Diana Penty has come a long way from her ‘Cocktail’ days. After portraying the headstrong Happy in ‘Happy Bhag Jayegi’, she returns in a new avatar in ‘Lucknow Central’, as a hard working, hopeful NGO employee. Here, she talks about her life before the glamour, her career and her character.
How was the experience, doing Lucknow Central?
It is a really unique story, that’s what stood out for me. Stories like this are not made into films a lot. This has jail life, friendships, sadness, hope, everything! The script is incredible, and that’s what really matters nowadays! The most special thing about this film is the cast – because all of them are such incredible actors in their own right, powerhouses of talent! I was actually nervous on the first day because I was the junior most of them all!
What did you take away from the film?
So much! I just observed them all, how they process their characters, how they perform scenes, how they rehearse lines. There are certain techniques – for body language and everything. They don’t just do the scene and walk off, they prepare for everything and perform very well. So, I used to see a lot of things which would not have crossed my mind, and I learned from them.
Tell us about your character.
My character is an NGO worker involved in prisoner reformation. She believes that they have basic human rights, that the fact that they were sentenced is punishment enough. She thinks they should get a chance while in jail, taught some vocations so that they can survive once they get out. I’m like a ray of hope for them!
How was the transition from modelling to acting?
They are two different worlds. I had to get used to emoting in front of people, you know. In fashion, it is more about the garment looking good rather than your expressions. Here, I am bringing a character to life and telling their story. I learned to act before hundreds of people on set, which was hard because I was quite reserved and shy. It took a while but as you do it, you grow. It isn’t new for me, but I’m improving!
How different is this character form the ones you have played before?
Meera (Cocktail) was very shy and ‘ghar ki ladki’. She was very ‘sanskaari’. Happy (Happy Bhaag Jayegi) was very loud. This character is more toned down, she is very relatable, very real. She knows what she wants and is headstrong and persistent. She gets the job done. In this script, she is a very strong woman character in a very male dominated world of jail. She had to have had a strength to get through to the prisoners.
You met inmates of an actual jail after the film right?
Yes, I did. It was very uplifting because they are very well behaved. You don’t know what to expect when you’re going there. But they performed and they were very good! I was actually humming along and tapping to the beats! It is a good feeling because you know their circumstances and yet there is this optimism. I left there quite positive and happ!
As a model and actress, you really have to remain fit. Can you tell us something about your fitness routine?
See, the thing is – I love food. (laughs) I realised very early on that I wouldn’t be able to diet. So, I’ve decided that I will eat what I want but I will also work out equally. I discovered Pilates recently and I love it! It helps me with my normal workout. But I haven’t been able to do it in a couple of months. Other than that, in the gym, I do a lot of strength and weight training and work on my core. For Parmanu, I had to do a little action so I did a couple of months of kick boxing. That became an integral part of my routine, it’s a lot of cardio, but I will continue with that.
How did you prepare for you character?
I didn’t have to work on my accent for Lucknow Central like the others. I am not necessarily from there. In fact, the director told me that she is a Delhi girl who went abroad and came back. For Happy, I had to do a little accent training to get the Punjabi lull in there. It’s hard but I like doing this kind of stuff. I like the earthy roles that belong in small towns, heartlands. I find those characters so interesting because I was born and brought up in the city and it is so far from my reality!
Lucknow Central releases on 15th September 2017.
Watch the trailer here!