By Surbhi Gogia
There was a time when small screen actors never found the popularity and attention in spite of being equally or even more talented than Bollywood actors. But with soap operas becoming important part of Indian household, the small screen actors have finally arrived at the scene. Some of them have fan following and are earning even more than big screen stars. One of them is Ishita Bhalla, played by Divyanka Tripathi Dahiya in Hindi Soap Opera Ye Hai Mohabbatien (YHM). Ishita is a household name for most of the Indian families living in India or abroad. It would be rare to find someone who is not a follower of this popular drama and rarest to find someone who is not smitten by the mesmerizing beauty of this multi talented actor.
Divyanka aka Ishita is usually seen in YHM as a fierce bahu , mother and wife who is most lovable but also a revolutionary ready to take up challenges and stand for what is right. But who is she in real life? Is Divyanka as ideal and revolutionary real life as Ishita or different from her alter ego. “In many ways Divyanka is Ishita and Ishita is Divyanka. Just like Ishita Bhalla tries to stand for what is right and fight for others, I too try to speak for what is right without thinking about myself.”
She proved this recently. She opened her heart out after listening to the disturbing news of a minor girl’s rape in Chandigarh on India’s Independence Day. She was so disturbed by the gruesome act that she took to Twitter to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his ‘Beti Bachao’ campaign which failed on the day of Independence. She wrote: “Kya Beti Bachao? Ab beti ko bachao. Bete ki chahat nahin hai, par ab darti hoon beti paida karne se. Kya Kahungi, kyu usey swarg se nark ki dehshat mein dhakela. (What about the beti bachao campaign. Now save the girl. I don’t desire to have a son, but now I fear having a daughter. What will I tell her that why did I pushed her to hell from heaven?”
She wrote, “For what must we vote? 70 years of independence hasn’t set us free! All parties must WAKE UP NOW! Every woman deserves security!”
Divyanka hails from Bhopal, a city in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. She started her television career from Zee TV‘s drama fiction Banoo Main Teri Dulhann. She has won so many awards for her performances that one would take her to be a professionally trained actor. But surprisingly she not. In fact she never dreamt of being an actor. She is trained in mountaineering and riflery. She completed a mountaineering course from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi and rifle shooting course from Bhopal Rifle Academy. She holds gold medals in riflery. To be an army officer was Divyanka’s first career choice.
Then how did she end up in the world of glitz? In an exclusive interview with Desi Today, Divyanka talks about her life , her tryst with acting and her future plans.
Please tell us something about your family and childhood?
I was born and brought in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. I did all my schooling and higher education from there. I have a BA degree with psychology and geography as subjects. My parents still live in the same city. I have a sister and brother. My sister Priyanka is settled in Banglore and brother is a pilot settled in Delhi.
My parents have been like my friends. I would not have been what I am today without their support. Of course every parent shapes up their child. But I am very that my parents were not typical Indian parent who restrict their kids to education. They let me explore my Horizons. They motivated me to try everything new. Thankfully. My parents felt that I needed to know and explore everything so that when I grow up I could discover know what I am good at.
It is because of their support I tried my hands in drawing, sketching, dancing, singing, mountaineering, skiing, horse riding, NCC cadet and acting. But then I realized I could be a good actress. So I joined this industry.
How did you discover your talent for acting?
I could not have dreamt of being an actor. It was a far-fetched dream. It was un imaginable for me. While growing up TV was never part of my life. My parents rather sent me out to play, study or do something creative. But somehow acting became part of my life. I am from Bhopal, a city where theatre is very active. It nurtures a lot of stage talent. I too participated on stage shows at a very early age when I was only 8 years old. Then I started my career as an anchor on Akash Vani, Bhopal. I also started modeling for advertising agencies. I also did few telefilms on national TV while growing up. That is how I got exposed towards acting. But this was not something I wanted to be. I wanted to be in the Army and be an army office. But now I am very happy where I am today.
If you can tell us about your journey from your hometown to the city of glitz and glamour? Was your family supportive?
My parents always supported me for any activity I wanted to explore. It is not a solo work. It was not only me who was struggling to establish. But my parents struggled with me. They hampered their work for me and traveled with me to help me find the right platform. I was living in a small town and offers don’t really fall in your lap. You really have to reach out to people. I used to travel a lot.
My journey started with international Zee Teen Queen contest. It was a Zee TV pageant for teenagers. I enrolled in it just to try my luck. I sent some random pictures which were not even professionally done. But luckily I got selected and was called in Delhi. I won the Miss Beautiful Skin in the show. That was my first exposure on any national or international platform. Later I participated in various reality shows like Zee Cinestar ki khoj, was declared winner from Bhopal Zone. These shows exposed me towards acting. They taught me how to be spontaneous and inhibition free.
