Nitu Chandra says it was time her martial arts training came to good use on the big screen. The Indian actor, who plays a fighter in her Hollywood debut Never Back Down: Revolt, revealed that she got cast because of her sports background and her character was created as per her skills.
“Unlike Indian cinema, where you don’t really get cast only on the basis of your talent, here I was selected as per my skills. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. They met me and saw my work,” Nitu told indianexpress.com.
Nitu Chandra has a 4th Dan black-belt in Taekwondo. She has been playing basketball since childhood and also represented India at National Basketball Association (NBA) and won big there. In Never Back Down: Revolt, the fourth installment in the martial arts franchise, she plays Jaya who gets kidnapped and is forced to battle in underground fights to win her liberty.
Does she feel doing an out-and-out action movie was an experiment? She said though Hollywood comes out with a lot of such films, it is rare in Bollywood. However, the audience isn’t alien to the genre. “You see, Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) and Deepika Padukone (xXx) did come out as action actors. And this genre globally attracts youngsters. So it was a safe zone for me. Today, scripts can take you anywhere in this world.”
Commenting on how actors in sports biopics are not cast correctly, Nitu opined that sometimes they don’t work at the box office “because the actor you’ve cast has never done any sports” and her body language is made for it. “If I have to be very girly, that’s not my natural instinct. I do it because I get paid for it.”
So how difficult is it to shoot fights in a real set-up? “Even though you’re doing action, you aren’t doing action actually. You’re balancing between acting and actual fighting, and ensure it looks real. If I’m fighting Michael Bisping, who was a UFC champion, it’s not like he can hit me or I can hit him. You cannot afford to get hurt in this profession,” she said.
Being a part of the industry for nearly a decade, Nitu has done films like Garam Masala, Traffic Signal, 13B, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Rann, Apartment and more. She has also done several movies down south including Godavari, Satyameva Jayate, Theeradha Vilaiyattu Pillai, Aadhi Baghavan and Vaigai Express.
Hailing from Patna, Nitu Chandra has also been at the forefront of promoting her home state Bihar and its languages. For that reason, she produced Deswa (Bhojpuri) and Mithila Makhaan (Maithili), the latter winning a National Award too.
According to her, the youth of Bihar has stopped speaking their mother tongue, and hence she attempted to safeguard the languages. “If you can’t respect two things — your mother and mother tongue, then I don’t know how you can put your soul in anything else?”
“I never spoke it myself, but later when people in Delhi started calling me ‘Bihari’, that’s when I started learning Bhojpuri. I cannot cut myself from my mother tongue. I’ve worked very hard to safeguard the languages of Bihar — Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magahi, Angika, Bajjika. I’m very proud that I’m making films to do that.”
Nitu has more than once stood up for her state and her roots. One such example being actor Sidharth Malhotra who macked Bhojpuri in 2018, but apologised later. Nitu had openly called him out, receiving support from many others too.
Recalling that, she said, “Why do Biharis don’t stand for their roots? I’m not scared of anything and anyone. It’s my duty and I will do it.”
She is excited to deliver a film after a hiatus of four years. “People write me off, and that’s fine, but the same people are writing about me today. It’s my humble start in Hollywood and it’s only going to grow.”
Never Back Down: Revolt has been directed by Kellie Madison and produced by Sony Motion Pictures Worldwide. Also starring Michael Bisping, Brooke Johnston, Diana Hoyos and James Faulkner, it is streaming on Apple TV and Book My Show Stream.