From IAS to actor: Neena Gupta on theatre, Delhi and more
Veteran Neena Gupta is a name to reckon when it comes to power-packed performances. And everytime she is visits Delhi, the Delhiite in her kicks in. A Delhi University graduate, she later studied at the National School of Drama (NSD). So, when she came down to the Capital for her play Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha, she spoke to us about the days she has spent here. she tells us that she loves Bangali Market but says she has stopped visiting it. Why you ask? Read on to know:
IAS se actor tak
“My mother was very interested for me to become an IAS officer,” says Neena, who studied Sanskrit in masters and opted for NSD after that. “In PhD, my topic was Stage Techniques in Sanskrit Drama – theory and practice. I wanted to combine my drama training with Sanskrit drama, which has a very rich history in literature. But, after NSD, I got a film called Aadharshila (1982), and then decided that I wanted to do films, so came to Bombay (now Mumbai).”
Recently, she posted some black and white portrait shots, from her NSD days, and the world of social media started swooning at which actor looked how in their younger years. “All weren’t my batchmates. Anupam (Kher) is senior, (Satish) Kaushik is senior, Sushmita (Mukherjee) is junior... I was cleaning up my cupboard when I saw NSD ka voh 5 saal ka booklet, and I laughed and laughed at all of us. So, I put the pictures up on social media... but things have changed a lot now,” says a nostalgic Gupta.
“When I enrolled in NSD, I was very unfortunate because Mr (Ebrahim) Alkazi left. I had gone to NSD to learn acting from him. What happened is that through theatre, I once went to Kirori Mal College, and saw Alkazi sa’ab teaching, and directing a play that had Satish Kaushik. I still remember the sequence, and while watching him direct, I thought ‘I want to learn acting from this man’. So, I gave interview, got a scholarship, admission and then came the sad part when Alkazi sa’ab left,” she says.
A love affair with acting that started in DU
An alumna of Delhi University’s Janki Devi (Janki Devi Memorial College; JDMC), she says she was drawn to acting because of her shyness. She says, “I’m was a very shy person, a very shy person and couldn’t go to people in my college. We used to do plays, and I would never get the main female role. I would always get a boys’ role because it was a girls college and I was a little taller than other girls. They would never give me a lead actress, so I used to be very, very upset and would go home and do the other actor’s role in front of the mirror, and say I’m much better than her!”
Delicious Bengali Market memories and a grudge
“Aankh pe patti bandh ke bhi Mandi House se Bengali Market jaa sakti hun... We used to live in college hostel and wahan ka khana achcha nahi tha aur utne paise bhi nahi the toh hum log jaate the Nathu’s pe. We used to share one dosa or one gulab jamun ki plate, whenever we had money to spend. And there were a few chota chota dhabas behind Bengali Market called Bhagat or something. I don’t remember but there ya toh dal free hoti thi ya roti. We used to have food there the boys used to be very happy because they used to eat more than us, and as much as they liked. After many many, many years, when I went to Delhi, I went to Bengali Market wala *Naathu’s* chaat shop with four of my friends, and sab kuch khaya including tikki, dosa... jo kha sakte the, but when I asked for the bill, I was told ‘Koi zarurat nahi hai’. I went to the guy at the counter, and told him ‘Bhaiya yeh to galat baat hai’ so he said ‘Nai nai aapse kaise paise le sakte hain’. These boys were very small when we used to go then, and now have all grown up. But, I told him ‘Jab humare paas paise nahi hote the toh aap paise lete the aur jab hain to aap paise nahi le rahe, ye kya matlab hai!’ After that I never went to that Nathu’s becuase I used to feel very embarrassed.”
Her shyness to ask for work accompanied her long after she shifted to Mumbai. And, after years of being out of good work, she decided to share the dire situation on her social media, and what the world witnessed after that was Neena Gupta 2.0, with the film Badhaai Ho (2018). One would think that her career is back on track, but she says that now even after getting good films now, she is still deprived of some good professional opportunities. “Abhi bahut hai jo karna hai aur opportunities nahi mil rahi hain ya dusron ko mil rahi hain. Toh, mai bahut jealous ho jati hun. Kabhi kabhi lagta hai paper panda band kar dun; jab news aati hai ki isko role mil gaya toh mujhe lagta hai mujhe milna chahiye tha... mai koshish kar rahi hun ki vo type role aye aur mujhe mile. Bahut jalan hoti hai… Chalo dekhte hain kya hota hai,” she says. Tell her that a lot of female actors felt jealous when she bagged Badhaai Ho, and the actor replies, “Haan, bahut log jale honge (laughs). That’s also true.”
Interact with the author at Twitter/@HennaRakheja