Divya Dutta has given us some of the most memorable and relatable roles we have witnessed so far – from Shabbo in Veer-Zaara to Ishri in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and last year, she went with her instinct to play the inspirational character of Anjali in Manjunath. Repeatedly refusing to be categorized into any class of actors, she has blazed a trail of her own and does not plan to stop anytime soon.

Divya Dutta Manjunath

Divya Dutta in Manjunath

What made you take up Anjali’s role in Manjunath? Was it the idea of playing a crusader that attracted you?

It wasn’t the idea of playing a crusader that made me take it up. I think there was a certain sincerity and genuineness about the role. Anjali could be any of us. We all sit and talk about subjects that bother us. We see them on the news channels and feel so bad that somebody should do something. But here is a woman who got up and said, “Let me be that person who makes a change.” These are the things we keep talking about and here somebody actually tried doing it. I myself like to do that, make a little change wherever I can. I got really inspired by Anjali so I took it up. Even though we had never met, Sandeep (Varma, Director) was very sure that he wanted me to play Anjali.


So how did Sandeep Varma approach you for the role, without having even met you?

I got the role in the strangest way. Sandeep just called me and said he knows that I do not know him at all. And then for the first time in my life, I heard a story over the phone and even said yes over the phone itself. That was Sandeep’s convincing power.

It was largely an instinctual decision then?

I was always go with my instinct. Here is a good director who is making a film with great passion and sincerity. For me, I feel sincerity really works and I’m glad I came on board with this.


manjunath poster

Manjunath Poster

Did you also meet the real Ms. Anjali in person while preparing for the role?

No, I didn’t but I did see her eventually.

How did you prepare for this role? Were there any workshops and training or do you opt for method acting?

I am not a method actor at all. I just go on set, feel something from the core of my heart and just give it my best.

You once said that you relate to your character closely because that’s how you too are as a person. Is it really so?

Yes, I do feel so. I definitely can’t take things hands down when they need to be given attention. I like to speak my mind and I like to do something about it.

When you do such real and demanding roles, do you tend to get emotionally invested and does that take a toll on you personally too?

Of course you get emotionally invested when you feel it from the core of your heart. A method actor would be able to work on it and avoid the attachment as she prepares. On the other hand, if you go into it instinctively, feel it from the core of your heart, which is something very difficult I would say, then you really feel the role and it does take a toll on you. So I try to switch on and switch off but in many situations it just doesn’t happen because we are all human beings and situations move us. So yes, you take it in your stride and eventually you do overcome them.

A still from Manjunath

A still from Manjunath

Till date all your characters have had a feel-good element to them and now we hear about Chalk and Duster where you’re playing a negative role. How has the experience been?

(laughs) There is nothing feel-good there definitely. I was a little apprehensive about it because as you say, people do see me as a feel-good actor. In fact, I was surprised that I was offered this role in the first place. The director was very clear that he wanted me to play the role. Shabana Azmi pulled my leg because she knows she’s my favorite and I was going to have to be nasty to her. It was great because I got to work with Shabana ji and Juhi (Chawla). It was also nice to play a stereotypical Bollywood villain – to be the antagonist who everyone is trying to fight. Once I started playing nasty, I started enjoying the dark side.

So did you face any challenges initially while preparing or getting into the character?

As I told you, I get into the role on the set. When I did go there, I was trying to find out how to get out the darker side of me. I was a little disoriented initially but then I started to enjoy it. It was fun to do something I’d never done before. I had such fabulous actors with me, who always inspired me and were very encouraging.


We are seeing a lot more of you onscreen after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Badlapur and it is very heartening, I must say. We have heard about your upcoming films like Lucknow Times, Aayee Bala Ko Taal Tu and Chalk and Duster. Please tell us more about your future endeavors.

Yes, I’m doing all of these and a film with Shyam Benegal as well. I also just signed a film with Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi called Irada. I have my hands full right now with a lot of diverse work. It should start showing next October onwards.

Any international collaborations?

Yes, I am expecting to do one in June next year.