Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
I am Vidushi Chadha, an Indian actor, writer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. I am a multilingual artist who aims to create art that inspires humanity. As an actor, I am fortunate to constantly step in the shoes of other people. This helps me get a better understanding of humanity and broadens my perspective of life.
My approach to playing a character, even if they are far from who I am, is rooted in empathy and compassion. I like to portray characters that speak to me and stories that serve a greater purpose in society. As a creator, my life’s work is to showcase the strength of women, around the world. I am a writer, actor, and producer on our short film Neckline directed by Savannah Ryan. The film is a testimony to my core belief in the freedom of women all around the world.
The Neckline is a women-led production with a racially diverse team of women. Through this film women from a plethora of countries have come together to tell stories that liberate us. We recently premiered at the iconic Chinese Theaters, Hollywood Blvd as a part of the Golden State Film Festival, where we won Best Direction for Narrative Short.
We also won two awards in the Women Filmmaker and Social Justice, Liberation & Protest Category at the Best Shorts Competition. We are looking forward to showcasing Neckline at more festivals around the globe, to truly amplify the voices of diverse women. I had the opportunity to be the protagonist in a brilliant short film “How Do You Fall Out Of Love With Country Music?” directed by Shymala Moorty and written by Max Gill. The film is a humorous and moving monologue about cultural alienation and the possibilities for human connection through music.
My character, Amy Singh, is a country-western singer of Indian descent. On stage in a honky-tonk bar, Amy courageously bares her soul to the audience and reveals deep truths about racism and belonging for immigrant communities in our country today. I learned a lot about country music and the culture while working on this film! This film is unique and so close to my heart because I have never watched a film about an Indian female Country musician! I loved playing Amy.
Another acting adventure in the works for me is Kurt Leitner’s feature, Tapestry: International Stories of inspiring women, which is a celebration of location, language, and love with an international cast of incredible women. In this film, acting with women from over 28 countries! How cool is that?
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
Being born and raised in New Delhi, India, I have unique experiences that feed my art. As you can read from my previous answer, the theme of my art and my life is fighting the patriarchy! Through my art, I bring a multicultural perspective to telling stories that bring us all together.
My journey started by doing theatre at Delhi University, while I was struggling in Business School. Through theater, I found real joy and freedom, an avenue where I could express myself unabashed. Indian women face a lot of restrictions and pressure from society to fit into a mold. I found acting to be the space where I could scream, laugh, and breathe.
My journey in Los Angeles has been filled with adventures and opportunities. This city encourages diverse voices! While doing an MFA in Acting from CalArts, I truly learned how to celebrate my artistic voice and use it to create real change. I believe in the power of art to change people’s lives because it definitely changed mine.
Apart from the projects I mentioned previously, I have also performed in an all-women play, Casualties of War directed by Sarahjeen Francois at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, where goddesses fight patriarchy in the celestial sphere!
I am also blessed to have acted in the International Dove commercial – #Stop the Beauty test directed by the award-winning director Amit Sharma, about the pressure Indian women face while getting married. This commercial caused a global uproar and won Silver at the Cannes Lion Festival.
You can see the theme, here right? Women’s rights, human dignity, and equality. This is my core value as an artist, human being, and practitioner of the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
I remember I was in an acting workshop with one of my favorite teachers, Anna Helena Mclean many years back in India. I found myself connecting with another actor in a highly physical and intense way. At that moment, my entire life stopped and I realized what it meant to be truly present. The past and future were suspended and I knew I wanted to live my entire life at that moment. Acting has often been a spiritual experience for me. It is a way of life.
Nothing makes my heart soar the way performing does.
I have had such pure and electrifying experiences many times while performing where the work just flows out of your body, almost from your soul, constantly surprising you. Federico Garciá Lorca explains it as Duende, the spirit of evocation that comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. Duende, I experienced time and again that propelled me to commit my life to this incredible craft.
The first play I ever did was an adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy, a classic farce. I was the protagonist and through her, I discovered a whole new me! Performing week after week, in front of hundreds of people, making them laugh, being spontaneous, working with a team, making mistakes but continuing- it was life-changing.
And then training extensively for 3 years at CalArts stimulated me on an hourly basis! It felt like every minute I was just expanding artistically. It was very rigorous training but it nurtured the artist in me and prepared me to fly as an artist!
Nothing makes my soul light up the way performing does, and I feel blessed to be able to pursue my life’s mission. Even while writing this, my eyes lit up and I just feel the gratitude and love pouring out. To any artist reading this, keep going! You got this! You are born to win!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
I wrote Freedom, a spoken word poem in 2017, in my bedroom in New Delhi and I had this dream of making it into an all-women film. I performed this piece in front of a live audience in competitions and won the Farrago Slam Championship in London and came 2nd place in the Delhi Spoken Word championship.
I truly believed in this piece’s ability to touch people’s lives. In 2019, in Los Angeles, I started working on this film and after a lot of hard work, we shot it in January 2020. Soon after we shot it, due to several technical mishaps, we lost ALL of the footage. It was devastating. No matter how many data recovery places I visited, there was no luck. Soon after that, the pandemic hit, life was wobbly and I was heartbroken.
It felt like my dream project had been destroyed and there was no coming back. But after a lot of support from my parents, my friends, my Buddhism family, and guidance from my mentor Daisaku Ikeda (Buddhist philosopher and world peace leader) to NEVER give up, I picked myself up. It took 2 years, to raise the funds, gather the team and make a bigger, better, and richer film. This is the story of Neckline.
Now we have won three awards in the span of one month of finishing the film and I am proud of each and everyone who worked to make this happen!
Every step of the way, there were massive obstacles that seemed unsurmountable. But every day, I am determined to believe in my own potential through the Buddhist practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (yes, you must have heard it in the Tina Turner movie)! I grew a lot as an actor, as a creator, and as a leader. Looking at this experience, I believe I can overcome any challenge! The trick is truly to never give up and that hope is a decision. If we can’t find it, we create it!
Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?
Pheobe Waller-Bridge, Mykaila Cole, and Mindy Kaling. All three women along with being fantastic actors are also writers and producers. As a creator, I admire their work deeply. They tell stories of women, diversity, and uncomfortable truths often in a humorous way. Totally my genre!
I fell in love with Mykaila Cole even before I watched the ground-breaking I May Destroy You. I watched Chewing Gum her first show and I knew she was beyond awesome. It’s so quirky and funny and her acting is so unapologetic. Her writing on I May Destroy You and the themes she uncovers about sexual assault in a tactful and witty way evokes deep admiration within me.
Pheobe Waller-Bridge because come on, have you watched Fleabag? Her comic timing is unparalleled and she has such a distinct voice as an artist. Her work is raw but so well-crafted at the same time. Even her show Crashing is so damn good!
And Mindy Kaling, the inspiration of so many South Asian Actors. She did it before anyone could imagine doing it. She broke the ceiling and penetrated Hollywood and opened up the way for South Asian Actors and creators. She is giving us all a voice and every time she comes on I scream, I squeal with pride and joy.
Thank you, Pheobe, Mykaila, and Mindy for being my icons. I would also like to add Issa Rae to the list! I’m obsessed with Insecure.
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