufficient and all of that. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Mostly it’s a very good thing. But yeah, I deal with it and I don’t take myself so seriously. That’s that’s one thing that I learned some years back. I should not take myself so seriously but take your work seriously. Do your work with diligence and to have all the integrity when you’re dealing with your relationships and whatever. So I try to be easy about that also. You are very hard on yourself. Just relax.
Do you talk to yourself a lot?
We’ve heard this a lot, that you talk to yourself the most. So be careful what kind of language you use for yourself. I don’t berate myself. I don’t put myself down. I am truly my best friend. When I screw it up or when I do anything bad, I’m very quick to say, ‘Okay, fine, I made a mistake. Now, come on, what do I do to fix it?’ So I am a solutions person. I don’t like sitting in problems. I allow myself that you’re human. You’re going to make mistakes. You cry. You feel sad. You feel angry. It’s okay. I am there for myself. So I move in life.
I’ll tell you something very funny about me that even when there are moments when we cry and break down, trust me, I still have a third eye perspective on myself. And I’m laughing. ‘Oh, my God, you’re being so filmy. You’re so dramatic. Now you’re going to cry it out, cry it out. But know that this too shall pass.’ So I always tell myself that it’s okay, It’ll pass. You’ve been through worse days. And we all have been. So I think that’s a better way to talk to yourself than to be like, ‘Why did you do this? You’re an idiot. You don’t know anything.’ I would never do that. Never. I can never, ever put myself down. I love myself.
Are you open to falling in love again and get married again?
Of course, I mean, why not? But it’s not that simple. I mean, if you come out of something like if you imagine if you were in a place and, you know, if you were in a job, and if you decided that I don’t want to do this anymore and I want to travel the world, would you go back to that job again? You may see, you may feel like, okay, I want to put in my resume. I want to do it again. But you want to fully explore what you wanted to. So it’s the same for me. I mean, I’m not against anything. It’s all beautiful. But I am the way I am, if I’m in a relationship or if I’m in a marriage or whatever, I give that a lot of priority. And I give that a lot of my time and energy and that becomes my life. So I think I’m just in that phase in my life right now where I want to give all my time and energy to my work and to what I can do and to my craft and to the many untapped roads that I need to take. There’s no one here sitting with a roadmap for me. Nobody’s telling me do this, then do this. Yeah, if I had that, maybe I would have gone ahead and said, this will keep happening. Let’s get married. But I don’t have that. I don’t have anyone telling me, guiding me, showing me the way. I have to figure it out like all of us. So I think I’ve done that marriage and I’m very happy. I’m still friends with who I was married to. both Raqesh and me have come out of it with grace and dignity and we have that friendship intact. And we sort of did it to have that friendship intact. And sometimes it happens. You can sometimes love some people from afar. And there’s nothing wrong in it. And we’ve seen that always in life. You lose people, sometimes people you love go far away and you still don’t stop loving them or you don’t stop having good feelings. I never wanted to get married in the first place. I was never the kind of girl who dreamt of being married, who wanted to be a bride when she grew up. I never had those dreams. For me, those were never the things I dreamt of growing up anyway. So when it happened, it was a bonus. And it’s fine. But right now I think I’m married. You know, Nusrat in Asur said this, it was a dialogue, I’m married to my work. And I feel like it’s true for me also.
Tell me about your experience with Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan and Salman Khan in Tiger 3.
I was more interested in how they are at work, and what they are bringing to the table. I learned so much just observing them as an actor. After so many years also, they are so committed to doing what they’re doing. It was incredible to see their passion and love for what they’re doing and how present they were. They’ve been around for so long and I saw a childlike energy in both of them, how invested they were in the jobs and everything else. There’s a reason why they are ruling the roost and that’s because they believe in teamwork. They believe in holding everyone together and working together. And that I would say is the same in both of them. Both of them invest their time and energy in what’s happening even just as a team member. So that’s great.
How has been your transition from TV to web shows and films?
I didn’t really think of a transition like that. I had never taken any labels on. So I never thought I’m a TV actor. I never thought I’m going to be an OTT actor. I never thought I will be a film actor. For me, I was an actor and I was always waiting for opportunities. I was always seeing what can I do in the medium that I am in. Whether it was in television, I was interested in breaking stereotypes. When I came to the web space, I always knew what kind of work I didn’t want to do. Before Asur happened, I did get offered some OTT projects. But they were all like scantily clad girl and the content is a little adult. And I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to do skin show and all of that.’ So I think I’ve always known what I don’t want to do. I’ve always also known, as a person, what I want to represent and what I want the audience to take away from me. I want them to come, look at me and see my acting. I don’t want them to see the lipstick shade I’m wearing or the makeup I’m wearing or the clothes I’m wearing. I’m that kind of an actor, right from my television days, I would always keep my hair and makeup at a distance. I would always say, ‘Once I’m on set, don’t bother me with it.’ My hair is not going to be perfect. This character is not going to look like this. I’m not going to sleep in sarees. I’m not going to wear heavy jewelry and go to sleep. So I have always been like that. You take your sensibilities and you merge in different mediums. I would say that is more true for me than anything else. Because on a TV set, I would probably be one of the few people who would think like that. But the only difference is that on an OTT set or on a film set, everybody thinks like that, or at least 80% of the people think like that.
So what kind of roles and projects are you looking for?
I’m looking for projects that challenge me. My audience really appreciate what I do. And they’re so vocal about it. That makes me feel like, ‘Why should I not push myself? Why should I not ask for more or do more? Why should I not be given the opportunities that are probably not even coming my way?’ I want those opportunities for myself. I want to be taken in parts that are going to be seen by probably the whole world. I want to be a part of projects where my character is running the show. I want to be given the responsibility of having a whole show, a movie or whatever it is on my shoulders. With The Married Woman, Badtameez Dil, I’ve done those parts and in television. And I know how to do it and the audience accepts me. That’s my wish. It’s not about the parts but about the intention. I want more and more people to realise that she’s an actor and she wants to be taken seriously. The audience takes me seriously. But I want the industry to take me seriously, more seriously than they do.