Prime time blessings!
In conversation Anuj Kumar strikes a chord with the two incarnations of Vaishno Devi on the small screen
Got the divine look! (From left) Shantipriya and Roopa Dutta in and as Vaishnodevi.
We know it’s raining gods on the small screen. And when the channels run out of gods with a pan Indian following they are duplicating divine forces. There are two Mahabharatas in the pipeline but before that two Vaishno Devis are already on
air. The actors don’t mind: It’s an opportunity to show their talent in a new realm. “Perhaps my eyes and hair clicked the role in my favour. People say they are Godly,” chuckles Shantipriya. Suddenly she gets serious. “No, no it is sheer providence. Otherwise why would any producer zero in on somebody who is not around in the industry for more than a decade?” Like many mortals, Shantipriya also believes it is the Goddess who chooses you and not the other way round. Many summers after she left the industry, Shantipriya has returned to play Vaishno Devi in SaharaOne’s “Mata Ki Chowki”.
17 to 70!
No longer the bubbly, vivacious actress who made her presence felt when she debuted with Akshay Kumar in Saugandh, Shantipriya says, “The series is a mix of mythology and social drama. Here I have an opportunity to play characters ranging from 18 to 70. I am playing the goddess as well as her human incarnations. It gives me an opportunity to display a range of emotions.”
In the meantime, Akshay grew in stature, but Shantipriya challenges any director to cast her opposite him and she can still prove her worth. “I didn’t leave the industry for the lack of roles. I did five-six films and got noticed for my acting talent and not skin show. Then I got married and wanted to give time to my family. Now I am back and don’t want to be reduced to mother and sister roles. I am still capable of playing significant roles.” To start with she has a Raj Sippy film where she is playing a CID officer. Coming back to Vaishno Devi, Shantipriya says her life has changed after taking up the assignment. “I have given up non-vegetarian food and have suddenly started feeling the weight of being the chosen one.” Nobody wishes her hi or hello these days. “Everybody greets me with folded hands and the moment I get into the costume, everybody on the sets chants Jai Mata Ki.”
The case of Roopa Dutta is no different. Playing Vaishno Devi in 9X’s Jai Maa Vaishno Devi, Roopa feels blessed. Ask her age and she declares, “More than 5000 years.” She is living the character day in and day out
. Despite being a Bengali and a fan of fish, Roopa has given up her favourite food for the role. Once in the costume, she also becomes the centre of attraction. “Some people even try to touch my feet.”
Getting it right
She feels, “Besides deep eyes, playing God requires a shine on your face and that comes only if you are pure in real life.” Food habits apart, Roopa says there are certain dos and don’ts as well when one plays God. “Gods don’t blink their eyes. It took me many days to get it right. Continuity is a big thing in mythologicals in comparison to social drama. The makeup and props of the Goddess have to be right all the time, otherwise anybody can raise objections.”
In real life
Then Roopa had to get used to working with chroma technique. “I sit in front of a blue background feeling that I am sitting on a lion. Later this blue background is removed, a lion is inserted, and the audience cannot make out the difference. Similarly there are shots in the air. In all such circumstances you have to get your emotions absolutely right otherwise the final result could look silly.”
Unlike Shantipriya, Roopa is a relatively new face. She has done a Bangla film and a serial with Balaji and is seen in some of the advertisements of popular brands like Crocin and Bata. “It is not that this role has suddenly made me religious. I have been well-versed with the rituals and feel that whatever appears on television these days in the name of social drama is making an adverse impact on the young generation. They are showing Western values through characters wearing Indian outfits. It is confusing. Mythologicals can clear it by showcasing what our nation stands for, for generations.
In the past, actors who have played Gods have not found a significant opportunity in films, but Roopa is unperturbed. “There is no longer any insularity between the two the media. If I am noticed, the world is waiting for me out there.”
Send this article to Friends by