In conversation with the actress about her new show, her co-stars, married life and much more...
Drashti Dhami is one TV sensation that needs no introduction. The actress had her fans going crazy with worry that they'd never see her on the small screen again when she announced her marriage, but six months into her marriage and she's already become a pro at balancing her shoot schedule for her ongoing show, Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani and her personal life. In a recent interview with BollywoodLife, the actress spoke at length about her new show, her role and equation with co-stars, her balancing act and a lot more. Read excerpts from the conversation...
Does the wedding sequence on the show remind you of your own wedding?
No, not at all because real life weddings are very different from screen weddings. Here we are only focusing on what to wear, what make-up to do, what hair style to do… it’s all very chaotic, but everyone is very excited about it. So the only similarity is the excitement which again is different because that was emotion excitement and this is work excitement.
What is your idea of a wedding in real life – a grand one or a simple one?
Given a choice, my wedding would have been with just 20 people – me, my husband, his family, my family and close friends. But I think, since we live in Mumbai and have so many relatives, it gets very difficult because everyone has to call everyone; it’s an obligation. You want certain people, mom wants certain people. I never wanted a big wedding.
For me it's always a beach wedding! No other wedding idea for me.
So why didn’t you go for one?
Firstly because it’s very expensive to fly everyone to Goa and then take care of accommodations and all. Secondly, like I said, the social obligation. We couldn’t just call 100 people, we had to invite every acquaintance. I’m the last one to get married in my mom’s side family, so everybody was very excited. But it’s okay! I’ve decided when I complete 5 years or 10 years, I’m going to have a white wedding on the beach with MY set of people.
Any destination that you have in mind…
Goa! Or may be even abroad, if this show is still going on till then, I’ll be able to take everyone abroad.
Coming to your screen wedding, there’s a lot of drama that’s going to happen. So how are you going to cope with it?
Well, for Gayatri it’s an honest, love wedding where she loves Ranaji and Ranaji loves her back. She does not even know that the wedding is a deal and I don’t know how Gayatri is going to take it… you’ll have to see the show for that.
Despite being the most talked about show, the TRPs aren’t very high. How much pressure does that put on you?
I don’t know if it’s a talked about show or not, because we definitely aren’t getting that kind of TRPs. But yes, we are all working very hard. Everybody on the sets is so optimistic that the show will be better from what it is now. I’m sure all the hard work will pay off; it has to. Of course it is a spoken about show but as far as TRPs are concerned, we’ll get there.
What do you think is going wrong?
I don’t know, honestly. We are doing are best. I think it’s always gradual, like it has happened with all my shows. The first three months are so low that you feel like the show might just shut shop and then it suddenly pick off.
How’s your comfort level with Siddhant?
Oh I’m glad we’ve finally started to have some scenes together and we share a very great rapport. Siddhant (Karnick) is such a well mannered person who’ll offer his chair to people and keep worrying if you want something. He’s a very sweet guy.
It’s not very common that you get a chance to play a queen. How excited are you about becoming one on the show?
I think I must be really blessed. Fortunately, it’s a pre-independence not a mythological era so there’s going to be a lot of classy element to it like bright sarees because they always add to the camera. And going forward may be chiffon, georgette sarees and may be one heavy neck piece; not several cluttered together. Something contemporary. We are still trying to figure out… the good thing is that the creative team always considers my views too.
So you are always part of the look designing?
When it comes to clothes, I do always. For this show, initially I did not because I didn’t do a research on what people wore back in 1940s. So I didn’t interfere because it’s the look and I have to do certain things for the look. But now the team has asked me to give my inputs. So we are trying to figure what colours look good on me what don’t.
Do you enjoy wearing all the heavy jewelry?
Not at all. It’s so hectic. On your wedding day, you just wear it for like 6 hours and you’re not even concentrating on it because you’re in another zone. But here, you not thinking of the marriage, you’re just shooting and looking at the watch… oh it’s 9 o’clock, I have to leave. It was nice to wear all this initially, but with time it just gets tiring.
Your look in the show is very different from any of your previous looks. Which part of this new look do you like the most?
My hair-do and make up. I’ve realized that simple make up just makes you look better and stands out.
TV is very hectic. So how do you manage your personal life and the shoot, since you have stay away from home for so long?
People back home are very very supportive. Before marriage, while I was dating, it so used to happen that I had to go back home and before that I also had to meet Neeraj, so I used to be really stressed out thinking ‘I have to meet, I have to meet’. But now it’s a little relaxed because no matter what time I get done, I’m going to go back and spend time with him and his family. I also go meet my mom very often.
What is one thing you hate about married life?
