People have literally poured their hearts out: Chhaya Kadam after ‘Laapataa Ladies’ success

- June 16, 2024
| By : Tanisha Saxena |

The actress talks about her eye-opening experience at Cannes Film Festival and life in limelight following success of her films

HONOUR: The cast of All We Imagine as Light, including Chhaya Kadam (second from left), on being feted at the Cannes Film Festival

Fresh from her triumph at Cannes, where her film All We Imagine as Light won the Grand Prix, actor Chhaya Kadam is riding a wave of well-deserved recognition. 

Her recent work in Laapataa Ladies, Madgaon Express and Blackout, has further cemented her reputation as a formidable talent. Despite the flurry of interviews and the spotlight that now follows her every move, Chhaya remains grounded and genuine. 

With a smile that reflects her humility, she shares her key takeaways from 77th Cannes Film Festival. 

“Attending Cannes was an eye-opening experience, marked by a hectic schedule and my first time travelling independently. I was captivated by the sheer passion for cinema. People prioritised films above all else, rushing from one screening to another, emphasising that at Cannes, films are paramount and everything else is secondary,” says Chhaya. 

“Presenting my films at Cannes was thrilling. Contrary to its commercial image on social media, Cannes truly values films over appearances. The festival celebrates the art of film-making. Interactions were inspiring; interviewers, despite language barriers, would engage with me for over half an hour without understanding Hindi or Marathi. Their dedication to cinema and the craft of acting was deeply moving,” she adds. 

Directed and written by Payal Kapadia, All We Imagine as Light is a tale of friendship set in Mumbai. In a hospital, nurse Prabha (Kani Kusruti) and her carefree flatmate Anu (Divya Prabha) navigate their contrasting lives. Prabha is dependable, while Anu struggles with rent and has a mysterious boyfriend. The hospital’s widowed cook, Parvaty (Chhaya Kadam), enlists Prabha’s help to prevent eviction by bailiffs due to a new development project.

Chhaya says, “When I first heard about the character of Parvaty, I knew it was meant for me. Meeting Payal and learning more about Parvati —her background, her thoughts, her struggles — felt incredibly relatable. I remember thinking, ‘This role was written with me in mind. Only I can do this’. I wasn’t joking; I was genuinely confident.”

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Sharing about her off-screen camaraderie with the cast on the set of All We Imagine as Light, Chhaya asserts, “We all three became such good friends. From the very first day, our gatti (Marathi for bonding) was incredible. I was a little reluctant in the beginning as I am slightly reserved due to the kind of upbringing I have had. But this team doubled the energy I brought to the set. These people are so passionate about the craft of acting and cinema.”

Chhaya and her co-actors had fun on the sets. 

“We obviously had a tight schedule during the day, but after pack-up, there was a pool where we were staying. Kani and Divya are swimmers, but I wasn’t. They taught me how to swim within a few days. I am in fact the eldest among them, but they made me feel like a kid. We became such good friends that there were things I had never shared with anyone that just flowed out. I have been working for so many years, but the kind of friendship I have with this team is unusual.”

Chhaya Kadam, also popular as Manju Mai now on social media, never measures her role in films. 

“No, I am never fussy about playing the lead role.” 

From the beginning, she took whatever came her way, always seeing her part as the lead. While others might see her role as minor, for her, those scenes are her world. Naturally, she would decorate her world.

“We had a dialect trainer on set, so the entire team of Laapataa Ladies took care of all the aspects. Kiran had researched a lot about the characters, and in fact, nuances like what kind of words would have a more profound impact on the audience were considered. With such preparation by the film-makers, I believe it makes things easier for us as actors. If not easy, it gives us the energy to work harder,” shares Chhaya. 

She continues, “The beauty of the film is its simplicity. I am receiving so much love and appreciation for my scene in that room that, while I don’t share personal messages, people have literally poured their hearts out. They have shared things with me in my DMs on Instagram that they wouldn’t have shared with their own families. I feel lucky that such a part came to me. The dialogues are so well-written that I appreciate the writers.”

RECOGNITION: Chhaya Kadam has earned accolades for role in films like Laapataa Ladies, Madgaon Express and Blackout
RECOGNITION: Chhaya Kadam has earned accolades
for role in films like Laapataa Ladies, Madgaon Express and Blackout

Chhaya reveals that she is on a break from work for 10-15 days as she is busy with interviews. 

“I am busy with interviews and attending to everyone. Although I am receiving work calls, I’ve asked them to wait 10-15 days. After the interviews, I plan to visit my village for a few days to recharge. This media attention is new, but my fans have always been there, and I aspire to work consistently for them.”