In an industry where most of the celebrities speak measured words to voice their views and opinions, Divya Dutta comes across as a whiff of fresh air. An actress who is fearless when it comes to speaking her mind. She is someone who doesn't believe in putting things in sugar coated words and that's exactly what leaves you impressed when you strike a conversation with her.
At the same time, you can sense a heaviness in her voice when she fondly remembers her mother who she considers as the most powerful figure in her life.
We recently caught up with Divya for an exclusive chat where she spoke about her memoir 'Me & Maa', how her mother left a lasting impact on her, why box office numbers ain't her game and much more.
Excerpts from the interview...
'My Mother Made Me A Confident Person'
Q. Firstly congratulations for your book, 'Me & Ma' which is a tribute to your mother and said to be capturing the beauty of a mother-daughter relationship. Could you share some insights about what the book has in store for us.
A. All kids have a very unconditional and the most purest form of relationship they would ever have with their mothers. So, moms are very special. I had a little more stronger bond than the usual with my mother. There are various roles which I have played with her. Be it her daughter or her best friend and then be her mother as well. So, I think there are so many things that every part of my life, whatever I have done big or small, mistakes or achievements; she has stood by me and been an integral part of everything. There was so much I wanted to talk about.
Right from my childhood, be it my complexes or no confidence, suddenly she turned me into somebody who was self-assured. I wanted to share that and she was a total ideal mom. I miss her and her physical form but I know that she is around me for everything, giving me strength. So, every chapter in my book ‘Me & Ma' states an anecdote talking about a phase of my life. It talks about how I was and how she left an impact on me.
Q. You also give credit to your mother as the force behind your achievements. What impact did she have on you during your growing years?
A. I think the most important gift a parent can give to the child is to not judge and to give parental support unconditionally. I had both these things. Even when I took the decision to be an actor, coming from an academically inclined family where everyone wanted me to be a doctor, my mother stood by me saying, 'This is your dream and I stand with you.' For me as a teenager, it mattered that my mother believed in my dream. Today, I couldn't thank her enough because it is very rare that you do what you want to do in life.
Half of the times people just go about doing their stuff because it is a job for them or a way of life. And sometimes you forget what you really wanted to do. I am fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do and had her support. Even when I made mistakes, I was never hesistant or hid it from her. I would just go to her and she would guide me. I was never judged. She made me a confident person. It is not easy to be by yourself in an industry which throngs on people pushing each other, groupism and all that. So, when you are a one-man army, you need lots of confidence and I got that from her.
Q. A lot of Bollywood celebrities are penning memoirs these days. It's good for the audience too as they get to know the celebs close and personal. But at the same time, do you think there might be a fear of getting judged because the audience already has created a certain perception about them. Do you think that being too honest at times could invite backlash instead?
A. It's not what you say. Instead it's about how you say it. I could say anything about myself but if I put it in a way that is relatable to you, you would accept it. As far as writing is concerned, my book is different from the others because I have penned every single line. It's all coming from me. I had an editor who edited it for me but it's my way of narrating it. Of course, I wanted to be honest, be it my performances..if you are not honest with your audience or readers then there is no point in it. I think people are intelligent enough to find out if a person is saying the truth or not. Good or bad, that's me. When you write a book, you do end up sharing a lot of personal things but you are prepared for it.
'I Pick Up Films By My Instinct'
Q. Talking about films, the trailer of your next , the suspense-thriller 'Irada' has been received well. Going by the looks of it, the film seems to be revolving around a social environmental issue. We rarely get to see such concepts in Bollywood. Is that why you took up this film?
A. I pick up films by my instinct. I don't see the larger issues of it. The film is backed by a good team, the director has written it beautifully. There is Naseer Saab and Arshad- a combo I really wanted to work with. My role was exceptionally good, something which I haven't done before. I see these reasons and then of course, the script is meaningful and it's saying something and taking it with a big cause, of course that made me take up this film.
'The Ownership Of Box Office Numbers Lies With The Heroes Or Those Top Four-Five People'
Q. You have given several memorable performances and been a part of many hard-hitting films. Unfortunately, a few of them didn't work at the box office. Since you have been in the industry for so long, do you think that reducing a film to mere numbers takes away the essence of a film?
A. Firstly, I think I had more hits than the not so bigger actors. Be it Veer Zara, Badlapur, Stanley Ki Dabba or Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, all these films have been major hits. Secondly, I am an actor. Your numbers don't depend on me. So, that is not my game. My thing is you see me in a film, love me in it and take me back with you. That's my mantra. I think the ownership of box office numbers lies with the heroes or those top four-five people. For the rest, it's about good films, good performances and good marketing.
'It's A Sad Truth That Ours Is A Hero-Oriented Industry'
Q. The term 'women-oriented' is very casually used these days to define a film which has a female as the central protagonist. Do you think it's correct to segment cinema on the basis of gender?
A. We may talk about equal rights all the time. But it's a sad truth that ours is a hero-oriented industry. People before coming to watch a film ask who is the hero in it and then they will talk about the actress. I may do the same thing too. We have been fed that way. Everything is hero-oriented. So, if a film is without a male actor or has a female as the main protagonist, we end up calling it a women-oriented film.
I think Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut and all these girls are making a statement in the sense that they are doing good films with heroes but they have equal roles in it. So, it's a great combo of perfectly balanced movies. But of course, you can't have films made just like that. I would say that for me it's either a good film or a bad one. It doesn't work like Hollywood oriented, women-oriented or commercial. It's good or bad, watchable or not watchable. That's it.
'As A Celeb, You Just Can't Open Your Mouth & Blurt Out Things That Might Affect In A Bad Way'
Q. Nowadays celebrities are quite vocal on the social media about the happenings around them. Sadly at times, their statements get misconstrued and made into a hue and cry. What do you feel is more important for a celeb- to have an opinion or to express it?
A. If you have an opinion then you should express it. But ya, you have to see the repercussions of what you have to say. As a celeb, you just can't open your mouth and blurt out things that might affect in a bad way. But saying so, we are living in a democratic country and we have the right to express what we have to say. If some people are a concern then you can block then. But, I have been fortunate not to be trolled that much yet. (smiles)
'Why Would You Cease Your Dreams Because You Are Not A Kid Anymore?'
Q. One of the chapters in your book 'Me & Ma' mentions an incident where you had prepared a mono-act written by your mother for an audition and were too nervous to perform it before the judges. You wrote that, at that moment your mother had kissed your forehead and told you, 'Give your dreams your best'. Do you still stand by that motto even today despite of all the ups and downs in life?
A. Why wouldn't I stick to it? I am heading towards 40s now. I have lots more to do and a new phase coming up. Why would you cease your dreams because you are not a kid anymore? I know that somewhere my mother is still kissing my forehead and saying, 'Go, get your dreams'. I think if you don't live your dreams then you stop living. You should have a certain vision of you saying this is what I want to do. When I started, I didn't even know if I would be an actor. But I did become one. Now, I want to do bigger and better films. The dreams might get changing but they will always be there in my life.
Q. Lastly, what's next in the pipeline post Irada?
A. After Irada, I have a film called Babumoshai Bandookbaaz with Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Then there is one with Ranveer Shorey and a film with Nitin Kakkar. I am also working on two other multistarrer films.