Diana Penty avoids working in films that are easily forgotten

Bollywood actress Diana Penty, who is playing the role of an NGO Gayatri Kashyap in the upcoming Farhan Akhtar starrer Lucknow Central got in a candid interview with the leading Indian daily, where she talks about how her career in films that led to an altercations in her demenour.

Speaking about the transition from a model to actress in the film industry, Diana said, “I had never planned to become an actor. While I was modelling in New York, I got a call from Homi Adajania and Dinesh Vijan (director and producer, respectively, of Cocktail), who were planning to launch a new face. Though I was happy doing what I was doing at that time, I decided to explore the opportunity. I auditioned not knowing anything about acting, but I think that they liked the innocence and nervousness that I exuded because that worked for the character.”

Talking about how people often recognize her as non Indian, she said, “I grew up in South Mumbai and I am a total homebody, so I was not seen around. I guess that’s the reason many believed that I wasn’t Indian or can’t speak Hindi. Actually, my Hindi is not as bad as people think it is; it’s just that I am nervous, so I avoid speaking the language. I even ask for my script in Devanagari because it helps improve pronunciation.”

Diana has given powerful performances in the past with films like Cocktail and Happy Bhag Jayegi. At present, she has two films this year – Lucknow Central and Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran. When asked about what makes her go slow in doing films, unlike her peers, Diana said, “Well, I have two films this year and that sounds cooler than saying that I did four films in five years (laughs). I wasn’t in a hurry back then because I was launched in a certain way, and the bar was already set high. So, I wanted to continue doing substantial roles, irrespective of their length. Yes, it took me a while to find my second film, but it was a conscious decision to wait for a role that’s different from what I did in Cocktail. What’s the point of playing Meera in another film with a different name? Happy was totally unlike Meera — she was loud, spontaneous and impulsive. And now, there’s Gayatri in Lucknow Central, who is measured, balanced, sensible and real.”

Talking about whether she made a deliberate decision to not do films that categorized her as the new hot girl in the industry, she said, “I don’t want to be part of films that are easily forgotten. I won’t sign a film thinking, ‘Oh my God! I don’t have a film so I’ve got to sign one real quickly’. Films are not a part-time job. They take months to make and require long-time commitment; so, you can’t do a half-hearted job.”

On asking about people perceiving her unfriendly owing to her reserved nature, she said, “If you are quiet, you are perceived as super-unfriendly. It happens all the time and it’s a challenge because you cannot force people to believe otherwise. You cannot hold a placard that says, ‘I am a nice person’. However, once people get to know the real me, they admit that they misjudged me. And then, I wonder, ‘What took you so long to figure that out?’

As Diana is aloof from social media game, she was asked about whether she had to undergo personality changes in order to fit in the same, to which Diana replied, “Well, I used to have a bio. It read, ‘That girl in that movie’ because that’s what people called me after Cocktail. But once I signed other movies, I took it off. I was more reserved earlier. Now, I am more myself as I have grown personally and professionally, but it still takes me a couple of meetings to break the ice. Also, it’s true that I had to alter my personality a bit. Initially, I was not comfortable with social media; I couldn’t get used to the idea of being so open with people I have never met. Besides, I am very measured. I think 500 times before I do or say something. Even when I am taking a picture, I think, ‘I can’t post a random picture’. It should mean something. I am particular and anal about things being right. I guess I think too much.”

Adding further she spoke about the challenges she faced to make a place for herself in this competitive business.

“My personality definitely comes in the way. Nobody has told me that directly, but it’s a fact that with this job, people expect you to be more social and outgoing. At the same time, I also feel that it’s not impossible to do it the other way. At the end of the day, your work should speak for itself. Making people notice you because of your work holds more weight than them noticing you for reasons that are secondary or frivolous,” said Diana.

Intimidated to work with Farhan Akhtar in Lucknow Central, Diana shared her experience by stating, “Yes, it was intimidating to be working with such a talented cast, but I always liked how understated Farhan is as an actor. He comes well prepared on the set. That was quite refreshing, since most actors are not like that. They learn their lines on the set.”

Speaking about Mika’s comments over Diana as he joked about her surname (He had said, “She is Diana Panty, I am Mika Kachcha”), Diana said, “I have no issues about people making fun of me as long as it’s in good humour. I am not the kind to take offence, but there is a certain place and time for everything. A line needs to be drawn somewhere. I respect others and I’ll never be ungraceful, so I expect the same from others. To each his own but at that time, I felt that it was uncalled for and the manner in which he did it wasn’t appropriate.”

On speaking about people’s limited understanding of beauty and their obsession towards the same, Diana said, “It takes an hour or two of make-up and styling for us to look this way. A lot of factors contribute to how we look and there’s photoshop over and above that. Every young girl, who aspires to look like a model or an actress should know that we don’t wake up looking like this. Most girls are unaware of this and it’s unfair on them. Also, I won’t promote something blindly. Being a public figure comes with a certain responsibility. Even if you are influencing only five people, you have to be responsible.”

Talking about her relationship and the benefits to not have a boyfriend from the industry, Diana said, “My boyfriend is not from the film industry and technically, even I am not; so, we are on the same page and he keeps me grounded. I go to work, do my thing and go back home. Our conversation doesn’t predominantly revolve around films. You want to disconnect sometimes and he, my mom and a bunch of close friends help me do that.”