I don’t hate anything, for now. And no I’m not saying this just because I’m giving an interview, but I think it’s too soon to decide, it’s just been six months.
Are you good at balancing your professional and personal lives?
I’m very very balanced. I love spending time with them. We all sit and play cards, we play poker, watch movies, of late we’ve been watching all the wedding sangeet and mehendi and other videos and pictures. Even in the morning if I’m having my breakfast they come and sit with me. Like my father in law, he wakes up very early and sleep very early too. So if I’m reaching home late, I don’t get to meet him and if I don’t see him for 2-3 days, then I get a message from him.
All your previous characters have been that of a very bubbly and naughty girl, but this one is more serious? How different is the experience for you?
See it is the 1940s. A girl wouldn’t be that outgoing. She’s always more fun with the kids on the show. Of course she’ll be different with the elders and plus with her own wedding happening, she can barely handle her emotions. So yes, it is different, but more than that I’m trying to play it different from a Geet or a Madhubala.
Any challenge that you encounter while playing Gayatri?
Language. It’s way too pure for me to remember. I just mug up some lines. So language is a barrier and I think it’ll get different once I’m part of the royal family since it will become more traditional.
Why are all your partners the angry – young – man types?
Hmmmm… I just make them a better person.
Going off track a bit, your friends Sanaya Irani is on Jhalak this season, so can we expect you on the show?
I would love to, but working here, I don’t think I’ll get the time to.
You know her journey is very similar to yours…
It’s not about similar to me or someone else, I think everyone’s journey is the same. Like Sanaya initially was very nervous that she won’t be able to pull it off. But I always told her to give it 6 weeks… your body gets used to it, it picks up the momentum and then it’s no longer about putting someone down or getting on top, it’s about you competing with yourself, every time. Every week after the act you are surprised and proud of yourself that you actually did a particular dance form. And then all these aerial acts are so beautiful that you want to do them.
Your stint as a host on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa was not much appreciated. What do you have to say about it?
It’s just like they say, every actor is not an anchor and every anchor is not an actor. I gave it my best, but honestly, I feel I’m a way better actor than I am a host. If I have to place thing into hierarchy it would be first acting, then dancing and then hosting. I myself didn’t enjoy it. Of course any failure does put you a little low, but I personally didn’t enjoy it. So it was okay (when they replaced me). I enjoyed hosting the Golden Petal Awards since it was for just a day and it was scripted. I’m not a very witty person. I am witty but just with my close friends, I wouldn’t be able to do it on stage. My comedy is way too sarcastic.
We’ve seen you dance on Jhalak, but will we ever get to see you and Neeraj dancing together on Nach Baliye?
I don’t think so. Though we’ve never discussed it because no offer ever came up. But it is very less likely that we come together on-screen because Neeraj is a very camera shy person.
How do you get along with everyone on the show?
Oh we all get along really well. We have lunch together, we have a good time chatting, be it with Anita or my mother, Moon. We have a lot of fun on the sets. In fact a few days ago, I saw one of Anita’s old films on TV and I clicked a picture and sent it to her saying ‘I’m watching you.’ That’s the kind of rapport I have with her.
When you are offered a role, what is it that you look at – money or character?
Of course I see both the things. For an actor you don’t have as many years to work as others do. I cannot work from 18 – 50 years of age. No doubt now there are different genres that are giving equally importance to older woman. It’s like make hay when there’s sunshine. I don’t take up a show for money, I take it up for the concept and then I see if the money is good or not.
How do you feel when people take your popularity for granted?
Let them. I don’t care… I just feel that I’m blessed so many people like me and love me. I have to share this one incident with you; I was in Istanbul and a chef came from behind and told me ‘Aap Madhubala hain na?’ (Are you Madhubala). He got along a Turkish girl to meet me. I later found out that a few girls had formed a group called Drashti Dhami fans, I guess. And there was this one girl who used to translate all the Madhubala episodes for the group to watch. And I was humbled because it was so unreal.
But at the same time I also get criticized for some things like my weight and I am trying to lose weight. There is no excuse for being heavy; you are the face of a show and you are getting paid for it. So you have to look perfect.
But wouldn’t it be better for your role as Gayatri to not be very skinny since back then size 0 was not a concept?
There’s nothing that will suit the character. If you’re fat, you are fat and the camera adds almost 10 pounds making your face look really bad. So I don’t take the weight criticism negatively because I know that I have to cut down a few kilos and I’m working on it.
Was marrying a non actor intentional?
Well, I mainly married Neeraj because of love (laughs) and then because I don’t have too many actor friends. Also I always wanted a non actor and I’m glad it happened!
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