Ritabhari Chakraborty will be next seen in an ambitious film Fatafati scheduled to release in May this year. The film directed by Aritra Mukherjee is about the journey of a plus-size model. Ritabhari gained 25 kgs for the lead role and looks unrecognizable in the film’s posters unveiled so far. In an exclusive candid chat, the actor-producer-singer talks about her journey with Fatafati.
What is Fatafati all about?
People think that fashion is not for people on the heavier side of weight. They’re treated as if they should be hiding somewhere or don’t have the right to live. The world is for ‘conventionally good-looking’ people. With Fatafati, we are going to challenge that idea.
My nemesis in the film says that only those who do not lose weight talk about body positivity. For a lot of people losing weight is difficult because of health conditions such as PCOD. They can’t just feel sorry for themselves.
I gained 25 kgs for the film. I am unrecognizable in the film. The film has me and Abir Chatterjee in the lead. The same team of Brahma Janen Gopon Kommoti has made the film. I am very excited about that.
Have you ever faced body shaming?
I have never been on the heavier side. But I once had surgery, post which I gained 5-6 kgs. I did a couple of ads in that phase. And when those ads came out people started body shaming me. For the first time, I was hit by the idea of what people who get body shamed often must be going through.
Why did you decide to do Fatafati?
When the makers told me that I had to gain 25 kgs for the film, I already had two films in my hands. I had promised those makers that I’d shed the 5-6 kgs I had gained. Thankfully, I had not signed either of them. I took a call and chose Fatafati and let go of the other two films. Those two films will entertain people, sure. But Fatafati has a chance to change society and it is going to be worth everything I have put my body through for this film. Plus, it’s not just the topic of a plus-size model, the script is funny, and it’s a sweet love story between my character and Abir’s character.
What were the challenges while putting on 25 kgs and then losing that weight?
Because I had gone through a lot of trouble after my surgery, I got a nutritionist on board so that when I gain weight and lose it again, it won’t affect my health again. It’s my body, not a machine.
There was a scene where my character tries to put on jeans which are not fitting. Her tummy is out and she’s jumping to try hard to fit into the denim but it’s not happening. The tummy had to look bigger but mine was not. The director said that the scene won’t work that way. I called my nutritionist Luke Coutinho for help. He gave me things that bloated me up. When you’re bloated, you look even bigger. That’s what I did for that scene.
Once the film got over, I started on a different kind of diet and exercise journey in a healthy, strategic way to get back in shape. If you lose that amount of weight quickly, it shows on your face. You look tired. I wanted to avoid that. Luke and his team were determined to make sure that I don’t fall sick again. But that was not the biggest trouble.
Then what was it?
When I was getting heavier for the film, everywhere I went people would ask me, “What happened to you?” They would look at me like my life was over. At some point, someone said, “It’s like somebody ate Ritabhari.” I wasn’t allowed to say that I was gaining weight for a film. That was the phase when I realized that people who are not ‘conventionally good-looking’ live a different kind of life.
I had a good team of stylists who worked with me in Kolkata. One of them was constantly refusing to give dates. I was very pissed to know that he didn’t want to style me when I was heavy. After that, I didn’t want him to style me ever. The way people look at you and say something mean and condescending hurts and makes you feel insecure.
What was the duration of this journey of gaining and losing weight? And why was it all worth it?
It took me four months to gain 25 kgs and six months to lose. So, the four months of gaining and one and a half months of shooting the film affected me. My breathing got affected. I got stretch marks.
But I just hope that it is going to be worth it. If this film actually resonates with women who constantly feel bad about themselves because of the way the world treats them, I just hope that this film makes them feel good. Nobody can be confident when everyone is telling you that your shape is not right. So, we have shown my character’s journey from where she was to where she reached when she accepts herself. On posters, you can see that she hides her face. Even though she starts fashion blogging she is not open to showing her face and identity. I want to tell stories in a language that people understand which is fun and also has a message. Fatafati has both.