#SerialChillers: Divyanka Tripathi makes a case for TV actors’ success on OTT platforms
The third terrific actor in the #SerialChillers series is Divyanka Tripathi, who talks about her love for biking and all things adventure, and how she likes to choose roles that see her character get one step towards her goals.
Banoo Main Teri Dulhann and Yeh Hai Mohabbatein—two shows created across two decades, portraying women in very different ways. In the former show, Vidya, the protagonist ticks all the boxes of an ‘ideal’, traditional Indian married woman, whereas Dr Ishita in the latter is loving, independent, confident and charming. Both characters are equally relatable and believable, and are played by the versatile Divyanka Tripathi, who has been part of the Indian TV industry long enough to know there is a shift in the way characters and shows are written today, and the change is for the better. Tripathi is committed, sincere, and dedicated to her work and her eyes glint with excitement and enthusiasm when she talks about the roles she wishes to play.
The third actor in the ‘Serial Chiller’ series, Divyanka Tripathi talks about her new hobby, her relationship with her husband, her work and all that it entails, and more.
Cosmpolitan India: Usually, celebs arrive in a car or on foot, but you chose to come on a bike. Tell us about your love for biking.
Divyanka Tripathi: Biking is my new-found passion. During most of my interviews, I was asked what my hobby was and I never had an answer. I do paint, sing, and dance, but they were not my primary interests. Every time I saw a woman on a bike, I felt I should be riding one, too. I was on Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi 11 and loved the adrenaline rush bike riding gave me. One fine morning, I decided to learn how to ride a bike and aced it in about five days. I learnt in the narrow lanes of Dadar to get a sense of the crowd and roads, and I loved it. On the fifth day, my husband Vivek (Dahiya) proposed I should purchase a bike. I feel more empowered and confident than before.
We recently rode to Karjat and it was an amazing journey. Vivek and I share the hobby and it’s a different level of romantic to explore it together. Now I understand why people are passionate about biking.
CI: From co-stars to friends and now partners, how has the journey with Vivek been?
DT: My journey with Vivek did not follow the usual order—we were first co-workers, then partners, and now friends. I always wanted a friend with whom I can share everything. You can’t give this bond any name.
CI: Everyone talks about his proposal. He really couldn’t have made the day any better
DT: Vivek can always surprise you and sweep you off your feet. He planned the proposal on my birthday. In the midst of what I thought was a usual celebration, he went down on his knee and fished out a T-shirt that had ‘Will you marry me?’ printed on it. There was a ring, a rose, the entire works. My family met him for the first time there.
CI: Banoo Main Teri Dulhann ran for three years and Yeh Hai Mohabbatein for six, what do you think is the reason for these shows to run for such a long tenure? Do you think these shows would be as successful if they released today, or have the audience’s tastes changed?
DT: A perfect storyline; a team of committed actors, creatives, and producers; and a channel that believes in the project contribute to a long-running show. And fortunately, we had it all for both shows. For Ye Hai Mohabbatein, the creative directors were given the freedom by the producers and the channel to execute things just how they envisioned.
The storylines of both shows were poles apart. In ...Dulhann, Vidya takes on the role of a caretaker for her husband and eventually tackles her life situations. Her story is a journey in itself. I lived the character only to see how much I related to her, and I enjoyed every minute of the show. Yeh Hai Mohabbatein was also a one-of-a-kind story—the protagonist falls in love with the hero’s daughter and they share a special bond. Ironically, she immensely disliked the hero. It ran for six years, but until the fifth year, we did not once feel the show was stagnating.
I tell young stars that television is a long-term, full-time commitment. I am married to my work, and in a marriage, you go all the way. There will be times when you get bored and may think the situation cannot be revived, but you have a responsibility to finish what you started. If I don’t believe in the project, I do not take it up, but if I say yes, I do not step away. I have two marriages—one at home, one in front of camera.
If the character arcs of the protagonists are tweaked to the audience’s sensibilities, then these shows would definitely be watched today. Today, the first five to 10 minutes are a make or break for every show. The content has to be crisp and relevant.
CI: Does a TV actor know what stage the show’s at, where’s it going, and when is it going to end?
DT: Honestly, we never know. Some directors give a two-month head start when they narrate; so you know the character’s personality, their current problems and how they deal with them, what’s next for them and so on. I prefer knowing the character graph so I can give it direction. I am able to essay my character better if I have a head start, even if it is just a week.
CI: We always talk about how roles for women have changed in films and the digital space. How has it changed in the TV space?
