'Saala Khadoos' actress Ritika Singh's candid confessions on the ugly side of boxing
Ritika Singh, who is set to make her Bollywood debut opposite R Madhavan in the upcoming sports drama 'Saala Khadoos', talks about favouritism and dirty politics in Indian boxing
Ritika Singh is not one to pull her punches. The 22-year-old boxer, who steps into Bollywood as R Madhavan's co-star in Saala Khadoos, does not bat an eyelid when talking about the scams and scandals plaguing the Indian boxing scene. "The state of affairs right now is saddening," she sighs.
Ritika Singh during the shoot of her debut film. Pic/Satej Shinde
But switch to her latest passion — acting — and she lights up like a 1,000-watt bulb. She confesses that the acting bug has bitten her and that she would prefer facing the camera to packing a punch in the boxing arena.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. How did a boxer like you, who had no Bollywood connection and aspiration, land a film?
A. I was 17 when I took part in a reality show on MMA fighters, but was eliminated after I dislocated my knee and went on to lose fights. Maddy (Madhavan) sir had seen a big poster of me posing like a boxer. So, he found out about me from the organisers and called me up to say he had a film offer. I started feeling giddy with joy. I, along with my father, then met him and accepted the offer.
Q. Was it awkward facing the camera?
A. Maddy sir and Raju (Rajkumar Hirani, filmmaker) sir never made me feel like an outsider. Maddy sir has become my best friend now. I taught him how to use all the emojis on Whatsapp. Shooting with him was great fun and I learnt a lot from him. He would stand behind the camera and give me cues.
Q. How different is real boxing from reel boxing?
A. Very. For a scene, I had to fight with street guys and I charged like a raging bull since I did not know that I had to conserve my energy for the same take from different angles, and got tired. That was the first action scene I did. I also hit Maddy sir in my enthusiasm, which I feel bad about. I even hurt myself.
Q.Is this film a one-off thing or do you wish to make a career in acting?
A. The acting bug has bitten me, but I don't want to do sport based movies in future. I want to play different characters. Like Maddy sir says, an actor gets to live many lives within one.
Q. Will you choose films over boxing?
A. If I had a film offer in hand and a boxing tournament coming up, I will definitely go for the film. I had thought of training Bollywood artistes someday, but never acting. I cannot afford to let go of any good acting opportunity.
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Q. What is the scope for boxing as a career in India?
A. This question actually depresses me because I start thinking about the politics and exploitation that happen there. There are fighters who go to coaches and offer sexual favours to get extra attention. And then these coaches encourage only them. Good players will never get opportunities if this scenario prevails. I am a
self-respecting professional and luckily, my dad is my trainer. I will be honest and say that sexual harassment happens in every industry. It just that some industries are known more for it. I am sure many people in the boxing field wouldn't like to believe that I made it to the film industry on my own.
Q. Give us an example explaining how Indian boxers are discouraged.
A. When boxers go for international tournaments, they are made to pay from their pockets for stay in five-star hotels. However, they (Indian agents or organisers) put them up in three-star hotels and pocket the balance amount. It is such a bad feeling to see participants from other countries get such good treatment, unlike us. We are supposed to follow a particular lifestyle, hit the gym and stay fit, but if you don't give us those amenities, how are we going to give our best? It has always been this way and I don't know what can be done to make it a better place.