‘Stardom is temporary’

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 27 July 2018

Divya Dutta, who is gearing up for the release of Fanney Khan, talks about her co-star Anil Kapoor, how she chooses her scripts and playing unconventional roles

No matter what role she plays, Divya Dutta always walks away with accolades and appreciation. Even though her last film Blackmail did average business at the box-office, her character was highly appreciated by critics and audiences alike. In her upcoming film Fanney Khan, which is releasing on August 3, the National Award-winning actress is playing a lower middle-class practical homemaker. The film stars Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao and Pihu Sand. 

Divya says that there was no reason for her to not accept the project. “One, I was getting to work with AK (Anil Kapoor), secondly, it was being produced by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra with whom I have done some wonderful films and finally, the role was very beautiful,” says the actress while promoting the film. 

She can’t stop praising Anil and says that he has always been a favourite of hers. “I have grown watching his films and always loved his performances. I have done an ad where I have played his wife but this is the first time I am working with him in a movie. So, it was lovely. He is someone who is so passionate about his work and so energetic. There’s lots to learn from him for everyone. He doesn’t mind giving 25 retakes and during the workshops, he would also remember my dialogues, which very few people will do. He guided me throughout the film and also helped me with my looks,” says the actress, who plays Anil’s wife in the film. 

In her career, Divya has worked with both established and first-time directors like Aparna Singh (Irada), Atul Manjrekar (Fanney Khan). Is the experience any different, we ask and she replies, “Experienced directors were also new at some point of time. Once you hear a story from someone, you immediately get to know if the person directing it will be able to make a good film or not, you get to know their vision. Having said that, I have always followed my gut feeling and if our wave length matches, I accept the project.” 

There is no denying that Divya is known for the diverse characters she has played on screen. In Blackmail, she played an alcoholic abusive wife; while in Fanney Khan, she plays a practical homemaker. How does she choose such diverse characters? “I always go by my gut feeling. Will I enjoy or feel nervous while playing the character and while working in the film? If it’s the former, then I agree. Otherwise, I keep saying no,” she says.  

And does the diversity come at the script level or does she bring it as an actor? It’s both, she says. “The reason I get offered such diverse roles is because I am known for this, so people think, ‘let’s give her something different.’ I don’t like to repeat myself. Also, when you take on a role, you also have a responsibility to put in that X-factor and add something fresh to the role. It’s like if you are gifting me a flower bouquet, it’s up to me how I want to decorate it,” says the actress known for films like Welcome to Sajjanpur, Delhi-6, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Badlapur among others. 

There are actresses in Bollywood who play conventional roles while there are those who are creating a niche for themselves with unconventional roles. Actresses like Vidya Balan, Kalki Koechlin, Kangana Ranaut and Divya have managed to play such roles though they are fewer in number. “I cannot talk about others but as for me, the number of such roles keeps increasing. Initially, it was difficult as people used to wonder what kind of roles to offer me but now they have understood. Post the National Award, the number of such roles has gone up even more,” she adds. 

In spite of being one of the most popular and praised names in Bollywood, she doesn’t get called a ‘star’. In fact, not just Divya, but many actors in her league are not considered stars. Does she miss the tag? Divya replies, “Stardom is temporary. If it comes, it’s good. But the admiration and love that I get is for a long time and that’s why I have had such a long career. In my sphere, people accept me as an actor because when I get into a film, I add value to it. But if you tell me that a film is selling on my name, that’s not happening.” 

Divya has come this far in the industry without a godfather. She says that when you don’t have someone guiding you, you tend to make a lot of mistakes. “You are not aware about a lot of things. You learn everything on your own and then you finally find your niche. You spend seven-eight years to understand those tricks, which is fine because I have enjoyed my journey. I think if I had a godfather, I would have got stuck with some image. But my career has turned out unconventional and beautiful, which very few female actresses have managed to do,” says the actress who will be next seen in several interesting projects including Manto, Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai, Malala, then a psychological thriller with Arshad Warsi and Juhi Chawla, Music Teacher opposite Manav Kaul and Ramsingh Charlie. 

As for working with Nandita Das in Manto, which is going to be a part of the Toronto Film Festival 2018, she says it’s lovely to have an actor as director. “Nandita knows how to deal with actors, and she is a friend. I had an intuition about Manto. When the film was announced, I intuitively thought I was going to be a part of the film. When Nandita called me, I smiled. The audience will get to see me in a glamorous avatar there,” she says before signing off.

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