“Writing is a new journey for me”

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It wasn’t just actor Anupam Kher who boldly announced in his class that his goal in life was to become an actor when teachers asked students about their goals in life. This had happened with the famous actress Divya Dutta as well as at the Sacred Heart Convent School in Ludhiana. Additionally, she was called in by her school principal and reprimanded for harboring such a “strange” goal. Ironically, 25 years after this incident, the same Divya was invited to her school with the Minister of Education of Punjab as the main guest for an event. To date, she has appeared in over 60 mainstream films, several content-driven and international productions. Her characters in films such as Veer Zaara, Delhi-6, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Irada, Special 26 and others have made her an actress every director wants in their projects.
After creating a fanbase with her captivating performances in films, Divya is now winning hearts with her writing skills. She made her debut as an author with her book Me and Ma. The success of her first book led her to write the next one – The Stars in My Sky. The book talks about her journey in the film industry and the people who helped her become a great actress. Divya was recently in Bhubaneswar to attend the Kalinga Literary Festival where she received the Kalinga Literary Award (Woman Writer) for her book The Stars In My Sky.
During her short stay in the city, the charismatic actress, in a candid chat with Sunday POST, opened up about her new book, her inspiration, her journey in the film industry and more
Questions.

What meaning does this literary prize have for you after having obtained several recognitions as an actor?

It always feels good to be recognized for playing. But writing is very new to me and I’m grateful and excited to have received this award for my literary works. It’s a new trip for me. My mother would have been very happy with it.
What is the motivation behind your writing?
First, I started writing articles for a newspaper. Once a woman came to me and appreciated my column which had inspired her in life. It worked as a trigger. So, after the death of my mother, I wanted to celebrate her life and her parenthood. Thus, my first book Me and Ma was born and was well received by readers. No wonder they demanded the following. So I planned The Stars In My Sky which chronicles my journey into the world of cinema and its people.
Tell us about your background and experience in the glamorous world.
It’s exciting. Here, no one says “no” to your face. When I started, most people I approached for work promised to make films with me. At one point, I signed 22 films but none of them rolled. Although I worked in several films before, the real recognition came with Train to Pakistan. The role in Veer Zaara was also an important step in my career. Nonetheless, the film industry is a fabulous place. But you have to work hard to be in the game.
Which stars have inspired you the most?
No prizes for guessing. Amitabh Bachchan wrote the foreword to this book and also published my first book. He’s a superstar for a reason. I made my first film with him in Baghban. But I was not happy with my role because it was a negative role. However, he made me realize that this was just a character I was playing. He treated me with so much love and respect. How many superstars do that to a newcomer?
Next is the versatile Shabana Azmi. I had my first opportunity to work with her at Umrao Jaan. She and Javed Akthar always encourage me and give me positive feedback. I’m lucky enough to work with her in films like Chalk N Duster and Sheer Qorma.
Your poem recitation at Kapil Sharma Show and lockdown poem went viral. Can we expect a book on poetry now?
Well, the lines I recited on Kapil’s show were written by my brother and the poem Jab Sab Theek Hoga was written by me during the coronavirus lockdown. Actually, Javed Ji (Akthar) said he would print my book, but seriously, I’m more prose than poetry.
Why don’t we use our literary resources for films?
It is not that. You can say that the number of films based on classics has decreased. Previously, works by people like Amrita Pritam, Bhisham Sahni and Vikram Chandra have been adapted into films. So this has happened in the past and I’m sure the trend will return.
Do you think character actors these days have more opportunities than
before?
Yes, you’re right. More content-driven films are now being made than before. It used to be that good actors (not stars) have been seen popping up in blink and miss you type roles in mainstream movies. But now they are getting their due.
It is said that streaming platforms are the future of entertainment. What would you say about this?
It is not like that. I believe big screens, OTT platforms and other forms of entertainment can coexist.
What are your future plans?
Besides Dhaakad which is set to release, there is Dibakar Banerjee’s film. I also work in Sharma Ji Ki Beti directed by Tahira Kashyap. That aside, there are two international projects and a few web shows I’m working on at the moment..

Arindam Ganguly, op

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