'I am content with what I have'

Designer Actor

'I am content  with what I have'

One year back, she had sizzled on 70 mm when portraying an uber cool mother to Ayushmann Khurrana in Vicky Donor, for which she has just won the Best Supporting Actor which she shares with Kalpana for a Malayali film, Thanichalla Njan.

But there is more to Dolly Ahluwalia than being just a brilliant actor! A gold medallist from NSD and a well-known costume designer, Dolly shares her on screen and off screen journey.

As a young girl just out of school, Dolly admits to being confused between hotel management and acting as career options but her father guided her to where she truly belonged. “My principal told dad about my acting skills and told him to make sure, they aren’t wasted. I wanted to do hotel management but father showed me an ad for admission to NSD, took me there, and I met Mr Alkazi, my guru. It was 1976 and a festival of plays was on. Mr Alkazi asked me to stay back and watch Bichchoo which had Pankaj Kapur and Raghubir Yadav. By the time I returned home, I was ready to sit for NSD’s entrance and my father patted my back.” This at a time, when people called theatre “nautanki baazi.”

Post NSD, Dolly joined films but couldn’t handle the erratic schedules. “Shooting takes a lot of time and I have very limited time to waste. But I’ve never felt I am not acting beca­u­se I could see my actors through my designs.” She has designed for Bandit Queen, Omkara, Water and Midnight’s Children – to name a few.

While shooting for the last, Dolly and Midnight’s.. director Deepa Mehta were caught in a creative discussion. “For the climax, Deepa was keen that Seema (Biswas) wear her (Deepa) mother’s white saree whereas I wanted Seema to wear a maroon saree to show happiness coming her way through colour. Though Deepa was upset with my choice, she agreed. It was only when she was editing the film in Toronto that she called to say, ‘Dolly, I love you’. It was then that she understood my thought.” Dolly cherishes such experiences which encourage her to be more focused when it comes to selecting scripts.

“The subject must pull me. I don’t take up contemporary projects which buy readymade dresses for the actors. I believe in getting nostalgic for an era and reproducing it to show my creativity. I feel bad if I see Deepika wearing a dress which I have already seen in the market.”

As for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s upcoming Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, it was the script, subject and just about everything else that made Dolly take it up. “Also, Farhan Akhtar. Let me be honest. It was a knock on my forehead that if Farhan is doing Milkha, there must be something deeper to it. Especially given the fact, that Farhan is moving out of his comfort zone of mainstream cinema to a biopic. ZNMD was a big hit and only a great actor could take up such a film. It was phenomenal transforming Farhan to Milkha! Nobody can be a better Milkha than him.”

Today, with a fine body of work behind her and loads to look forward to, Dolly feels “blessed. After Vicky Donor, there have been so many scripts and I have had the liberty to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But for the moment, I am content with what I have.”

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