Interview Hindi

Diorama: For me, acting is all about improvisation, says Divya Dutta


Divya Dutta talks about today's exciting times when the variety in content gives artistes wider avenues for exploration.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Divya Dutta is a formidable talent who has made a mark with almost every role she has performed. Dutta has portrayed varied characters in films ranging from Train To Pakistan (1998), Shaheed-e-Mohabbat (1999), Jogger’s Park (2003) and Veer-Zaara (2004) to Delhi-6 (2009), Special 26 (2013), Bhaag Milka Bhaag (2013) and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz (2017).

On the sidelines of the Diorama Film Festival in Delhi, Divya Dutta spoke about the ways in which short films and web-series are opening up interesting opportunities for artistes like her. Excerpts:

In your chat session at the festival earlier, you mentioned that you sometimes had to request directors to give you parts originally written for men. Do you see that situation changing now where there are more interesting, meaty roles for women?

It’s not like you didn’t have meaty roles earlier. The lead actors had very meaty roles, but now the story content is so different as these are not stereotypical films where there is a vamp, hero, heroine and villain. The characterizations are so different. So when I ask a director to give me that part written for a man, it can be done that way. They are flexible enough.

That’s a very interesting change that has come in. Earlier, you wouldn’t think of that. It would be blasphemous to think someone else would play the role instead of the one intended. Now people are open to experimentation and the audience is open to receiving these roles. So I feel delighted to see someone like Neena Gupta getting the best of roles now.

You also mentioned that you love doing negative roles. Other artistes have also expressed their delight in doing negative roles as it allows them to explore facets that goody-two-shoes type of roles don’t.

Somewhere you bring something of yours in a role. Not that you are told you ought to do certain things but there are no "shouldn’ts". So when you are doing a negative role, there is an apprehension whether you should or shouldn’t do it, but when you are in front of the camera you just let yourself loose like a tiger on the prowl, and it’s so amazing how different facets just come to you and you inculcate them in your role.

For me, acting is all about improvisation. I am not a homework person. I just go and enjoy myself on set and have a blast. So while there are layers in every character, there are more layers in negative characters and I enjoy them so much because I was not given negative roles earlier, so I had the hunger to do the roles I had not done before.

You were always seen as the sweet girl....

Yeah. I hated it when people called me sweet! So I wanted to kill that [image] and now it’s sweet and spicy both, so I’m very happy.

With the increasing popularity of the web-series, are you seeing more interesting characters and content come up?

One thing good about web-series is that there is no censorship as of now. So there is a freedom of thought. Because of that, there is a huge variety of stories that have come in which could be very unconventional, conventional yet bold, or very intriguing and interesting or shocking. That wasn’t there earlier. And the series ends in a short span. So I think it’s a very lethal combination where you give them the best and then you are gone, and then they want another season.

It’s also another world where you see a film at the click of a button vis-à-vis going to a theatre, so when I did my short films, I found it very interesting to send a link. I didn’t have to say go to a theatre and watch the film. So it’s another world altogether with lots of new directors and actors coming in. It’s brought a whole lot of work to lots of people.

We are seeing very interesting content in short films. We saw one of yours at the festival here, The Playboy Mr Sawhney.

That film I did for a friend. But I think there is a lot of good content and it is interesting that in just 15 minutes, you are putting in story ideas and saying what you have to say in that short span. It’s exciting. I did the film Plus Minus, which got 16 million views, and I am doing two more, which are also very interesting. So I think that even for actors, it’s a new world. We are all exploring things, doing our trials and errors and seeing what we really enjoy doing. 

So, it’s a great time to be an actor?

It always was! It always was and it always will be, but it is like a festive time right now. 

We are in the midst of a MeToo movement in the film industry and there are several names that continue to come up. Do you think this will bring about a change in the way the industry looks at and treats women?

I think the change has already started. There is a kind of awareness and people have become self-conscious.

Every movement has its pluses and minuses, so this will have its flip side as well, so when people are anonymously named, one doesn’t know.

I feel people work hard for their image. So if it’s an anonymous person naming someone, that kind of dilutes the movement.

That apart, the cases that have come to light and are serious, I think, have been taken very seriously and action has been taken as well. It’s a great step and I think we should give it some time.

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