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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

I Had To Say A Lot Of Nos To Get That One “Yes” That I Really Wanted: Divya Dutta

  • IWB Post
  •  July 10, 2019

“I think it is very essential to just celebrate being who you are and just flow with what comes from within rather than following the norms because I feel like a woman is always conditioned to do that. Along with doing whatever you are doing, find your own pace, do things that you like, and find the real you. I think that’s celebrating yourself the true way,” says Divya Dutta.

With her illustrious career profile that spans through films like Manto, Irada, and Train to Pakistan, Divya certainly is an actor to look up to for the conviction that she translates into the smallest of roles portrayed by her.

Here are extracts from an interaction that I recently had with her:

You are one of the very few actors who has portrayed a spectrum of roles with utmost elan. If we navigate through this spectrum, what kind of roles have you relished the most and why?

I relish the sheer fact that I give myself the freedom to do whatever I want to. I have done Music Teacher which is a total romantic film, then I have done a very intimate thing, Manto, then I do a totally negative role and then I do something saucy in Blackmail and then I play a mother in Fanney Khan. So I am liking jumping roles, and I am liking the fact that every time I look into a mirror I see a different image.

How about the grey roles? You have given some of your most compelling performances while treading the grey area. How do you think Bollywood can explore its grey women characters a little more?

Firstly, I don’t think there are any “shoulds” for Bollywood. What I believe it that, it is always very story-oriented. You don’t write the story saying “now I am going to portray a woman in this light.” There comes a story and it happens to have a role which is a certain way. I think I have portrayed many roles which have had these grey shades, be it Babumoshai Bandookbaaz with Nawaaz, Chalk n Duster with Shabana and Juhi, or Irada for which I got the National Award. What I like is there is now no inhibition in portraying a character the way an actor wants to. Now there are no dos and don’ts to it, they just let me go all out with it which I think is the ultimate blessing for an actor. I think one of the reasons this is happening is because now the audience is very accepting.

Bollywood has this obnoxious habit of putting an expiry date when it comes to its women. Did you ever feel that it was difficult to get a coveted role just because you didn’t fall into a particular age category?

(laughs) That’s a really interesting question. I think I have broken that norm every time and I enjoy that. I just did a short film called Plus Minus where I play a 25-year-old which is like a good 15 years younger to me. So I don’t care, I mean I am an actor and we kind of laud all the Hollywood people for playing these different roles. And we then go ahead and limit our own actors into age.

But yes, I think people have been nice to me and I, fortunately, have a baby face so I can carry off different age groups which comes as an added perk. I remember when I had just joined the industry nobody gave me the typical mature heroine role because I looked like a kid and that is where I faced a little difficulty. But again, I love challenging the questions posed to me. How will she mein mujhe bada maja aata hai. Jab koi how will she bolta hai toh, I just go ahead and prove it.

From the generic girl-next-door image to being hailed for your versatility and ability to mold into every character, you have indeed traversed a long and tedious path in Bollywood, given that you don’t come from a family that boasts of a filmy pedigree or have a Godfather here. How has this journey been? 

I won’t say it was like a bed of roses but I think once you know what you want you just go after it. However, I do feel that it’s also a game of trial and error. I started with multi starters where I was a cute thing, doing random work, and a few romantic roles with my heroes. But that’s not really what I wanted to do and I gradually found my own path. Like I took Train to Pakistan and then I did my Punjabi film which was the national award winner. Basically, I started doing the kind of work which gave me more satisfaction and that’s when I realised I belonged more here than in the typical conventional heroine roles. And I think I was a little bit ahead of my times in the sense that that’s exactly what everyone is doing these days.

But yes, I had to say a lot of nos in my life to get that one “yes” that I really wanted. It’s definitely not an easy journey, especially when you don’t have godfathers around you, planning your own niche. So yes, when I look back, I see at a very beautiful, self-made journey and I am very proud of it.

And what has been your driving force all this while? What kept you motivated and going?

My family and the passion that I have for my work. Good family support is very important when you are unnerved, when you are disoriented, and when you are rejected. In such times, you seek something to fall back on and that’s when the family safeguards you from all the turmoil. I think that keeps you going and plus the passion. I think I never thought that “Oh I am a pretty usual thing and I will just act.” I came here with a passion and conviction that “I am bloody good at my job and I love acting and I love being here and I am not going to give it just one-two years of life, I am going to be here.”

Oh, this reminded me of your autobiography, Me and Maa. Tell me about the beautiful bond that you shared with your mother. 

She wasn’t a regular mom for me, she was a lot more than that. I never called her mom, I used to call her pari which means my angel and she was exactly that for me. She was my mother, my best friend, and my daughter. I think I have had the best times of my life with her.

The best thing about her was that she never questioned me when I was chasing my acting dream, and believed in it, and said: “if you so wanna do it I am right behind you.” She did all this despite coming from a very conservative family and all this while there was this widow who stood by her daughter.

So today when someone pats my back and says that they are very proud of me, I just look up to this one woman who stood by me. Had she not done that, I don’t think I could have made it to this point.

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