MUMBAI—She’s done just two films in five years, but is set to double her score this year. Diana Penty’s characters tend to stay with the audience, come Meera in “Cocktail” or Happy in “Happy Bhag Jayegi.” She is now doing this week’s release “Lucknow Central” as Gayatri and is also playing the lead in the end-2017 “Parmanu,” co-produced by John Abraham.
More important, her first and second films have respectively been a success and a hit, and she has never seen a flop in her career. We start off with that aspect when we meet up at Mehboob Studios.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: So you, as a flop-free actress, can be said to be the main reason why we can expect “Lucknow Central” to be successful.
A (Smiles): Actually, it is a very good film. That will be the main reason!
Q: Why are you so choosy? Just two films in five years!
A: That’s a personal choice, the way I have chosen to go ahead, though I will be having two films releasing this year to double my poor score! I am reading more scripts, and the idea is to work more.
I want to do parts I believe in and in stories that I would like to watch. I must want to do a film and be super-excited about it, as I have to give my 100 percent to it for maybe months or years. I must instantly want to do a subject, not think about it, which would mean that it was probably not meant for me.
And I want content-driven films, which does not mean arty or dark but entertaining films with a good storyline. After all, I have to create a character that should be significant enough to take the story forward and must leave a mark enough to be remembered.
Q: All your films have been unique ideas or concepts, so did the idea fire you or was it the scripts?
A: With both “Lucknow Central,” where I was told it was about jail life for a band with an escape plan, and “Parmanu,” where I wanted to turn each page of the script to know what happens next, I knew instantly that I had to do the films, which are both based on true events. With “Parmanu,” we have all known something about our nuclear explosions in 1998, but we did not know the details of the mission. Common people like us are not aware of how it changed the history of India.
In the case of “Happy Bhag Jayegi,” the one-liner idea excited me. I was told that it is about a girl who runs away from her wedding and finds herself in Pakistan! Now, that was something I knew I wanted to explore. So it can be either the idea or the script. Sometimes, you get scripts in which you would like to change something even if you like them. But there was nothing like that in any of these. Especially in “Happy…”’s case, I wanted to do her role as she had absolutely nothing in common with me!
Q: Many scripts can be lost in translation.
A: Yes, but many can be as good on screen as narrated, or even better. When Ranjit Tiwari gave me a narration, his clarity of thought was so remarkable that it seemed he was making films for many years and was not a first-timer. On sets as well, I got the same impression. Abhishek Sharma, who is directing “Parmanu,” is such a sorted guy with a vision.
Q: Do you think of the star cast?
A: The star cast and setup are all important, but not as much as the story, role, and director. It’s not the first thing of which I think. But yes, you can learn a lot from a good team of actors, as I did during “Lucknow Central.” And the atmosphere on the sets with the cast and the director and team makes a difference, because good performances come out of happy faces!
Q: Two of your four films have been home productions of top stars Saif Ali Khan and John Abraham. Is there a difference, of any sort whatsoever, when you work in their film and in the others where you have good actors who are not stars?
A: Not at all. They are all very talented. And Saif and John are grounded despite their stardom.
Q: You are a celeb who has barely done a few films. So can you lead a normal life in the sense of going out to malls or wherever?
A: Yes, thankfully I can. I can watch movies, be normal when I go out. People do recognize me, but other than an occasional “Hi!” there is no disturbance.
Q: Would you say that is the advantage of doing very few films?
A (Laughs): Maybe, maybe!