In a career spanning across more than two decades, Divya Dutta has delivered a number of searing performances on celluloid. The best part about her is that there are no limits on her range and she never ends up portraying the same role twice.
Dutta can be currently seen in Hotstar Specials’ latest webseries Special OPS. The series, boasting of an ensemble cast including the very talented Kay Kay Menon, reunites the actress with maverick filmmaker Neeraj Pandey after Special 26 (2013).
In conversation with Eastern Eye, Divya Dutt shares that Pandey is the only filmmaker she can say yes to even without reading the script. The actress also opens up about her process of selecting diverse roles, her character in Special OPS, and what is that she stands for as an artist.
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You are one of the few actresses who is always keen on projects that look different and interesting. What is it that attracts you to such scripts?
I think it is mutual. They get attracted to me and I get attracted to them. But I think it is not a sudden thing that happens; you have to work on it. People do not like to see you doing just the similar stuff every time, and for that you have to say a lot of ‘no’ to be able to say that one ‘yes’. Then, I think, it just makes a way for people to think that you cannot give her the same role as she won’t do it. That is how different roles have started coming to me.
It has been really beautiful because I have worked with so many of my directors who have been on my wish list. Right from Neeraj Pandey, Dibakar Banerjee, Sudhir Mishra, etc. So, I think, I am having a ball and it is great to see yourself in the mirror feeling different, looking different, nervous and excited and thinking that what kind of novelty should I bring into this new project.
Would you like to tell something about your character in Special OPS?
She is a refugee, and she has a sister who she looks after and her life has been in a lot of turmoil. She is a surprise package. That’s all I will say.
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There are a few filmmakers whom actors say yes to even before reading the script. Is Neeraj Pandey one of them for you?
I just said that and Neeraj is the only one I do that with. He is the only one. I would not do that with anybody else. The first thing is I love the guy for the cinema he makes and the person he is. He is so dependable. He will not call you until he thinks that there is something right for you. It has been a seven year long wait for me after Special 26 to be doing this and I have chewed his brains that why I am not in this? When are you are going to do a film with me? Where are you?
So then one fine day I get a call from him and then he says, ‘Now keep quiet and just come. There is a beautiful role for you’. I literally jumped because I loved being on his set. You are on the edge, you are always on the move and no thinking to be done, no homework to be done because everything is done already. I just go have a blast. I am like a little child on the sets.
Actors come with a certain purpose, their art stands for something according to them. What is it that stands for you?
It is my life. I realized it now that sometimes a person has a purpose in life. Sometimes I around my family, friends am leading a very normal stereotypical life. I mean the family lives and everything. Then I feel I probably come with a purpose of doing a lot of acting and this takes all of my time, all of my attention. Everything that I could probably be passionate about is acting. So, I am having a blast just doing this and I think that just is my calling and I just want to be keep rediscovering myself.
I mean it is very rare that you start off with multi-starrers, doing inane stuff where you are a sweet face with a good smile doing nothing, feeling frustrated about the same because there is no godfather or no one who says “take her”. ‘You have to make your own place,’ once my mother said, adding, ‘How would they know you are a good actor?’ So, taking on, picking on those roles which probably you would think I do not want to do because I just want to become a heroine. But after playing a strong character, you actually come on to doing actual product. It is a journey. It is my journey and I feel supremely happy about it.
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This is the first web show that you are doing. Did you say yes to it because it was being directed by Neeraj Pandey or were you open to the idea of doing a web series?
Web series have been around for past two years. I have done nothing despite the fact that I had been offered a lot. This was the first one I did.
Yes, it is Neeraj Pandey, for sure. It is Hotstar and I wanted to begin well because when I came into the film industry, I had done a lot of mistakes and now I try to do those projects which please my mind and I really like working with him. So, my beginnings have been beautiful and my second one following it is also lovely. So yes, Neeraj Pandey, for sure.
There is always something to learn from every character that you play and you seem to take something for the next one that you do. How has your learning graph been?
I don’t know. What you are saying, my best friend told me the other day. She was saying, ‘I am seeing a different you and like you are on some different trip’. But I just feel that when you are in totally love with something, you want to keep finding new ways of being special otherwise the audience is so smart that they will be like, ‘I have seen her a lot’. It has been 25 years and they have not had enough of me and I think that feels so beautiful.
Special OPS is streaming on Hotstar Specials.