Salute to lockdown heroes
EMBRACING LIFE: Diana Penty
ACTRESS DIANA PENTY ON HER DEBUT MALAYALAM RELEASE AND WHY SHE SET UP THE KHAKI PROJECT
by ASJAD NAZIR
BOLLYWOOD star Diana Penty has always been an enigma and done things on her own terms.
The stunning model turned actress has shown amazing star presence in carefully selected projects and has very much concentrated on quality over quantity. She is now exploring new cinematic horizons and that mission has begun with her debut Malayalam film Salute opposite south Indian superstar Dulquer Salmaan. This will be one of the many exciting projects that will delight her legion of fans around the world.
Eastern Eye caught up with Diana to talk about her life in lockdown, forthcoming plans, the new Malayalam movie and the best advice she ever received.
Has lockdown enabled you to look back on your modelling and acting journey so far?
Maybe to a certain extent, but that wasn’t really my focus. I wasn’t sitting around thinking about my career as much as being concerned about the immense suffering the world was going through. That, in turn, made me think a lot about life and my part in it. Lockdown gave me much-needed time off – time to introspect and reflect. It was almost like hitting the reset button. I think it was the universe’s way of telling us to put the brakes on our lives, to be grateful for what we have, to stop complaining and start living life one day at a time. To be honest, I have always lived my life one day at a time, but last year only reinforced the importance of doing so.
What are the main things that got you through lockdown?
I was grateful to be home with my family during lockdown. I know a lot of people who were stuck out of town, by themselves, and can only imagine how tough it must have been for them to spend so many months alone. In fact, I was shooting just before lockdown and remember being on one of the last few flights back to Mumbai before they closed the airport. It was so comforting being at home with my family and spending such quality time with them. Not to mention with my dog, Victoria. We’ve had her about two years now and I had the opportunity to spend all of last year with her, so that was great.
How much did being able to give back through your initiative, the Khaki Project, help you?
The Khaki Project was our little way of giving back to frontline
workers; in this case, the police force for their dedicated service to us during the most difficult time the city has seen in years. It was our way of saying thank you to them for all they were doing. The Mumbai police were out on the streets day and night making sure we were home and safe, and we felt the least we could do was to help them stay safe while they were protecting us.
Tell us about the initiative?
Over a period of a few weeks, we managed to raise over Rs 1,700,000 (£16,455), which helped us to provide safety essentials to 34 police stations in Mumbai. More than 5,800 police personnel were given hand sanitisers and protective eyewear that would keep them going for at least a month. It was the very least we could do. It gave me a feeling of happiness to know that I was helping, even if in a small way.
Did you learn any new skills during the months in lockdown?
I honestly didn’t have the time to learn new skills because I spent most of my time doing household chores. Just like everyone else, we didn’t have outside house help during the lockdown. Whether it was attempting to cook, or doing laundry, the dishes and sweeping, it was a full-time job and quite exhausting. I was also quite busy with our initiative, the Khaki Project, which took up a lot of my time. All in all, there just weren’t enough hours in the day.
You are known to be selective about your work. How are you choosing projects these days?
I think that’s a misconception. Yes, I do find it important to relate to the script. I like being part of stories I find riveting and mean something to me. But I’ve realised that is often misunderstood for being super selective, which is not true. So this year, I have decided to go about things differently.
How do you mean?
I’m going to go with the flow, not overthink things, make quicker decisions and try to be a little more spontaneous on the work front. I want to grab every good opportunity that comes my way and make the most of it. I want to try and make up for all the lost time by doing a lot more films. I hope that by the end of the year, I can say that I was successful, fingers crossed.
Is that why you decided to do a Malayalam movie?
Like I said, I’ve decided not to overthink things this year and make the most of every good opportunity that comes my way. When my agency said there had been an inquiry for a Malayalam film, my first reaction was to freak out because it was a language I’m not at all familiar with. There wasn’t enough prep time, and I didn’t know how on earth I was going to learn my dialogues in time.
So what made you say yes?
I soon came to hear that it was a film directed by the renowned Rosshan Andrrews and starring Dulquer Salmaan, both of whom I had heard so much about. It wasn’t an opportunity I could let go of. So, I decided to look at it as a challenge and an adventure, And here I am, doing my first Malayalam film.
What has working with Dulquer Salmaan been like?
It has been a wonderful experience so far. I had heard a lot about Dulquer through common friends, and now that I’ve finally met him, I can safely say everything I had heard was true. He is one of the nicest people I have met, a true gentleman, and a great co-actor. I’ve noticed how kind and respectful he is, not just to the people he works with, but also to his fans. That really stood out for me. It’s been a pleasure working with him and with the whole cast and crew, who have been so warm and gracious.
What can we expect from the film?
The film seems to be turning out well. I’ve been watching some footage along the way, and it is looking very promising. So I’m quite hopeful that the audience will like it.
Is finding roles that satisfy you the biggest challenge?
To a certain extent. I’m the kind of person that needs to be 150 per cent sure of something before I get into it. In my line of work, that means feeling a script 100 per cent and relating to the character completely, which doesn’t necessarily happen with every script I come across. But if the story is something I truly believe in, then as an actor, it’s my job to find a way to make the character my own. When it comes to filmmaking, I’ve learnt not everything is black and white, and it’s important for an actor to acknowledge the grey and embrace it.
So can you now see yourself doing projects in the west?
I didn’t see myself doing a Malayalam film at the start of this year. So I guess certain things just happen when you least expect them to. You never know when a great opportunity might come knocking on your door. What’s important is to always be open and receptive to new things. And you have to send good vibes to the universe for it to send good things your way.
Your fashion and style are always spoken about. Can you see yourself doing something in that space?
Why not? I would love to. Fashion is an inherent part of me now. I began my career as a model in the fashion industry, and whatever I am today is because of that background. I enjoy fashion, so of course I would love to do something in that space. Maybe a collection of my own or something in the lifestyle and fashion space. I haven’t really thought about it in detail, but if an opportunity like that came my way, I would be very excited to explore it.
What is the best advice you ever got?
The best advice I have ever received was from my best friend of 25 years. We’ve known each other from our early school days, so it’s safe to say she knows me through and through. I’m a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist – I like things to be just right, and like to see things through to the end. But that’s not always possible, especially in my line of work. I’ve lost so much sleep worrying and fretting over the things I have no control over. So one day she told me that whenever I take on a project, I must give it my 110 per cent, after which I must learn to let go. I try to follow that advice to this day.
What is your plan moving forward?
My plan is to work extra hard this year and to do a lot more films. As I said, I’m going to embrace life and all the opportunities that come my way.
Finally, do you have a dream role?
I’m obsessed with spy and espionage as a genre, so I would love to play an undercover agent and do an action role in an espionage film. That would be my dream role.