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Interview Hindi

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is Sonakshi's story: Diana Penty

In a brief conversation, Penty expresses her delight on reuniting with the ‘Happy’ team and shares why she doesn’t feel overshadowed by Sonakshi Sinha in the sequel.

Mayur Lookhar

Director Mudassar Aziz, producer Aanand L Rai, and artistes Diana Penty, Sonakshi Sinha and Jassie Gill are among those present for a tête-à-tête with the media for their upcoming film Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. It is Parsi New Year and Penty treats the film's team to some traditional delicacies before the interaction begins.

Fresh from the success of Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran (2018), Penty is all geared up for Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, the sequel to Aziz’s cross-over comedy Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016).

The first film marked Penty’s return to the big screen after four years. In the upcoming film, Harpreet Singh Kaur, fondly known as Happy, is back. However, this time around she has another Happy (played by Sonakshi Sinha) for company.

In a brief conversation, Penty expressed delight on reuniting with the ‘Happy’ team, shared why she doesn’t feel overshadowed by Sinha in the sequel and revealed that her mother had named her after the late princess Diana. Excerpts:

There is a saying in Hindi, 'Ek se bhale do [Two are better than one].'  Guess we are getting a double dose of Happy here.

Yes, double Happy, double everything. Everything raised to two. Double happiness, confusion, craziness. Everything is doubled. 

How 'Happy' are you in the second film? 

In terms of my character, I'm completely the same person. She is spontaneous, impulsive, loud. munphat [blunt] character. It's a sequel. So we are moving from where we left off. It is kind of another story. This is Sonakshi's story. The first part was my story, how I mysteriously landed up in Pakistan. How I was in this predicament and figured my way back. As you know, wherever Happy goes, trouble follows. This time I'm causing trouble in China, and poor Sonakshi has to bear the brunt of it.

So, like Happy, is Diana Penty prone to causing trouble? 

I’m completely the opposite of Happy. I think before I speak. I’m more quiet and I’m not this loud person. It took me a while to get into this character, especially for the first part [Happy Bhag Jayegi]. The second time when we got on to the sets, it took just one or two scenes and I was back. I managed to pick up from where we had left.

I felt somewhere she is still within me and I can just bring out the Happy character. The first time it took a while, to kind of break my inhibition, to be able to open up and be the person that I’m so unfamiliar with.

Can you share the advantages and disadvantages of working in a multi-starrer? 

The advantage is that it is a lot more fun, especially with a comedy, where you have such a light, fun environment on the sets. Everyone is having a good time. There are no intense, serious scenes. Even if there are, it is a cakewalk when you have such a great cast and everyone gets along. That’s definitely an advantage. Also there is a curiosity amongst the audience when a bunch of people come together for the first time.  

I don’t think there is any disadvantage. 

Do you think your character may be overshadowed by the new Happy, Sonakshi Sinha? 

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

So far, I have not been in a situation like that. I’ve done a lot of such films and never felt that way. When I heard the script, I realized how beautifully the two characters come into the story and how essential they are to the plot. It makes it a very special story and a special film. 

From Cocktail (2012) to Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. How do you look at your journey? Do you think you have grown as an actress? 

I would like to believe so. I have learnt a lot of things along the way. I picked up things from each film, each set that I have been on. It helps to work with different people each time, have a new crew, new directors, producers. You get a different perspective on things. I have learnt with each film.

Cocktail (2012) was the first time I faced the camera. It was such a nervous experience because every time I had to be in a scene, I would get worried and hope that I can pull it off. To remember the lines, and also to be able to perform, with a hundred people standing around, it was just nerve-wrecking. 

When I moved on to Happy, I was really worried because there was a gap between my two films. I said, 'Hope I’m able to do all this again'. Also, this Happy was a completely different, loud character. I hope people won’t judge me. Happy Bhag Jayegi really opened me up. It made me realize that I have potential. I just needed to grow some confidence along the way, get less inhibited, which I think I did with Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi. 

The directors that I worked with helped me along the way with my performances. They gave me certain tips that I would have never thought of on my own; of how to make a scene stronger, how to make a character more convincing. That helps. I take that forward to my next film. I try to better myself from there. The more work you do, the better you get at it. 

Was it inhibition that had you take a long break between Cocktail (2012) and Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016)? 

Diana Penty in Cocktail (2012)

It was never intentional. I was new to this business and I wasn’t from the industry. I didn’t know too many people. I didn’t have that one person to guide, mentor me. I was a little lost. It took me a while to figure out my own journey, which I guess happened along the way. It took me longer than it should have. 

Along the way, I started realizing what I enjoy doing, what route I should take, what kind of films I should do. You have people giving you 500 different opinions. You have to figure out yourself what works for you and what doesn’t. Should you do everything that comes your way because it is good visibility? Or should you pick and choose the stories and the characters that you genuinely want to play? So, I had to figure out a lot of things.

So, have you become choosy when it comes to scripts? 

Who isn’t? I wouldn’t use 'choosy' though. It’s like when you read a book. You instantly know if you have enjoyed reading or not. If you feel engrossed then you want to continue reading it. But if you are bored, you put down the book. It is the same thing when you are reading scripts.

There are certain scripts that make you want to know what is going to happen next, or make you want to continue reading. There are some scripts that I don’t find that compelling, riveting as others. I would like to do films that resonate with me. At the end of the day, you have to give 100 % to every project. I choose to do films that I genuinely feel for. 

Sonakshi Sinha told us earlier how, as a child, her fellow students often called her Meenakshi, for they just couldn’t think Sonakshi was a name. Diana is a common name. Like in the film, has your real name caused any confusion before?

Diana is not a common name, but I have a lot of pet names. People call me D, Di,  DP. I tell my friends nobody calls me by my full name excpet my mother. There has never been a ‘Diana’ confusion. Actually, I don’t know another Diana. Do you? 

Princess Diana...

I was named after her. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet. My mother was a huge princess Diana fan. She loved her. She inspired my mother to name me after her. Growing up, I too became her fan, naturally. I used to watch her on television. She was dressed so impeccably. She had such a lovely personality.