I have the utmost respect for the crew behind the camera – Devika Vatsa
Devika Vatsa started her journey as an Assistant Director and gradually moved on to acting. From commercials to web series to full-length feature films, she has made her mark in all formats of entertainment. In a peppy talk with Indian Ad Divas, Devika Vatsa speaks at length about her highs and lows in the industry.
Where are you from? When did you decide to jump into the entertainment industry?
I am an army kid. I was born in Bombay, but I ended up living in a lot of places, including Pathankot, Sarangpur, Assam, Chandigarh, Pune, and many other cities. Finally, after a lot of moving around, I pursued my graduation in History Hons., from Delhi University.
During my college years, I got involved in street plays. Delhi had the advantage of better road profiles and infrastructure. Because of this, some brands, especially in automotive, would host their shoots in Delhi. I used to casually drop by for auditions and do whatever projects that came my way.
Fifteen days after giving my final exam, I got a desperate gut feeling that I had to move to Bombay, to try my luck in the entertainment industry. I decided to give myself one year to see if this was a good idea. If not, I would resort to a 180-degree turn and pursue a post-graduation in History.
What happened when you moved to Mumbai?
I reckoned I would become a superstar on the first day itself! My optimism levels were a little too high. It was during the monsoons, adding to the whole vibe of a hopeful girl in a big city. One day, I was chilling with my roommates when they asked if I would be interested in becoming an intern for the romantic drama film, ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahani.’ I had nowhere to go, so I agreed.
Once on the set, I was always active, and so was soon promoted to the post of Costume Assistant Director.
How was the experience of working as an Assistant Director?
The crux of an Assistant Director (AD) lies in getting the job done, no matter what. It is a very Jugadu role. Everybody used to pamper me as I was this tiny little girl. I remember Mukesh Bhatt even saying, ‘why are you living alone in this city, you are so young?’ I would have to convince them that I was an adult.
I was close to Vidya Balan’s height, so they would often make me stand in her place to check the lighting and camera angles. But I couldn’t stand idle; I would pretend to act. Even Vidya Ma’am would joke with me and ask me my version of the scene. I would then turn around dramatically and display an over-the-top version. It was all fun and games. I was taken care of as a child, and I spent 11 months of my life on the sets of Hamari Adhuri Kahani (HAK). In the process, I learned a great deal, met many inspiring people, and understood the craft of cinema.
How did you move on to acting from there?
As an AD, you continuously look tired; you have dark circles under your eyes and no time to jump into anything else. After HAK, I decided to focus strictly on acting for some time. I started giving auditions.
The first advertising project I landed was of MTR Gulab Jamun. Then more ads started rolling in. I did one for Spice Jet, which went viral. I focused on story-based ad films and got many exciting gigs, including one for HP.
I was always extremely choosy about my roles, but somehow I would get shortlisted for 90% of the auditions. I had run out of the one-year period of my parents sponsoring me. Once I moved to advertising, I became quite stable financially.
You had a streak of success in advertising. Were there some bad times too?
Two incidents triggered a bad phase in my career. Shaving my head for a film has been my dream. I was almost selected for a movie that required me to do so. I was over the moon when the news came. But somehow, it did not pan out.
After that, I got locked for a project after auditioning for three months. I had started the process of gaining weight, researching, and getting into the character when they decided to go with an A-lister instead. It broke my heart. I went into a terrible phase for two months. These were decisions that I had made for myself; I kept contemplating if I had made some wrong choices.
I realized that I had to talk to someone about what I was going through. I took a breather and stayed with my parents for some time. I had been locked for this project until December. On January first, as the New Year commenced and firecrackers went off, I felt like a burden was lifted off me. I gave an audition for the first time in months on the very first day of the year. I picked up the broken pieces and started fresh.
Two of your films – Malang and Kamyaab came out in this year. Can you tell us a little about them?
I played the role of Anil Kapoor’s 16-year-old daughter in Malang. I had assisted Mohit Suri before. He recommended me, joking that he wanted a one-take actor for the role.
My role was a cameo, but it tied a lot of loose ends in the film. In Kamyaab, I played a casting assistant. I had always wanted to work with Drishyam Films Production but was skeptical about playing a smaller role. When I looked over the script, I realized it would be a huge mistake to miss out on being part of such a gorgeous film. The film is about character actors, so it felt at home. Both are lovely films that I am proud to be a part of.
What are some lessons that you have cherished from your years in the industry?
I was fortunate to have worked both in front of and behind the camera. The viewers may not realize it, but there is a lot that goes into making a film, from sound, camera work, to lighting. Acting is merely the tip of the iceberg.
I have the utmost respect for every single person in the camera crew. Even as an actor, I have learned to be calmer, more patient because I know the internal struggles of pulling off a shoot.
From playing a 16-year-old to the mother of a 7-year-old, acting has given me a lot. It is all about moving forward little by little, and one never knows where they might reach. I am sure this journey has a lot more in store for me.
Indian Ad Divas wishes Devika Vatsa an exciting journey ahead! You can follow her on Instagram @DevikaVatsa.
Interviewed by – Prachi Shevgaonkar.