Interview: Up Close with DIPTI MEHTA - "Best Actress" Award Winner for "LIFE! CAMERA ACTION..."
New York, NY, May 5, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio) For most actors, to win an award for their outstanding work in film or TV is a dream they can only hope will come to pass. Screen legends such as Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and many others illustrate what a long history Indian actors have in the world. Despite this history and the number of Indian actors based outside of the US who continue gracing the silver screen today, only a handful of Indians can be counted among those who've won International Awards for acting.
Director Rohit Gupta and Actress Dipti Mehta on the sets of Life! Camera Action...
Mumbai born, New York based Indian actress Dipti Mehta won her first interntional award in the 'Best Actress' category for her performance in the highly praised internationally acclaimed award sweeper drama- feature film, LIFE! CAMERA ACTION... produced & directed by Rohit Gupta, that most recently snapped up nine most popular and special board of directors awards presented by the jury at the 28th Goldie Film Awards held in Florida. Without a doubt first of many to come for Mehta, here is what she had to say about her experience working in LIFE! CAMERA ACTION...
Can you tell readers a bit about your role in the film LIFE! CAMERA ACTION...?
I play Reina a girl who is on a pursuit to make her dreams come true with the approval of her parents. She has to deal with internal and external challenges to find the true path, to make her dreams come true. While playing the role one thing that I kept bringing to life was the simplicity and truth that Reina lives by.
You have just won your first award. How does it feel?
It is great to be acknowledged for what you know to be your true self expression. It feels like you have started to arrive.
LIFE! CAMERA ACTION... is your first lead role in a feature film, is that correct? Can you tell us how you came across this role?
Yes, it is my first lead role in a feature film. Rohit and I met as someone had suggested my name for this role, but in that meeting he told me,"I was not right for the part, and maybe in future we would work together on another project". I still got an audition call from his assistant. I thought it was probably a mistake that I had been called in, but decided to go anyway. Since I had nothing to gain or loose, I went without dressing up like an actor (to impress). I was wearing regular shirt and jeans and no make up at all. Rohit did not recognize me at first and then when I introduced myself he said "you look very different today." Anyways I auditioned and he offered me the part.
You play 'Reina' in the film. How close is that character in the film to you?
Reina's character is quiet close to me. I had to struggle with my parents to pursue my dreams of being an actor. I was not allowed to work in professional theater so I kept doing experimental theater. At the same time I went to graduate school and got what they wanted. So while Reina and I both had our own struggles to make our dreams come true the paths we chose were not exactly the same. Reina chose the path of following her dream at any cost after getting kicked out by her parents, fortunately my parents didn't throw me out. So that being on your own part is unique to Reina but we both struggled with parents and society for our dreams.
What do you feel that LIFE! CAMERA ACTION... is saying about today's times at large? What do you think is the universal quality of the film that has made it so well received all over the world?
In my opinion 'Life! Camera Action' stands for "Nothing is impossible". Any one can relate to the characters and the story in today's times. The unbroken and untouched spirit of a human being when the times are completely against her. And most of us have had road blocks in our lives, some of us took a de-tour and some of us removed the blocks and kept walking in our own path. The film talks about this journey through "impossible", a journey that is every man's journey and still so unique to each. Also it talks about parent and daughter relationship. The film has many under tones and sub texts. It's a story in a story that has a universal and timeless spirit.
Please tell us where you are originally from and what inspired you to get into film and TV?
I am from Mumbai-India. Ah! that is a difficult question. I have always wanted to be an actor. When I was in second grade I was in a play. And I along with many other kids was taken up-to the stage. All the other kids started to cry or panic and I felt like I was at the top of the world. I must have known then in my little kid brain that this was my destiny. I have never known stage fear. I kept being chosen for school plays. I directed a play on Krishna for my class in the fourth grade. So it was a simple wish in a child's mind that kept getting stronger and stronger, and soon that is the only thing I wanted or dreamed of.
What is the hardest part about acting? Is the process different working in NYC as compared to Mumbai?
The hardest part about acting is the fact that if you ACT you rarely get the part. It is through the truth that you play in the character that you nail it.
Mumbai was very different compared to NY. I still had to audition and get the parts but a lot gets done when you know the right people. Also most female parts are for Indians so there was a large pool of possible roles that I could audition for. The most important thing that was different was every thing is paid and paid really well. In NY if you are a new actor without an agent and a manager you are in for a hard time. There is lot of non-paid work that you will land up doing. I did too. Even after you get an agent and a manager it is quiet a job to get paid jobs.
There is lot more work in Mumbai, considering Mumbai produces more films then anywhere else in the world and TV channels are booming like crazy so there is lot of work. Although NY gives you more opportunities to create your own work. I do like the spirit that NY brings, while in Mumbai it is about who you know in NY even without having any contacts based on your talent and spirit you can book really good work.
What's next for you?
My next project that I am really excited about is "Yaatra" a 30 mins short film. I play the character of Priya. The film is based on a true story and is very close to my heart. It is a touching and a moving story. I have also produced this film which will be completed this summer. The other project that is in the works right now is my one woman show "Honor". "Honor" takes us through the journey of a teenage girl and her mother in the red light district of Mumbai. Both the pieces are written by me. I have also finished working in two short films, one of which has been selected in the Short film corner at Cannes film festival.
Was there any other career you were/are interested in besides acting?
I do write and direct. But in terms of interest, the only career that I am interested in is acting. I do work in cancer research and that is my second career, sustaining career as I call it.
What do directors/talent hunters look for in an actor?
Every director is different and it wouldn't be correct for me to generalize. The one thing I have noticed that has worked for me; is the excitement and energy. Most directors I have worked with hired me for my enthusiasm and will to commit and push myself to unknown places and heights. This again is not my opinion it is just my experience.
What advice would you give to actors starting off?
The only other thing I can say is, if you really believe in your dreams, nothing can stop you. YOU get to say, what your destiny is and no one else. If someone tells you otherwise; well move on, and find someone who will believes in you or else walk alone. Watch Life! Camera Action...if you need any further boost (laughs)...
Watch Dipti Mehta at the Premiere of Life! Camera Action...