by ASJAD NAZIR.

River of dreams.

ACTRESS DEBINA BONNERJEE ON RISING UP FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO FIND TELEVISION SUCCESS AND A DREAM LIFE.

VERSATILE actress Debina Bonnerjee has impressed audiences with a series of winning performances in diverse projects and made a name for herself as a strong symbol of girl power.

The Kolkata-born beauty has also gained positive attention for being a fitness advocate, her fashion choices and winning personality away from work. The wife of talented actor Gurmeet Choudhary is also one half of a popular celebrity couple, who has fans around
the world and regularly sets relationship goals.

Eastern Eye caught up with Debina to speak about her rise from a humble beginning,
successful marriage, inspirations, balancing work with home life and more.

Do you remember that first moment you got inspired as a youngster?
Actually, it happened by chance. I got hooked to this field of glamour and entertainment when I was around 10-years-old. That was the year Sushmita Sen won the Miss Universe contest. She was all over the magazines and media in Kolkata because she was a Bengali and a teenager. I thought if a teenage Bengali girl can conquer the universe at such a young age, then why can’t I also do something big? So that is when I started nurturing the
dream of becoming a model, but not an actor. But I didn’t know how I could make it happen and thought, telling my parents would sound weird.

What happened next?
I had the dream, but didn’t know how to go about it. Then I saw in a newspaper there was an entry for Miss Kolkata and dropped it in front of my mother and nervously asked, ‘what if I participate?’. She said, ‘okay, talk to your dad’, but I asked her to talk to him. She took it seriously and spoke to my dad, who was even more serious about it. He clicked some photos of mine and sent the entry. I was so surprised that they were very supportive.

You were young and still at school when you participated in that first pageant, how was it?
That was my first experience of anything like that. Out of 200 girls, I got selected into the top 20. That itself was a big boost for me. But because of lack of experience and preparation, I got eliminated in the first round of the final. And I remember, when those who were eliminated went back home, I stayed and watched until the end even though my
mum wanted to leave as it was getting late. But I sat there, watched the girls going to the next round, trying to observe them and learn.

That of course helped when you entered other beauty pageants and won?
Yes. I competed in the main Miss Kolkata contest and won. There was no looking back after that. I started doing plenty of TV commercials, print ads and so on. After a few years, I had done all the brands in Kolkata and was starting to run out of brands to model for. Then I thought, if I want to keep working I must go to Mumbai. The transition was easy because my parents never said no and they really helped me. And after coming to Mumbai, acting happened just by chance.

How was that?
A director stopped me and asked, ‘is this your picture?’. When I said yes, he said he’d been looking for me for the past couple of days. He was a Telugu film director and said he wanted to cast me for his film. For that he asked me to do a look test. I didn’t trust him so
we met at my friend’s office and I gave an audition. He signed me and that’s how my first film happened.

When did you feel comfortable acting?
(Laughs). Actually, I didn’t know whether I could act or not. Everything just kind of happened naturally. After winning the beauty pageant I was called for an audition for a TV commercial, where I had to act. Going in, I saw a top model and when I finished I met Celina Jaitly, who was a top model at that time in Kolkata. So I thought when such known people are there, I have no chance. However, I gave my 100 per cent. I learned early on that whatever is going on, you must finish the job in hand. So I gave my audition and went
home. At that time we didn’t have mobile phones. When I reached home my dad informed me that the agents called and said I was selected.

I immediately went for a costume trial and shooting started two days after. That is when I got a reassurance I can also act.

Which of your roles is closest to your heart?
I think every project has its own importance. When you have three children you can’t say ‘I love this one more’. Obviously, Ramayan will always be very close to our hearts because that is the project that gave us recognition and enabled me to do the kind of acting even I wasn’t expecting out of me. I even surprised myself!

You met your husband Gurmeet Choudhary very early on in your career and starred in hit serial Ramayan together. What did you most like about him those days?
We developed a strong friendship, so I kind of knew he was the one. (Laughs). Initially, Gurmeet was at his worst in front of me and then I got to discover his good side. I understood that he was very honest and would never talk behind someone’s back. I felt that this guy is different from others.

Who made the first move?
We started liking each other, but he was very slow to propose, despite telling everyone else he liked me. (Laughs). Finally, I only asked him, ‘do you want to say you love me?’ and to get to the point instead of just beating around the bush.

Debina Bonnerjee with husband Gurmeet Choudhary

What is the secret of your successful marriage?
We have never tried to be anything in front of each other or to each other. Everything comes naturally. We started seeing each other at our worst, like when we were nobody, had no money, no fashion sense, no etiquette, nothing. We grew and learned everything together.

We’ve discovered life together. That has made our bond grow stronger. I know his likes and he knows the same about me, so we open up new horizons for one another.

Tell us a secret about Gurmeet not many people know?
(Laughs). He can eat anything under the sun. I think there must be something wrong with his taste buds. In Bangkok, on a roadside stall, we saw small tiny eggs and god knows where they were from. He said he can eat that, I said ‘are you sure, you don’t even know what egg that is’. But he ate it and said it tasted the same as other eggs. Also, there were fried insects available in Thailand and he actually tried them.

Debina Bonnerjee with husband Gurmeet Choudhary

How do you balance work and home?
I find it very easy because I love multi-tasking. When I’ve nothing to do I’d get bored and take up other people’s work for myself. I pretty much manage the home. Even when I am at the shooting, I will call home and make sure everything is fine. I love taking care of everything – from home to my shooting material to shopping and selecting the right spices for food. I love doing it all.

You and Gurmeet are fitness fanatics. Who works harder in the gym?
These days I am more motivated at the gym.

What are your big passions away from work?
I really love to travel whenever possible.

What are your fashion inspirations?
Anything that gives me a quick high and the feeling that I just love it, inspires me. So it’s more a feeling, but I do get inspired by anything.

Do you have a favourite fashion accessory?
I have a fetish for shoes.

Do you have a dream role?
My dream character would be an army woman. I have played everything from comedy to a queen, but people do not know that I am a very strong woman. I look petite, but I am very strong, so would love to do an army action-type of role.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Rani Mukerji had once told me at my first beauty pageant in Kolkata that ‘you should always smile because it brings you closer to people’. I used to smile very less and took that on board.

What motivates you?
The wonderful world we live in motivates me. It could be a beautiful culture, a destination or just meeting new people. Staying fit also motivates me greatly because I have not seen most of the world and really want to. For that, I need to stay fit. Fitness is not just about being thin or looking good, but being internally fit, being on your toes and always ready for the next challenge.

Finally, can you give a message for your fans?
They have loved me and every character I’ve played. They have also loved us as a couple. We’ve kept exploring ourselves so that our fans are entertained and will keep doing that. And I mean, relentlessly. We wake up early and go for our morning jog and do so much hard work just because we have that desire to work hard for our fans. I just love them all.

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