There's no stopping her
She's an enthu star in the making, darting from Bharatanatya to theatre, TV anchoring to biking, acting to direction. Divya Raghuram is now casting a glance at films
Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.
MOVING ONDivya Raghuram is basking in the glory of popularity that TV serial Mukta has brought her
Things "just happen" to Divya Raghuram. In college, a lot of her friends did theatre, and Divya always wanted to know what they were doing. "I have rehearsal tonight," was an oft-heard phrase. She couldn't keep curiosity at bay and landed up helping the backstage crew. A speed-biking friend was looking for a navigator on a Karnataka tour. "At that point in time I wanted adventure," laughs Divya. So she clocked 3,800 kilometres in 49-and-a-half hours with Prakruthi N. Banawasi on the Karnataka Trail. She's just back from a six-week UK group study tour as part of a Rotary initiative, performing and giving lec-dems about Bharatanatya.
With impulse in her spirit matched by the lightning-laughter in her eyes, Divya Raghuram has flitted unapologetically from somewhere between adventure, fantasy and reality.
Not a picnic for the 20-something actress, a marketing and advertising postgraduate in Bangalore, where every youngster cleaves on to a golden-goose of an MNC job very early in life. "Being an artiste is not considered a good job. You come home at three in the morning, leave for shoots by seven again," smiles Divya. Even now people ask me "Neevu bere enu kelasa madolva? (Don't you do any work apart from this?) Is 20 hours of theatre not hard work?" she asks in exasperation. She's just finished assisting Arjun Sajnani in scripting and production for his play Bali.
Into the arts
Divya had started learning Bharatanatya when she was 10, studying under Guru Rangashree of Kinkini. While still in college, she started anchoring shows on Udaya TV Theatre happened next. "I didn't know what it meant, but I wanted to act," says Divya. Not bad then that her first acting attempts landed her the role of a 60-year-old woman in Vijay Tendulkar's Silence! The Court is in Session. Director T.N. Seetharam called her for an audition for his mega-serial Mukta, after he watched her in Nagamandala, and offered her the role of Gowri. Divya plays this unconventional young widow, an independent woman who goes through the rigours of education very late in life and rises to become the CEO of a company. After Mukta, stardom hit her in a big way. "I'm still getting used to it. People stop me on the road and call me Gowri. They feel very familiar with me. People get terribly confused between the reel and real me!" Films are the next logical step, she admits. But only if she has some meaty role, not where she just has to look pretty. Thespians may not subscribe to her scheme of things, and her confidence quite stuns you when she says: "In India, most people go through formal acting classes. But acting just comes to some people. Each play that you do is a hundred lessons in acting. "
Since 2003, Divya's gotten down to the nitty-gritties of direction. The first was Albert Camus' Just Assassins (a play she read between her shots on the sets of the serial) and then came Mahesh Dattani's Where there's a will. Through the course of the conversation, it becomes obvious that theatre is her first love and reckless passion.
Straddling the two worlds of theatre and TV, and moving from English plays to Kannada serials wasn't really a conscious decision, reiterates Divya. "For me, it's just two mediums, not a question of language. Of course there is a gap between English and Kannada theatre, and many are diffident about it." Divya passionately goes on to talk about how Kannada theatre doesn't sell itself well, how posters are not printed to publicise, and how people won't take the risk and price the ticket at Rs. 100. "Kannada theatre has a lot of content. There is a belief that English theatre is snooty and snobbish. But Kannada theatre does not make efforts to raise sponsorships. English plays do get hyped and there are a lot of unknown directors who have absolutely no content making it big. Ultimately, there's a lot that English theatre can learn from Kannada and vice-versa. They have to co-exist," she emphasises.
The fashionable habit of going to plays and "doing theatre", and the coming about of Ranga Shankara that promoted the concept of everyday theatre spell good fortune for theatre. Many are taking to direction very early. But older directors give the new kids on the block quite some attitude, says Divya. "There's frankly not enough happening. There aren't 10 Arjun Sajnanis or Belawadis, and these people are busy with other work. I need something to do, so I'll direct. We can't keep waiting for people to start their productions. Our own plays won't be of a top quality, but this is our learning phase."
Later in 2001, she founded Urja, an association to promote the arts, along with sister Raksha Sriram. Together they released Adi an audio CD on Bharatanatya adavus and shlokas. Together they are working on a bharatanatya performance to pay tribute to M.S. Subbulakshmi.
And then the conversation turns to the inevitable - the future. . "I don't know. But it has to be something fun and challenging," she says, with the dimples deepening and her eyes shrinking up in laughter.
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