Conversation with Deepak Dobriyal & Swarnima Upadhyay
By SUNITA VIJAY
Uttarakhand is gifted in terms of, both, natural and human resources. We have witnessed beautiful and talented people of the state born with innate abilities shining in varied fields. Scores of residents of Uttarakhand have irrefutably made a mark in Bollywood as actors, dancers, stylists, singers, and directors in the film industry. The release of Bholaa, an action-packed film directed by Ajay Devgn, surprised the audience when they watched Deepak Dobriyal effortlessly treading an untraversed path as a dreaded villain against his set image of an emotional-comic actor. ‘I was surprised to learn that Ajay Devgn had chosen me to play the main antagonist in his film. Like all other crew members, I was clueless, and many expressed their apprehensions, maybe because my personality and physical attributes were not close to the typical Indian villain image. Halfway into the shoot and everyone changed their views in my favour. And then, one day, Ajayji asked the crew – how was my choice to choose Deepak and all nodded in unison,’ Deepak says.
Undoubtedly, Deepak’s performance in Bholaa has won applause for this metamorphosis. Deepak proved Ajay Devgn’s choice apt, and it has astonished the audience to see an actor from Devbhoomi snuggle befittingly into the villain’s shoes. The film is running in theatres to thrill all.
Deepak hails from the Pauri district, Uttarakhand. Loving nature comes instinctively to him. He nurtured this trait further by involving himself in planting trees near his native village each year. This gesture helps him feel Mother Nature in his veins.
Deepak started his career in theatre and then films and soon was embraced by the audience for his outstanding performances in Omkara, Tanu Weds Manu 1 & 2, Hindi Medium, and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, to mention a few against the trail of films he has done. ‘Nature should reflect in our talks, behaviour, food, habits, and attitude. Then only we can be good humans and versatile actors because nature is the best teacher. It teaches all traits of how to be compassionate, ferocious, angry, happy, and vengeful. I make it a point to visit Uttarakhand each year and rejuvenate myself amidst this state’s treasured wilderness,’ he avers.
When asked to describe his experience working with Ajay Devgn, he says, ‘Ajay sir is highly professional and goes deep into detailing. He believes in the artist. He helped me explore and scratch the other side of actorhood which had laid dormant in me and let me give my best shot as a villain, a role beyond my natural comfort zone.’
Of the other projects on Deepak’s chart, one is a film, ‘Sector 36’, with Vikrant Massey releasing this year.
Another shining star from Uttarakhand who got a big break in Bholaa is Swarnima Upadhyay as the second assistant director. Swarnima was born and brought up in Dehradun. She fondly remembers her school days in St Joseph’s Academy, Dehradun and then in Mussoorie’s Oak Grove School. Her career counselor was Rosemount, Dehradun.
She claims not to be good in studies and always wanted a career where she had to read less and use her other creative tools. Advice from a career counsellor to choose a profession that required creative input was taken seriously, and she started looking for conducive avenues. She graduated from Queen Mary University, London, then returned to Doon, headed straight to Mumbai, and worked hard to try her luck in films. ‘I would send my CV to many production houses and meet several personally. A break came as an intern in a reality show. I was into music videos, web series and finally, the big opportunity knocked lately to be an assistant director in Bholaa,’ she asserted. When asked how difficult it is to make a niche in Bollywood, she added, ‘It is not an easy journey. A lot of toiling and sweating happens, but hard work pays.’
Uttarakhand has a special place in her heart. ‘During Covid, this state provided me ample opportunities to shoot commercial ads. I was not free even for a day, which helped me further hone my skills. Uttarakhand is a beautiful state. I always mention its splendour and glory to my colleagues, and they long to come here, spend time and shoot. I consider myself lucky to belong to a state that is the abode of the Himalayas. Someday, I would like to shoot my own film here.’
Assisting superstar and wondrous Director Ajay Devgn has been the most extensive learning experience to date for Swarnima. She handled action and VFX effects that the film abounds in.
‘Working with Deepakji on the sets was fun and enriching. Deepakji is a down-to-earth person. We would talk about Uttarakhand often. Plus, it was delightful to see him deeply invested in his role as Ashwathama ‘Ashu’, and we would fondly call him Deepak 2.0 in Bholaa,’ she adds.
She is all in praise for Ajay Devgn as an actor, director and person. ‘Ajay sir is highly professional, a gem of a person, a simple yet intelligent human being. I was the only girl in the close crew circuit, and sir realised this to be extra caring and protective about me.’
Swarnima is upgrading her skills in on-set visual effects techniques like VFX and SFX to further lend better services to the film world in this upcoming area.
Bholaa is running in theatres at present.