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Catwalking into cinema

‘Cocktail was the best non decision of my life’ Diana Penty is best known for films like Cocktail, Happy Bhag Jayegi and more recently Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran. But she admits that acting or even modelling for that matter was not something that she had grown up dreaming that she would do.

“Everything in my life has been completely unplanned. I was extremely shy, very introverted. I was doing my Bachelor’s in Mass Media specialising in advertising. I just assumed that I would move on to do my masters and then take up a marketing job,” she recalled. She decided to do modelling as a way of earning some pocket money.

“There is a certain amount of confidence that you need to bring to the ramp and at the beginning it took me a lot to overcome my inhibitions because I was very shy person. Also, I didn’t know how to walk. I had only done college fashion shows before this and I found it difficult at first to walk in a straight line. I kept veering to the left,” she recalls. From part time, modelling became full time and then acting happened, she said.

In fact Imitiaz Ali first approached her to do Rockstar. “I had just started modelling at that time. I told him that I had never acted before and had no film background or training. So he put me through workshops for about 2-3 weeks after which we mutually agreed that I wasn’t ready to get into acting so soon. The role required me to be outgoing and uninhibited which didn’t come naturally for me,” she explains. However, Imtiaz kept her in mind and it was he who suggested her name to producer Dinesh Vijan for Cocktail. “I think I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was sort of thrown into this film (Cocktail), it happened so quickly. The only acting I had done was in school plays before this. But Dinesh put me through a lot of workshops and it all prepared me. It was the best non decision of my life,” she said.

The film went on to fetch her the Filmfare award for Best Female Debut, something which she was not expecting. “I always have the habit of assuming the worst. I assumed that people would say that she can’t act and that the reviews would be bad. But it turned out to be the complete opposite,” she said, adding, “I am really grateful to people for accepting me as an actor when I hadn’t really accepted myself as an actor at that time,” she said.

That said, moving from modelling to acting was a huge transition for her. “As a model you have the freedom of living a normal life and just doing everyday things. As an actor though, you don’t always have that freedom because you are constantly under scrutiny. It took a while to get used to this,” she said.

Also, having no family with a film background, she says made it more challenging. “It makes it difficult to get the projects that you want. You have to keep persevering and do as much work as you can for people to notice your talent at first,” she said.

Speaking about her recent film Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran, she said that the moment she read the script, she knew that she wanted to do this. “The film focuses on things that not all Indians know about and I felt it was a story that needed to be shared with everyone,” she said. [NT]

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