Niharica Raizada is an Indian actress who has worked in films like Masaan, Total Dhamaal and Sooryavanshi. She was also crowned Miss India UK 2010 and was runner-up at Miss India Worldwide 2010.
Niharica got into an Exclusive chat with Lehren where she talked about her films, her take on Nepotism, her service as a frontline warrior amid the pandemic and how she is recovering from Covid-19.
I hope you are doing good.
I am recovering from Covid. So, it’s been difficult on my body. But yeah, things are good. I am at home right now.
How do you keep yourself motivated, especially when you have tested positive for Covid-19?
First things first, once you have tested positive, then you have to take care of yourself. I think, if you get the symptoms quite badly, then it can give a lot of weakness to your body. So, I was very weak for a certain period of time. But now I am feeling a little better. So, the first thing is to treat yourself and I personally believe that you should try and stay at home and treat yourself at home as much as possible.
And when it comes to motivation, I think, you have to find the inner strength to keep yourself positive and people do that by reading. I mean, I love watching films. I love reading books. I love watching dance performances and all of that. So, that puts a smile on my face.
What were your symptoms?
Initially, I had an extremely high fever. Actually, when I measured, it was not so high. 100.6 it was. So, it was relatively high. So, I was applying ice packs on my face just to lower the temperature because it was unbearable to sleep. I wasn’t able to sleep at all. And, all night I was sweating profusely. And once the fever stopped, my chest hurt a lot. So, I would constantly do steam, around 2-3 times a day for a good 7-10 minutes. I drank a lot of Kadha which consists of Ajwain, Jeera, Haldi, Ginger, Elaichi, Dalchini. I would drink around 7 cups a day. So, that’s how I was treating myself. I don’t prefer allopathic medicine. But on the 6th-7th day, I took some paracetamol just to lower the pain in my body.
So you cook for yourself?
Yes, I do cook for myself. I would make Khichadi, Daal-Chawal, Chicken, Fish etc. I love to eat fish. But I haven’t been able to eat very much. That’s one thing that makes me a little weaker I think, because my food consumption is a lot less than it was previously.
How did your journey in Bollywood began?
It happened in London. The very first person that I ever interacted with from the film industry is Shekhar Kapur. I once went on the sets of his film Elizabeth 2. And then, there was London Dreams, which came here, which has Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan with Vipul Shah. I was on that set as well. I was interacting with the ADs and I was helping out, I was running around. So, I was learning a lot about production at that time. I also worked with Jagmohan Mundra. He had done a film called Provoke with Aishwarya Rai. So, I was on that set as well in London.
So, my journey started from London and I got to know many people from the industry from London itself. And then, when I won the Miss India pageant, then people also started calling me to dance in certain films or whatever the case might be. But I didn’t do that much.
When I first came to India, that’s when I did my first Bengali film called Damadol. Then I worked on Masaan, Total Dhamaal, Alone and then Sooryavanshi. So, then things started to go along.
You have worked on projects like Total Dhamaal and Sooryavanshi. These films have a stellar star cast. How does it feel to be on set with such powerful and talented actors?
It feels really good. It’s good to be a part of a big cast. Once you work with known people, you yourself become known, that’s one positive aspect about that. Also, these guys have been in the business for a good 15-20 years, so, they have a lot of stories to tell about the film industry. I have been sort of aware about the film industry due to my family, but when you hear from the horse’s mouth, I mean when you speak with Anil Kapoor, or even Sanjay Mishra for that matter, and the journey they have had in the film industry, they are generous people. They share information with you. So, when you speak with them, they tell you all sorts of stories. Even Gulshan Grover I remember, when I worked with him, he told me so much about the film industry. So, you get to learn a lot. So, I think that one thing is to go to a film school like maybe you can go to Whistling Woods or New York Film Academy or any other place to learn about acting and film industry, but the other thing is to actually speak to people who have been a part of the film industry for so many years. And they can teach you so much more. So, I have been very fortunate.
Do you feel nervous or intimidated while working with them?
No, never. So, I don’t have a habit of saying ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’. I don’t know if that’s disrespectful or whatever but I don’t prefer to say it. And I don’t like it being said to me either. I speak to people as people. Even if they are the biggest stars on the planet, I still speak to them as human beings. This is something that my mother has always taught me. She said that at the end of the day, we all are human beings. It doesn’t matter what you have achieved in your life or where you have reached. The thing is that you should be able to be approachable. You should be able to speak to another human being as a human. And for that matter, I am extremely candid, very frank. Even if I don’t know anyone, I speak to them as my friend and they also feel very comfortable. Maybe that’s overfamiliarity, but that’s Niharica. I am extremely over-familiar. I will talk to you just like my friend, even if you are 60, even if you are 20.
