Dressed in a Nirvana tee and tracks, Richa Chadda is short of breath. She has just wrapped up an intensive session of street jazz—one of the five dance forms she is currently learning in preparation for her role as a dancer in Pooja Bhatt’s Cabaret. “I’ve always danced a lot, but I’d taken a break after an injury three years ago. Now, with this role, it’s an opportunity for me to go from good to better,” begins the actress, who is also learning belly dancing, ballet and Odissi, besides brushing up on her Kathak. Needless to say, all the shimmying and pirouetting is a great way to lose weight and sculpt the body. “I’d learnt belly dancing earlier, but now I’m taking it more seriously. I did private lessons with a Turkish teacher and now I’ve found another teacher in Pune,” adds Chadda, who dances to the strains of the piano, while her iPod has hip hop, western classical and more. We find out more about her fitness regime, why she turned vegan and her dance workouts.
On the go
When I travel, I always pack my workout clothes (the current favourite being Nike). I take along my skipping rope (for a quick cardio workout) and my resistance band, which you can hook up anywhere and get in some strength training.
At the gym
I hit the gym and go for my dance classes (at the World Dance Centre in Andheri) every day—a total of three hours. At the gym, I mix things up: from targeted weight lifting for the back or arms to functional training and callisthenics. On Sundays, I take it easy—going for a walk or a swim as those are more relaxing. I also do Pilates, to strengthen my core, as I am putting my body through so much. You must see my Instagram page. I’ve started posting videos as I want to inspire people to get fit—especially girls because many of them believe they don’t have the strength to do things like pull ups.
I am looking forward to my second Cannes outing. This time, I want to spend at least a week there. Besides the screening of my film, Masaan—which explores a father-daughter relationship, the desire of small towners to escape their life, and a young girl’s curiosity about sexuality and boys—I also want to catch as many premières as I can. I want to go shopping, see the sights and hit the beaches, too. Meanwhile, I am very excited about Cabaret. I have to give it to Pooja Bhatt, who’s only seen me in films like Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW)—from that she thought I was capable of playing a glamorous dancer. I mostly get roles of a particular kind, so in a way, she was a saviour. The character is not a very gutsy one and it was almost like playing a triple role—there are so many shades.
Plateful of goodness
The funny thing is, nowadays I am eating a lot! Since I am working out so much, my body needs the extra fuel to function. It’s almost like having two jobs: I have the normal meetings and narrations, and then there’s my dancing and workout. So I have increased my intake of carbs—I eat a lot of rice and indigenous grains like rajgira (amaranth), with which I make pancakes and porridge. I’ve turned vegan (it suits my body, I’ve never felt healthier) and my diet is gluten free. I also eat a lot of greens, vegetables and fruits. To hydrate, I down plenty of water, lemon juice, coconut water, soy milk and green tea with honey. And when I go for shoots or travel abroad, I always carry dried fruits, nuts and cheese slices (her only vegan cheat) to keep up my energy. I’ll be taking my stash to Cannes, too, because I remember the last time, after GOW’s four-and-a-half hour screening, I was so hungry. Since I’m vegetarian, food was tough to come by.
According to me, this is the only Indian dance that combines strength and fluidity. Did you know the dancing girl from the Harappan archaeological dig is cast in an Odissi pose? We call it tribhanga.
Why do it: Develops balance and lower body strength
I’m a trained Kathak dancer and I find this form has a lot of grace. You need a lot of upper body strength, but it also has a lot of bhaav (emotion) and nazakat (softness). Without the exaggerated eye movements
of say, a Kathakali, it conveys a lot.
Why do it: Improves upper body strength
I haven’t found ballet too difficult because the basics are the same as jazz or contemporary dance—the turning out, the length, the extension. I am learning it because it gives me poise and brings a lot of length to my body.
Why do it: Builds long, lean muscles (especially in the legs); improves cardiovascular endurance
You become very expressive with your body. I’d also recommend this for sports persons as it makes you very agile, very light on your feet. It’s great—especially on Mumbai roads, where you can manoeuvre potholes and traffic much better (laughs).
Why do it: Improves stamina, overall strength and flexibility
This one is challenging. It’s an art form of isolation—where you work very specific muscles. I also found out that it was designed as a pre-natal form of exercise. Though it is very difficult, it is also very delicate.
Why do it: A low-impact exercise; tones muscles, especially abs
Surya Praphulla Kumar