“I never had someone who told me they will give me a launch that I dreamt off. I had to start from the base level, had to carve my own niche, find my own kind of people, and my own kind of roles”– Divya Dutta
Divya Dutta is a renowned Indian film actress with more than 100 films to her credit. She has established a successful career in Bollywood and Punjabi cinema, but has also appeared in Malayalam and English films. She has won accolades and awards for playing a wide variety of character roles in various film genres. Veer-Zara, Irada, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Agni Sakhshi,Baghban, Joggers Park, Badlapur are few her noted films.
Q. Your career has accounted to more than 100 films. You are also a published author. Can you tell us a bit about your journey? How you evolved as an actor and author?
As an author of your own book, you don’t realize what was and what is. It is a gradual change and whatever is gradual becomes a part of it. I think I have carved a niche for myself where roles are written for me. I just had a release called Music Teacher, and I got a call from my director who said I’ve changed a lot as an actor in the past 2 years. This is another person’s perspective who’s watching you closely and tells you what has been changed and how you have improved. For me it’s been a journey, where I would like to better myself and improve every day.
Q. What inspired you to pursue acting?
I come from a family of doctors where everyone was academically inclined, but I always had this dream of becoming an actor. I used to take my Mother’s sari and would dance to Western songs. I would love to get applauded, and somewhere, as a child, I knew I wanted to be an actor. Everyone in school was pursuing a profession like being a doctor, engineer, teacher and I chose to be an actor. I was reprimanded for it, but somewhere I knew this is what I wanted.
Q. Your career has seen you take on roles that have addressed and highlighted important social issues. Why do you think it’s important for these issues to be represented on the big screen?
I didn’t deliberately take on such roles. Over time, I got this image of being a strong female actor and these roles just found their way into my itinerary of films. I am very lucky that I got the roles I did. You don’t just take a role because it has a message, I’ve made a conscious effort to take up roles that I enjoy so I think the two are intermingled. I want people to remember me for what I’ve performed.
Q. You write for TRIBUNE and like to write and share day to day anecdotes, life experiences, stories. How important it is to spread the right thoughts? How do you try to achieve so?
Writing just happened for me when I was asked to be a columnist. I have written for the Hindustan Times, The Tribune, my book Me and Ma, and for my upcoming book. Writing and acting are the professions, where one has the power of expressing themselves. I reached out to a lot of people. All I did was write about things I observed around me, and people found them very relatable. It fit so well that I wanted to continue being a columnist and reaching out to those who could relate to what I wrote.
Q. Your book, ‘Me and Ma’, showcased your close relationship with your mother and how she impacted your life. How did your mother shape you as a person?
I think you become what your parents make you. The best thing that my mother did for me is, she had so much confidence and trust in me. She never held me back, she never said my dreams are unreasonable and how our society would react to them. She only believed that her daughter wanted to do something she is good at, and she stood by me like a rock. She told me that if I fall, I could come back if I wanted to, but she encouraged me a lot with her support. I thank her for that. She was a single mother and was such a strong person. She got through difficult times with a smile on her face. Even today when she’s physically not here with me, I derive a lot of strength from just remembering her and thinking of what she would have done in a tough situation.
Q. You actively work for children and women welfare and has been associated with UNICEF, CRY and National Commission for Women. During these years, what all has improved in the conditions of children and women, and what more do you think needs to be addressed?
I think we’ve come a long way from earlier times. Things have changed a lot and so many NGOs are working for the betterment of kids and women. I remember a small example for an NGO initiative, where I spoke and gave a speech for all the importance of sanitary napkins, and those working for the NGO gave free sanitary napkins to all the girls. These are the things that India has improved on, and it’s lovely to see that there are people who initiate projects for underprivileged women who need help, for children, who are not being educated or into labor, and many other issues. Social media has become very powerful, and people who are suffering have awareness raised through social media. Social media has made the world smaller and put it in the public eye. That gives NGOs a lot of strength to act and raise awareness of such issues.
Q. Do you believe society evolves with a right way of thinking and united efforts? What would you hope to change in the present society and the way it works? What would you like to appeal to our readers?
Of course, the society changes with the way you think, because it just needs one person to take initiative and change the way of thinking. I think if you believe in something, you should take the first step. Let people follow that step rather than your words, and then it becomes a chain reaction. There are so many things that the world needs right now. I’m a very strong believer of environmental issues, I truly believe that we are abusing our environment. Rather than putting it on the government, why don’t we start taking actions ourselves? Start with initiatives such as saving water, keeping our surroundings clean, and not cutting trees as much as possible. I do feel that we should start by taking small steps ourselves and setting an example for others to follow.
Q. Can you speak about an incident that motivated you and made you stronger?
Well there’s not just one incident, there is so much that happens in life that gradually makes you who you are. There was not a particular incident, that changed me and made me who I am today. Life is just a mix of some good and some bad experiences, you remember the happy ones and you learn from your mistakes. I thought I could never recover from the loss of my mother, but somewhere it made me stand tall and find myself in a different way. I have learned to be more independent, I am very sensitive emotionally, but I’ve learned how to give it a direction. I think life is the best teacher and you can’t just speak on one incident; it is an amalgamation of a lot of experiences together.
Q. What obstacles did you face when you first started out? What inspires you or motivates you the most?
I never had someone who told me they will give me a launch that I dreamt of. I had to start from the base level. I had to carve my own niche, find my own kind of people, and my own kind of roles. My mother was very instrumental, she always motivated me to take up roles and said that I must show the world that I can act. I was waiting for a good break, but my mother said no one is going to give me a break unless they see that I’m a good actor. I needed to pick up roles and to prove myself in whatever comes my way. I started taking up roles and before I knew it, I was nominated for many awards, people started to notice me and write roles tailored to me. So, it’s been a long and beautiful journey, not many people can say that they’ve had an active, 25 year-long career and still going strong. I feel like I am in the best phase of my life right now.
Q. You’re an inspiration for many, what do you have to say to the upcoming talent?
I think the upcoming talent is very hardworking and they are like a whiff of fresh air. They are enthusiastic and very focused. I really admire a lot of newcomers and the new lot, they are super talented like – Ranveer, Alia, Ranbir. They are really good at their work. I think one doesn’t have to inspire anybody, everyone has their own journey and their unique way. All I have to say is if you love it, you need to just have patience to pursue it because it’s not easy.