“HELLO, I am Digangana Suryavanshi. And I am very happy to share with you the top 10 moments of my journey so far as an actress, singer and author.”
First time on set: I used to say, “I want to be on TV”, when I was one and a half years old, as mother still fondly recalls. I insisted on acting and promised I wouldn’t miss out on studies, so my parents supported me on my journey. They believed in me and my passion. After a few auditions, I was cast in a leading episodic show and balanced it with school. My first day on set was like a miracle. Living the dream! I loved the camera and was comfortable with the dialogues and expressions. The director told papa, “acting is a natural instinct in your daughter.” I was seven years old and these words stayed with me.
Princess diaries: I had finished a few TV shows and advertisements by the time I was 11. I was also already writing stories and songs. My first music album as a singer released when I was 11. Then I signed a show called Shakuntala on Star One, where I played princess Gauri. Soon after the show aired, many people started calling me princess and it remained with me. This show has been close to me. It was the first time people noticed I didn’t use glycerine to cry onscreen and was away from home shooting in another city, three months at a stretch. Shakuntala brings a smile on my face even today at 22.
Story and serial: My first novel Nixie The Mermaid And The Power Of Love released on my 16th birthday. That was also the day when I gave my first interview for the Star Plus show Veera where I played the title role. This was my first long-running TV serial in a lead role. Veera became a popular show and people were surprised I had written a novel.
Studying and shooting: Veera became an established show and I’m forever grateful. I remember six to 10 demanding scenes in a day. Daily soaps are known for emotional scenes, so tears became an almost everyday routine. I would always cry without glycerine for all my scenes and that hasn’t changed. From age seven to now at 22, it has always been real tears. I remember having to manage my 12th board exams while shooting. I didn’t study the entire year, as I was shooting daily. There were six subjects and 10 days before my exams I had to start from scratch. I would study in-between gaps in shooting; my brain almost felt like a machine. I was determined to complete my education and scored 77 per cent in the 12th board exams.
Birthday and Bigg Boss: I was offered Bigg Boss 9, hosted by Salman Khan, right after Veera went off air. I also marked my 18th birthday in the Bigg Boss house and that made me the youngest contestant to have ever been part of the show. I had never lived without my parents until then and could only trust myself. I had never cooked or cleaned, so everything was new. But I discovered strength in me and spent eight weeks in the house. I had to come out as I had gotten typhoid. But what makes me happy is that the audience never evicted me and the media wrote that my image remained intact.
TV to film: After Bigg Boss, I wished to venture into film and decided to take a break from TV. It wasn’t an easy decision and I knew refusing delicious offers on TV for film came with no guarantees, but my parents supported me. This time taught me discipline and tough decision-making. It gave me more belief in myself than ever. I lost weight, worked on myself as an actor, and started the struggle from scratch. Although I was very well known on TV, films were an absolutely fresh start.
First film: On my 20th birthday, I got a call for a film and met the director, Abhishek Dogra. He had seen my past work and I fit the role. I got the part and for the first time heard ‘leading lady of the film’. This was my Bollywood debut film FryDay with Govinda, and also my first in comedy.
Double Bollywood debut: While shooting for FryDay, I was called from Vishesh Films to test for their film. All the casting was done, but the film demanded two leading ladies and they were looking for the second. I was shooting for FryDay in Delhi and landed in Mumbai, post our schedule to audition for Jalebi. I got the part that same day and signed the contract. I completed shooting for both films and both released on the same day. I freaked out when I heard Fryday and Jalebi are releasing on the same day, as I had a leading role in both films. I wasn’t sure if this is a good idea, but Abhishek Dogra simply said: “Don’t worry Digangana, you are making history with a double debut.” I smiled and am still so grateful.
Gratitude: On October 12, 2018, both my films released. I took a moment to believe I had just watched myself on the big screen. This also reminded me of people who said it was a stupid decision to switch from TV to films. They’d say, “What do you think, you can make it to the movies? You aren’t even from a film background! Don’t waste time!” But I continued believing and the day my films released, I was only thanking my parents and God for having faith in me.
Southern comfort: Right after my Hindi films, I ventured into Telugu and Tamil films. People assumed things, but for me it was about striking a balance between Hindi, Telugu, and Tamil films. I don’t speak Telugu and Tamil, but memorised all my lines and found a connection to relate to when I’d act. I’ve discovered I love acting, singing, and writing beyond measure. I still think that the journey has just begun for me.
Digangana Suryavanshi is an acclaimed actress, singer and writer.