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Chitrangda Singh: Paying the price for being a director’s muse?

Hailed as a bright talent on her arrival in Hindi cinema, the gorgeous actress’s career appears to have stalled

Mayur Lookhar

It is natural to feel a sense of gratitude towards one’s mentor. Unfortunately for the gorgeous Chitrangda Singh, her closeness to the man who gave her a break in Hindi cinema seems to have had a deleterious effect on her career.

Born in Rajasthan, Chitrangda did a few modelling assignments before signing up for some music videos. Acclaimed filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, who saw her in the music video Sunset Point, by Gulzar, was bowled over and signed her for Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi, which released in 2003. In the early days, Chitrangda was compared to Aishwarya Rai, and even Catherine Zeta-Jones. She was touted as the next queen of Bollywood. After all, she wasn’t just a beautiful woman. She had oodles of talent to go with her looks.

Singh returned in 2005 in another Sudhir Mishra production, Kal: Yesterday and Tomorrow. Remarkably, she then decided to take a break from acting as she had a family to look after, married as she was then to golfer Jyoti Randhawa. The couple has a son.

She returned in 2008 with a forgetful film Sorry Bhai. Over the next year, Singh did not have any film to talk about, but she remained in the news for her equation with Mishra. While fans were surprised why Singh was not taking up any new project, the industry grapevine said Mishra was calling the shots, preventing her from blossoming.

Singh returned to the silver screen with Mishra’s Yeh Saali Zindagi in 2011. As happens often with Mishra’s films, this one, too, was acclaimed by the critics but foundered at the box office. Critics appreciated Singh in the film and wondered why she did not strike out on her own and work with other directors.

Singh eventually ventured out, playing one of the female leads in Rohit Dhawan’s directorial debut Desi Boyz in 2011, which also starred Akshay Kumar, John Abraham and Deepika Padukone. The film, though low on intelligence, was a hit.

After Desi Boyz, fans imagined Chitrangda would be seen as a commercially bankable actress and would sign up a slew of projects, but nothing happened beyond idle speculation. Rakesh Roshan did approach her for Krrish 3  to play a mutant, but he was reportedly put off by her demands.  We didn’t see Chitrangda but Kangana Ranaut played a mutant in Krrish 3. There was also talk of Singh being cast opposite Shah Rukh Khan, but that remained just a rumour. Reports suggested Singh was approached by Aamir Khan to star in the cuss-fest Delhi Belly opposite Ranbir Kapoor, but neither featured in the film eventually, with the lead roles being essayed by Imran Khan and Poorna Jagannathan.

The buzz was that Singh was keen only on meaningful roles and Delhi Belly didn’t fit into her plans. But as she continued to snub one plum project after another, wagging tongues suggested she was being guided not by her instinct or intellect but by Mishra.

In 2012, Singh stepped into uncharted territory, performing an item number in the Akshay Kumar-starrer Joker. Both the film and the song turned out to be jokes. So she returned to her comfort zone -- another Sudhir Mishra film.

Inkaar (2013) met the same fate as other Mishra films. It was critically acclaimed but a box-office dud. So Singh went back to a mindless romcom I, Me Aur Main (2013) to no avail. She returned to her mentor, playing a prostitute in his short film Kirchiyaan (2013). Déjà vu. No one saw Kirchiyaan and Singh was called upon by Akshay Kumar for a special song and dance appearance in the hit film Gabbar Is Back in 2015.

With her career foundering, Singh had to endure a huge personal setback as well when her 12-year marriage to Randhawa ended in 2014, ending months of speculation. She was then rumoured to star opposite SRK in Raees, but director Rahul Dholakia picked Pakistani actress Mahira Khan for the role.

But all is not lost for the dusky actress. She has been cast opposite the ultra-talented and popular Nawazuddin Siddiqui in action thriller Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. Importantly, Mishra has had nothing to do with this film, which is set for release in 2016. Chitrangda Singh’s fans are probably keeping their fingers crossed.