How difficult or easy was it to crack your first break?
I belonged to a small town. I was not very modern. I was very much Desi always clad in salwar suit. The International Teen contest was a very tough platform to be in. Every girl was hot. I was learning how to be hot, which I was not. But overall it was a nice experience. I never went there to be a winner or with any feeling of competition. I went there to learn something new. I did not have any beautiful dresses. I was wearing my NCC khaki pants. But things become easier for me because I was not trying to compete.
At times things do become simple and easy when you are not trying to compete but trying to learn. It is not always about winning but learning. This is my policy all even in life. Even when I got my first show Banoo Main Teri Dulhann, I never thought about being the best I told me self to try something new. I thought I would learn something and will be out of here after 6 months and get back to my exams for civil services or for army officer. And then I would be stable in life. But life had different plans for me. The show went on. And once Mumbai calls you, there is no going back. My first show went on for 3 years after that I just could not return to my home town.
You have won so many awards and accolades at such young age for your performances. You think the time has finally come to bigger to the big screen? If not then when do your fans see you in movies?
Awards are morale boosters, they keep you going. I am always thankful to my followers who love me and support me. Also to my producers who have full faith in me. If these opportunities were not there, I would not have achieved all this.
I would love to do movies. Would just love to do them. But I want to do some special roles meant just for me. Right now I am not getting the right kind of offers. Still waiting for something beautiful to come up. Bollywood is essentially dominated by men, and I can’t just be a pretty glamorous face in a film. Women-centric films are something that I would love to do. Among the recent ones, I liked watching Sridevi in Mom. Such powerful roles are what I am looking at. I also enjoyed Queen (2014) and Pink (2016). I want this wait to be over and something good to come up.
You also won Nach Baliye show recently. How was your journey as a non dancer to the winner of the dance competition?
Nach Baliye was a beautiful journey instead of a competition for us. I would not say that it turned a non dancer in me into a seasoned dancer because I still feel I am a non-dancer. But I worked really hard to try something I had not done before. The hardest part for me was to remember the steps especially after my long days of shoot for YHM. Every day I had pain in my body parts — my fingers, back, shoulder, legs or knee — everything hurt. The rehearsals made me realise I had so many parts in my body. It made me feel alive.
I have only good memories of Nach Baliye. We never entered the show to compete. We never thought or wanted to be winners. But by the 4th episode we realised that we were pushing our boundaries to give our best. So at least we should be in the finale.
Along with fan following, we got inspired by the other performers. Generally in reality shows contestants do get competitive and jealousy creeps in. But we were there to learn and live the moment.
Also reality shows create difference in the couples. We have even seen people falling apart after participating in reality shows. But Vivek and I decided one thing whatever happens we would not fight. Our relation is way beyond and we should be growing together rather than fighting. We used to have differences but we worked on our difference. Great relations are never there naturally, you have to work on it. We learned how to work on our relation. We explored what it is like to be partner in crime.
If you can share how you and Vivek fell in love? Was it love at first sight?
It was not love at first sight. It was like an arranged set up for us. Vivek and me have been working together for quite some time but we never thought we could be life partners. At sets we would just say hello and part our ways. Our maximum conversation before we went out together was I remember once when I was sitting with him and I started laughing because I was getting messages about people wanted to go out for coffee with me. He smiled. And that was it. Months went by. In a group picture fans spotted us together. The it struck to one of our co actors Pankaj Bhatia who plays Bala Ji in the show, that we both make good couple.
He used to share room with Vivek. My mom told Pankaj to look for a suitable match for me. He thought of Vivek. He did a background check on Vivek. He did this spygiri and found that Vivek was a very nice person. So he proposed the idea of marriage to me and Vivek at the same time. We were shocked because we never looked at each other like that. A marriage was beyond imagination. We were not alike. Vivek was too modern for me and I was too desi for him. So we shrugged the idea.
But after that when we had another scene together it was difficult to take our eyes of each other. Some feeling were gushing in. Then we decided to go on a date. When he met me on our first date, he already knew there was something, but I realized it after our first meeting because our conversation was flowing. It was easy to talk to him. We started going out for few months. We did not rush into our decision to get married because marriage is forever. After we were sure, we disclosed the decision to get married to our parents.
Our parents met and then they agreed because our families were alike. The ideologies and thought process was same.
To find out more about Divyanka’s life, please grab the latest issue of Desi Today