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Richa Chadha took inspiration from Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil for her Love Sonia character

The actress, currently filming the Shakeela biopic, plays a sex worker, Madhuri, for the first time in the Tabrez Noorani film.

Sonal Pandya

For her role in Love Sonia, the directorial debut of Tabrez Noorani, Richa Chadha employed different methods of research. The actress plays a sex worker, Madhuri, in the film which borrows elements from many true-life scenarios.

Chadha met actual survivors of sex trafficking and also looked to previous portrayals of prostitutes in Hindi cinema for reference. She watched Shyam Benegal's Mandi (1983) more than once for tips on diction, body language and clothing.

In Mandi, Shabana Azmi played brothel keeper Rukmini Bai while Smita Patil played Zeenat, a woman under her protection. Actresses Neena Gupta, Soni Razdan and Anita Kanwar also played key roles in the film.

“Mandi (1983) is a classic film and a compelling story told on celluloid by the maestro Shyam Benegal," Chadha said. "Shabanaji and Smitaji essayed their roles with such ease and perfection. I idolize them and have great admiration for their work.

"When Love Sonia came to me and I begun my prep for it, I wanted to study as much as possible to be the character Tabrez had etched for me," she continued. "So I took to watching this movie specifically. For anyone who has seen this film will know the nuances the film has essayed so well.

"The world created in Mandi was a great reference point for me. The diction, the body language, the behaviour of the characters on screen, it really helped me do justice to my role of Madhuri in the film. I tried to copy Soni Razdan's body language as well! Actresses like Anita Kanwar were so uninhibited.”

Mandi (1983) won the National award for Best Art Direction and both Azmi and Patil were both nominated for their roles at the Filmfare awards in 1984. Azmi was nominated in the Best Actress category while Patil was nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Love Sonia, which stars newcomers Mrunal Thakur and Riya Sisodiya, is due to be released on 14 September.