DT: The roles of women in TV are changing to match society’s ideas and perspectives. In Banoo Main Teri Dulhann, my character Vidya had to face a lot of struggles on educational, financial, and family fronts. Her journey was about standing on her own feet and finding the courage to fight for herself. While Ishita in Yeh Hai Mohabbatein (a show released four years later in 2013) was an educated woman, knew her rights, and never compromised her self-respect. She was already empowered.
TV often resorts to a more traditional showcase of society to suit the sensibilities of the majority. The content still revolves around domestic activities because it speaks to the larger audience we are catering to. What we see is a reflection of what society feels; it’s a case of demand and supply.
I do not always support this, because our society is changing faster than we think and we may still be a step behind in tapping how real, evolving women of India may want to be portrayed.
CI: What do you like or dislike about the kind of women-centric roles in TV these days?
DT: I have been brought up to follow my dreams and fight for what’s right. Not everyone has that upbringing. So, there is a lot of content out there that doesn’t match my sensibilities, but works for others. While we try to bring about a positive change, society should be ready to accept it. The makers should also make more inclusive shows. The TV space is replete with women-oriented shows portraying them in typical ways. I believe, when we have the power to change perceptions, we should do well.
CI: Which of your characters do you most relate to? Are you anything like them?
DT: I relate to Ishita (Yeh Hai Mohabbatein), to an extent that, over time, Ishita became Divyanka. I also relate to the character I have played in a new web series; she’s endearing, passionate and ever-evolving. My mother is just like that.
CI: What’s the main reason you haven’t done TV for almost four years now?
DT: I didn’t get an appealing role. A TV show is a long-term commitment, and if I’m going to spend so much time portraying a character, it should be something that I want to be a part of and relate to. I was being offered roles that I had portrayed before. I want to explore new sensibilities, set new examples, and inspire people with my work. After the two shows, I was a contestant on Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi 11 and a presenter on Crime Patrol. I took it up because it was different and it was women-centric. I’m waiting for offers that challenge me and use my potential.
CI: Was being typecast one of your biggest fears? Does it happen often in the TV industry?
DT: Actors are typecasted in TV and films. There are some actors who do not get to work in OTTs because they are associated with certain genres in films. I believe, as a good creator, you should challenge the actors and audition them instead of sticking to preconceived notions.
TV actors are excellent at their craft. TV actors are judged because of the medium they work in, while they should be appreciated as they are standing out in such a tough format. I have always placed them on a pedestal.
When Rajeev Khandelwal and I shot our first scene for Coldd Lassi Aur Chicken Masala, the director was shocked to see two people, who hadn’t met before, be at ease with each other and do things with conviction and perfection. That is where I feel TV actors should get their due recognition.
CI: With social media being the only way you can reach out to your fans, how do you ensure your digital presence grows?
DT: My numbers on Instagram are good. At times it is challenging but I don’t want to produce content for the sake of it. I want my content to be seen by my friends and loved ones. There was a time when I thought you can do away with social media account, but I realised it is indispensable. We have to adapt and evolve. I do things within my comfort zone so that it doesn’t affect people around me and my relationship with them. My social media presence is not as important as my real life.
Instead of chasing numbers, I think creators should do what appeals to them. They shouldn’t worry about how their page is doing or their peers’ numbers.
CI: Your performance in the web series Coldd Lassi... was widely appreciated, is OTT something you’d like to explore more of?
DT: I love the amount of time you get to prepare for an OTT before the show begins, unlike TV. It’s great to know your script thoroughly and have a good understanding of your character graph when you turn up on the set.
CI: Is there a role, a character that you’re waiting for?
DT: I want to play a police or an army officer and do something that has action and adventure. I want to challenge producers, creators, and writers to see me in a space that was not thought of before. I want roles where there are multiple layers to the character.
CI: How do you ensure you start and end the day on a good note?
DT: I start my day with a cup of coffee, have a small chat with Vivek, and read a newspaper. Vivek and I make it a point to end the day together and spend time being grateful for the things and moments in our lives. We get a lot of fulfilment from it.
CI: How do you enjoy ‘me time’ in your busy schedule?
DT: I make time for myself as I’m an introvert. I love being by myself and enjoy my own company. I love reading and watching animated films.
Cosmopolitan India's series 'Serial Chillers' shines the spotlight on six spectacular TV actors who, with each passing day and every exciting episode, prove they are indeed a force to reckon with.
Also read: #SerialChillers: Nakuul Mehta: "I don’t want to limit myself to being just the biggest TV star there is right now"
Also read: #SerialChillers: Rupali Ganguly: “My tombstone should read—here lies Monisha Sarabhai and Anupamaa”