One-on-one with Diana Penty!

Diana Penty is only a few films old, that too, spanned over a number of years but each one of her films has seen success. With three films releasing in close proximity in the last year or so, it seems to make sense that Diana wanted to take her time before choosing her next steps. Here’s our conversation with the woman who is careful about her decisions and has proven her versatility with her successes, be it Cocktail, Happy Bhaag Jayegi, or her most recent outing, Parmanu.

You seem excited about the release of Parmanu – it’s been a long time coming and it finally meets its day in theatres.

Yes, it was pushed a bit, and had a few little bumps along the way but now we are finally here. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m happy that we are finally able to release this film because the story that we worked on, we have a lot of pride in it. It is a story that we really wanted to tell and finally now, we can share it with the rest of the world.

After Cocktail, we didn’t see you for a while until Happy Bhaag Jayegi happened– it took you some time to sign your second film. But then you did three films that are very different, distinct from each other.

That was the point, actually.

So, that was part of the plan?

Yes, it was very much a part of the plan, which is why I took my time to figure out the way forward because initially, I did not know what to do next. I wasn’t sure what route I wanted to take and the kind of work that I wanted to do. The kinds of films I enjoy, what I don’t, what challenges me. Those are questions I had to figure out the answers to myself because I am not from the industry. I didn’t have a mentor, especially at that time, I was still fairly new. I did not have anyone to bounce ideas off of. I had to decide for myself what I wanted to do next and that took a while for me. I was still reading scripts but I was still confused.


Until Happy Bhaag Jayegi…

See, when I came across Happy Bhaag Jayegi, I realized that this was something I really wanted to do because it was also drastically different from my first film. The character was completely different from the first film. It would prove to people that I could play more than one typical character. I can play a shy, quiet Meera, but I can also play loud and boisterous Happy. It gave me the opportunity to bring some diversity and variation to my work.

And then, the third film and the fourth film, the genre and the characters that I got to play were so different.


You said that you had a hard time connecting with Happy initially – was that part of the challenge that drew you to that character?

Of course, of course it was. She was completely different from who I am – she was poles apart in every possible way – in everything I believe in. I speak very quietly in real life; Happy always spoke a decibel higher than what I am used to. It was crazy. I’m a very practical person. If you noticed her character, she is not practical in any way. Whatever came to her mind, she just says or does. I think five or six hundred times before I say or do something. Happy was a very spontaneous and loud person.


So how did you cope with the challenge?

A lot of times I remember saying to my director, like can we just tone her down a little bit (chuckles)? Like, can we make her a little bit normal? And I was told, you know that’s her character. And I’d be like, “but I don’t understand. Why would she be doing something like this in a situation like this?” I mean, I was told that I probably won’t understand so I did have to learn to be somebody else. I had to stop questioning why she was doing things so that the character could come naturally to me. I think that was part of the process of making Happy.

I remember even two or three months after the film, I was talking as loud as her – but I mean, in my real life, before Happy, that would have been shouting for me (laughs). I was speaking at that level on a regular basis. It was really alien for me and that was why it was challenging for me. It was so different than Meera. I was given the opportunity to show a certain amount of range in my work and that is what I really wanted to do.


You touched on this a little bit – actors sometimes say that they’ll play a role that is so different from them but it actually impacts the way they behave in real life after they finish shooting. I mean, Happy was so spontaneous and so carefree.

I think it does impact you to a certain extent. I think the core of you will never really change but certain things here and there do change. In order to play the character, you sort of have to own that both on and off screen. If you think about it, I had to do those scenes in front of an entire crew with people on the sets while they were watching me. I had to do those scenes which involved shouting and tons of dialogues and semi-swear words. So I did have to shed a certain amount of inhibitions. I used to be very quiet, very shy, very worried about what people would think about what I did. After I played that character, I think I let go of a lot of things and stopped caring so much about people judging or saying something. I decided this is what I want, this is what I want to do, and I don’t care if people think a certain way. I guess you’re right – to an extent, I did let go of my own inhibitions and definitely built more confidence through playing that character.


I think one of the reasons why I ask is because I truly loved Happy Bhaag Jayegi – I’ve watched it four to five times. It is one of those films that is a mood lifter – maybe I was inspired by her.

Wow, I don’t think anyone has told me that before.


It is nice to see a happy, jovial character on screen. Liberating in its own way. Then, your third film, Lucknow Central, was also very different from your first two films.

Yes, very different. I mean, even the genre was different – it was more drama. Even the character again for me was very different, especially from Happy. My character was more measured. She was an in-between from Meera to Happy. She was measured, confident, and knew how to get what she needed. She was very relatable, very every day, and somebody you and I probably know in our own lives. She is not in the realm of extraordinary.


Now, when we see Parmanu, I thought to myself again, well, this is again different. I felt that I have said this every time a movie of yours has come out. It is a compliment. But you’ve said yourself that you are content with the way things unfold. Where does that sense of confidence and security and contentment come from especially in this day and age with constant activity on social media and the constant almost “need” to promote oneself and be visible?

I think it is about knowing and being sure of what you want and being certain about the roles and projects I want to do. I know what interests me. It is a gut feeling – I always know if I want to do something the second I read something. It is very instinctive. I am very sure and very aware of what I want so I don’t end up looking at it as a competition, like a downfall that I am picking and choosing what I want at my own pace – it isn’t a downfall.

But I’m not actually picky. I think that is a misconception. I just have an idea in my mind and I just wait for that to come by – when it does, I grab at it.

It is a competition with myself – from one film to my next film –I want to challenge myself and up the ante and get better at what I am doing. I better myself in one way or the other with each film I do. It is always a learning lesson and it has always been very satisfying.


So having said that, where do you want to see yourself in five years or is that a difficult question for you to answer?

That is a very difficult question to answer because I have never lived in the future. Honestly, I go one day at a time, that is how I live my life. I literally only know what I will do tomorrow or the day after. But I know where I would like to be – I would like to have added more work to my kitty. I’d like to try different genres. I want to add to the diversity of my line of work. I do wish I come across more different subjects in cinema. That is my goal.


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Armin Sethi

Bollywood Film Fame Canada has been a source of original content consisting of real conversations, reviews, and news of everything film, music, and entertainment for 15 years.

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