Your film Sooryavanshi was scheduled to release in theatres in March 2020. It’s been over a year and there’s no sign of the release yet. So, do you think it should be released on OTT?
I don’t want this film to come on OTT. I regularly talk to people involved in this film and I tell them my opinion. But at the end of the day, if they are going to lose money, then they should put it on OTT because I don’t want anybody to suffer any losses. But, personally, because of the scale of the film, the magnitude and the actors of the film, like you have got stellar star cast, you have got Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Katrina Kaif, so, with this big cast and many interesting and brilliant side characters, I don’t want it to go waste. I am not saying that OTT will put it to waste. A lot of people tell me that the film will reach a wider audience on OTT. That’s what people are telling me.
But whatever the producers decide, we all are with them. It’s been a very long time.
Have you signed any other projects?
As of now, I have heard five scripts, out of which I will definitely do two. It’s just that right now there’s no shooting happening. So I am not at liberty to say which project will go on floors first. But some really interesting films have come my way.
Everything is shut at the moment. I was supposed to start shooting from May 18 but that’s not happening now. So many things have been pushed and delayed. So, we are just waiting.
Do you plan to make an OTT debut?
I don’t have a problem doing a web series. But personally, I don’t want to get into that field. I just want to do cinema films. That’s my personal choice. However, I am not averse to hearing scripts. But given a choice, I would only be seen in movies that come in theatres. But now when the theatres are shut, a girl like me has been asking myself that what am I gonna do. Because I never really wanted to go in the web-series space but I have been watching a lot of web-series. I really enjoyed watching OK Computer. It was so revolutionary and exciting. I also watched Pataal Lok, Delhi Crime, Scam 1992- such great stuff is coming out. So, if good stuff comes, I won’t say no.
Any international projects in the pipeline?
I was supposed to fly back to UK on May 27 for an international film that I was supposed to finish. But now because of the situation in India, they have put a hold on all travel happening from India. And I had also decided that its best that I don’t fly. I am going to stay in India.
I called the production house internationally. I told them that I won’t be able to fly. So they are very upset that I am not going to be able to do the film. But I think they understand. But it’s very sad that I am losing out on a very nice international project. However, at the moment, safety first. All said and done, I think anyone traveling from India right now is not a good option. I would not advice anybody to travel from India to outside, until and unless people get fully vaccinated and fully cured. Because you don’t want variants from different countries to be spread around. I don’t want to take that risk.
Not many people know that you are the granddaughter of music composer OP Nayyar Ji. So, you have your roots in Bollywood. And then we have debates on Nepotism. So, has the fact that you are Nayyar Sahab’s granddaughter helped you in any way? Or are you carving your own path?
I wish it had, you know. We work so hard, we dream about getting our ideal role. Like, my ideal role has still not come to me. I am still waiting for it. And things are a lot easier when you get a good level of support. Like people who may not be actors, per se, but who get supported. They get a much easier entry in the film industry, which I think, at times, is unfair. But I never had that advantage. Even though I belong to musical family, it has never come as an advantage to me. I still have to fight my own battles, meet the producers, convince the directors. Nothing has come easy. I wish it had. I wish, somehow Nepotism had helped me. I am saying it as a selfish thing. I wish someone had supported me or pushed me. Because things would have been easier for me.
I joined this film industry when Parineeti Chopra and Alia Bhatt joined. And look where both of them have come. So, I remember when I first came to this field, those two girls had just entered. See, where they have gone. So, support can take someone so far. And I am still trying. I am still working hard towards my particular goal. So, you can see the difference in the journeys which is so evident. And, not to say that we are the same in terms of talent or whatever, in fact, I have a lot more exposure when it comes to international exposure and my training as well. But we don’t get the same opportunities.
You have completed your education in medicine and now you are in Bollywood. So, would you like to go back to practice at some point in your life, or Bollywood is your only focus now?
Acting had become my focus quite predominantely. But you know, during this pandemic, I went back into the frontline. I used my degree and I was there as a frontline warrior. And I was very happy to help in the humanitarian sets. I haven’t left the field at all. I will always use it to be able to serve the people. I am always looking for opportunities to help people in one way or the other, like being a spokesperson, helping out in villages or doing some small projects. So, I will always use my education.
But I would like to dedicate myself to the entertainment industry because while I am still young and while I still can, I want to fully dedicate myself to this industry. And after that, I will fully dedicate myself to the medical line.
What are your goals, professionally and personally?
I really want to do a few lead roles in some nice big production Bollywood films. The scripts that I have been narrated recently, two of them are lead roles. So, I hope to do them. I am looking forward to that.
And I really want to help in the management of this pandemic. Like, I want to help in the development of medical infrastructure in India. So, this is the major goal of my life.