Chandigarh-based Dolly Ahluwalia Tiwari, 55, is already an established name in the Indian entertainment industry. Having designed costumes for more than 20 movies, and bagging national awards for her work in Bandit Queen and Omkara, the multifaceted personality has added another feat to the list, as the outspoken whisky drinking Dolly Arora - who sets the screen on fire with her quirky performance the bold bahu of Biji (played by acclaimed theatre artiste Kamlesh Gill) and mother of Vicky Arora (Ayushmann Khurrana) in the recent hit flick, Vicky Donor.
Tiwari, a theatre artiste, costume designer and film actor who has worked with the top directors of Bollywood, began her 'dramatic' journey in 1979 when she passed out of the National School of Drama (NSD) with a gold medal. She shares, "NSD taught me all necessary skills from the basic to technical aspects such as lighting and set designing to acting.
However, I was always more passionate about designing. I used to sit for hours backstage, observing how costume designers worked. In fact, I sacrificed loads of my mother's saris to make my designs. My hard work paid off when renowned theatre artiste and director MK Raina gave me my first break as a costume designer in his play, Andha Yug."
The work she did for plays earned Tiwari a name as a theatre set and costume designer in a short span of time. However, she also designed for national TV serials and Jalandhar Doordarshan on the side to support herself financially. Soon, the film industry took notice of her impressive body of work and she was hired as a costume designer for Shekhar Kapur's Bandit Queen and ending up winning a national award in 1996 for her work on the same.
Despite being a gold medallist in acting from NSD, Tiwari stayed true to her first passion. "I feel that while designing costumes, I embody all the characters that I design for - be it Seems Biswas' role in Bandit Queen, Ranbir Kapoor's in Rockstar, Priyanka Chopra's in Kaminey or Saif Ali Khan as Langda Tyagi in Omkara. However, as an actor, I have maintained a distance from the silver screen in particular, as I do not see my time and creativity being controlled by someone else. For movies, actors have to kill an entire day on set waiting for a single shot and many times, that one shot is cancelled. I stayed in Mumbai for a short span of time, but I couldn't quite fit in there and I wanted to be involved with my first love - theatre," says Tiwari, who has acted in more than 50 plays.
Even though the big screen could not lure Tiwari for good, audiences have still seen the Punjaban in many critical roles in acclaimed films such as Aadharshila, Blue Umbrella, Water, Partition, Love Aaj Kal, Yahaan and now in the latest buzz film, Shoojit Sircar's Vicky Donor.
"I accepted this role because I just can't say no to Shoojit Sircar - he's my heartthrob. He has done three films and I have been involved in all three of them - in Yahaan as an actor, as a designer in Shoojit's upcoming film, Shoe Bite, and in the recently released comedy, Vicky Donor. Another reason is Juhi Chaturvedi, the writer of Vicky Donor. She said that she had written the character keeping me in mind. There are so many actresses that Shoojit and Juhi could have appro-ached, but they chose me and I think I am blessed," beams the actor, riding the waves of the film's success.
Her candid drinking scene with theatre artiste Kamlesh Gill, her mother-in-law in the film, got viewers talking and questioning the traditional setup. "Shoojit gave us complete freedom and to everyone's surprise, the entire scene came out so well that we ourselves couldn't believe that both of us being non-drinkers performed the scene with such ease and perfection. It's all thanks to the freedom that Shoojit gave us as a director."
Adds the actor, "While shooting the scene, Shoojit said, Dolly ji, this is your stage, this is your glass and this is your namkeen… simply be yourself. Kamlesh ji, in her typical laidback style, said, 'Ai mera sofa' and I casually stretched my legs on the chair with no clue that Shoojit was all set to roll. He then came over to us and said, 'I'm ready, let's start'. Kamlesh ji and I both looked at each other and said Shoojit please direct us on what is to be done and how? He said, 'I think we are set for the take?' When the director can give you this much liberty to perform, masterpieces are bound to come into existence."
Tiwari, even long before the success of Vicky Donor, has been receiving numerous offers from Bollywood and TV serials. She, however, is content with her work and professional graph.
"Theatre positions you in a completely different time capsule and it's basically nothing but a mere reflection of your life - true and pure. I believe we are all actors working on the script written by some divine superpower and designing is like our skin. From a single leaf to animals and human beings, everyone is performing in a destined way and life, like a stage, is travelling through various scenes. So, each one of us is acting in a way and closely related to art. In fact, there is a bit of theatre in every one of us and that's why every event of life is dramatic. This is the prime reason we all connect and associate with art so well," reflects Tiwari, who is currently busy costume designing for two upcoming films - Midnight's Children and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.