Interview Hindi

Diana Penty: Playing a glamorous girl is pretty boring

The Lucknow Central actress says she is happy to play rustic characters.

Mayur Lookhar

For someone who started her career with Cocktail (2012), it was natural for model-actress Diana Penty to take up varied roles in her next few films. Back after a gap of four years, Penty returned to action playing the bubbly and loud Punjabi in Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016).

Now, Penty will be seen playing an NGO worker in Lucknow Central, fighting for the rights of the prison inmates. Wearing a cool pink blazer, trousers and high heels, Penty looked every bit a model. However, being glamorous on the silver screen is not what she desires. She finds its boring to play the glamdoll.

Ahead of the release of Lucknow Central, Penty spoke to journalists, sharing her thoughts about the film, her fitness regime and more. Excerpts:

What made you take up Lucknow Central?

It is a very unique script. The one thing that stood out when I read the script was that it's not run-of-the-mill stuff. There have been a few films based in jails, but there hasn't been much to them. This not only has jail life, but also inmates coming together to form a band, it’s got jailbreak. It is something that the audience hasn’t seen before. Above anything else, I think it has a good story. I feel that is what people want, they are appreciating good cinema. By good content, I don’t mean arty, dark cinema. You can still have a good commercial film with a good story line.

What was it like working with Farhan Akhtar?

Not just Farhan, but working with all of them was great. Each of the cast [members] is supremely talent. Farhan, Gippy Grewal, Deepak Dobriyal, Inaamulhaq, Rajesh Verma — they are all a powerhouse [of] talent. To be able to have all of them in one film, it is one of the best castings. I thought I was the most junior person on the sets. So, there was so much to take away and learn from them, merely by being able to perform along with such great actors. I’m grateful that I had a chance to do such a film.

Looking at the trailer, you appear to be playing a social activist who is trying to get Farhan Akhtar's character out of jail.

Farhan Akhtar in Lucknow Central

No, that's not it. My character [Gayatri Kashyap] is an NGO worker, and she believes strongly in prisoner reformation. She feels they should be treated well. They ought to serve their sentence, but they should have their basic human rights in jail and be able to have them once they are out [of jail]. They should be given a second chance. While they are in jail, they should acquire some skills which can help them to get a basic job once they have served their sentence. That is her affirmation. She is fighting for their betterment.

So, you are like the ray of hope for them.

(Laughs.) Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it. I’m going to use that.

From Cocktail girl to runaway bride [in Happy Bhag Jayegi], you are now really grounded with Lucknow Central?

Diana Penty in Cocktail

Yeah, I really am. Gayatri is very grounded, measured, balanced, and she is very real. She is a regular person like you and me. It’s nice to play that. Meera of Cocktail was really shy, quiet. A homely girl. In Happy Bhag Jayegi, she was a loud and funky character.

But Gayatri is a balanced person, she is very focused, she makes sure she gets the job done. In this story, she is a strong woman character in a male-dominated world. In this case, the world is a jail. She is dealing with cops, jail authorities, the inmates, all of whom are men. She is the only female character in this jail world and so needs a certain strength. So, it was special for me to play this strong woman in a male-dominated environment like this.

Did you happen to meet real jail inmates to prep for this role?

Not while making the film, but I did meet a few recently. It was quite uplifting and inspiring. They were really well behaved, respectful. When you go to a jail, you don’t know what to expect. They performed for us, and they were really good, I was so surprised and hummed along. Though they are in jail, yet there is optimism and positivity. They almost have a josh [excitement] while performing.

The early 2000s saw our heroines largely cast in glamorous roles. Today we see quite a few young talents playing rustic, earthy characters. How do you see this shift and do you find it challenging?

Though my film is based in Lucknow, Gayatri is not from Lucknow. She is an NGO worker operating in Lucknow, but her background is Delhi. It can be challenging, but that is the kind of stuff you want to do. I actually like the tales from the hinterland, small towns, I find them more relatable. It's different from what I am. I guess playing glamorous characters is pretty boring.

Diana Penty in Happy Bhag Jayegi

How do you keep yourself so fit? Can you tell us about your fitness regime?

Well, actually, I love food. I can’t diet, so I eat whatever I want, but I work out as well, I try going to the gym three times a week. Recently, for Parmanu (2018) I had a bit of an action role, so I had to prep for that. I did a couple of months of kick-boxing. We had to pull off those moves. So that became an integral part of my routine. It is heavy on cardio, and really draining. It also helped to build my stamina. I feel I might continue to do that. It will break the monotony of my regular workout.

Did anyone have to bear the brunt of your kicks?

(Laughs.) Yeah, my trainer.

You said you are a foodie. So, what is it you can’t resist?

Well, it will have to be chicken biryani.