If getting to try her hand at acting was a difficult journey, what lay ahead was even more challenging. Donal Bisht landed herself in Mumbai – the city of her dreams. But getting a break was not all that easy.
Read ahead to know more.
What was it like staying in Mumbai for the first time?
When I touched down in Mumbai, there was an instant connection. I felt like this was my place. I wanted to become something, and this place was going to help me achieve it. On my second day in Mumbai, I was sent to cover a story outside Mannat [Shah Rukh Khan’s House]. I arrived with the cameraman, and people started crowding around us. They thought I was the heroin! Even before I started acting, Mumbai gave me a glimpse of stardom. (Chuckles)
How did you establish contacts for auditions?
Once in Mumbai, I started working 12 hours a day – I would finish reporting, voiceovers, assignments, then go over for photoshoots, and auditions. People knew me as the girl who finishes her work, everyone else’s work, and also does modeling outside of her work.
In my first week in Mumbai, I went to interview of Sonali Bendre. Someone from the channel spotted me there. He said, “kaun ladki hai ye? I want to meet her.”
His team tracked me down, and we had a meeting. He told me that he saw a fire in me and that one year from now I would be an actor. He then sent me to an audition for the show ‘Siya Ke Ram.’ I took out an hour from my work and dropped by for the audition. That one audition set out a wildfire of opportunities. I started getting multiple calls from that point in.
How did you get your first project in Mumbai?
One day, I was sitting in a mall and a random person came running to me. He asked me if I was an actress. I didn’t know what to say as I was still struggling at that point, but somehow, I thought I would say yes. He said there was an audition happening on the top floor for a Channel V project. I canceled the meeting I was waiting for and decided to go for the audition. At 10 in the night, I got a call that I was selected; shooting started the next morning itself.
IAD: How did you get your first big TV deal with Balaji Telefilms?
Donal Bisht: One day, I got a call from Balaji Telefilms for an audition. We had to recite a whole page of lines. The girl before me was doing tremendously well. When my turn came, I started fumbling. They made me sit back again. I waited for another 2-3 hours, learned my lines inside out, observed the performances of other girls, and give the audition again. I got a call this time that I was selected! It was for a lead role in a Star Plus show called ‘Kuch Toh Hai Tere Mere Darmiyaan.’ But there was a catch. They wanted me to leave my job at Chitrahaar and pursue this full time.
When I told the news to my mother, she was extremely apprehensive. She was not convinced why Mumbai might not be the right choice for me as I was doing well for myself in Delhi.
I put my foot down and said I had to try this. I gave my resignation at Chitrahaar and started waiting for a callback.
What happened then?
A week passed, there was no call. Another week passed, and I was left waiting. I finally got a call from Balaji, for a different TV show called ‘Kalaash.’ They said they wanted to do a look test for a parallel lead. I was confused and shaken. Apparently, the role I was selected for was of a Bengali girl, and the actress selected for Kalaash was also Bengali. She was a good actor with an established name in the industry.
At the last moment, they thought it would be a better fit if they swapped our roles. Upon hearing this, I was freaked out and angry. It felt like my mother’s fears about the industry were coming true. I refused to sign the contract. The casting director then reassured me how fortunate I was to get an opportunity to begin my career with a name like Balaji. I calmed down a bit and went ahead with the contract.
“Sapne hamesha saakar hote hai, bus unhe dekh ne ki jurrat honi chahiye.” – Donal Bisht
IAD: What was it like working as a parallel lead in Kalaash?
Donal Bisht: Initially, it was quite difficult. I was getting paid less as compared to in Delhi. The expenses were over the roof, and my mother could not understand why I was sticking in Mumbai only to be seen on screen for a few minutes every day. Before Kalash, I was a full-fledged anchor at Chitrahaar, running a high-TRP show. I used to get letters from all around the country. Leaving that prestigious job behind for a parallel role felt like a step backward.
Looking back, was it the right decision?
Absolutely! Now looking back, I understand how crucial Kalaash was for me. I learned a lot from the show. Had I directly started with a lead, it might not have worked out. I was extremely inexperienced at the time. It just happened so that ‘Kuch Toh Hai Tere Mere Darmiyaan’ was shut down in three months, while our show Kalaash went on for more than one and a half years. The show turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
What was your next step after Kalaash?
My aim now was to become a lead actor. I worked very hard and gave every audition possible. I learned the craft of acting and filmmaking. I then got an opportunity as a lead for the show ‘Ek Diwana Tha’ on Sony TV. I was so keen to prove myself that for four years, I worked non-stop without a break. After getting a role as a lead, things started moving fast. I got another call from Rashmi Sharma for the show ‘Roop’ aired on Colors TV. A few years in, another opportunity came in the form of ‘Dil Toh Happy Hai Ji’ on Star Plus. I gave my everything to these shows and never looked back. All my struggling years were finally heeding results.
View this post on Instagram
Wow what's gonna happen any guess…!!?? 😃 #musicvideo is releasing tomorrow….😍😍…. Stay tuned for the revelation…. 🤩 #Repost from @griebsmusic with @regram.app … Some love stories never end, Here's a sneak peak to a love story of eternal companionship. Releasing tomorrow "BEPATA" Sung by @abhijitvaghani , Written by @arafatmehmoodofficial, Composed by @anjanaankursinghofficial , Starring @donalbisht & Abhijit Vaghani Directed by @afzalsayyed.as #bepata #bepatagriebs #griebsmusicoriginals
What was your dream-come-true moment as a model-actress?
There is a mall right in front of my house. A building size poster hangs on the mall, featuring all the top actresses in the industry. Before I came to Mumbai, I had promised myself that one day my face would be on that king-sized poster. After I did my first lead, I went back to Delhi. By chance, we happened to go to the mall, and there it was, right in front of us, my face on the poster. That was the day I saw tears in my mother’s eyes. But for the first time, they weren’t tears of worry. They were tears of pride. 😊
View this post on Instagram
How extremely proud I am…just can't wait to see the film "chhappak". A movie based on my dear friend Laxmi's life.. Laxmi it's been more than half a decade knowing you & u r the same as firece as confident as strong as u were ever before…u r an example of how "impossible" itself says "I'm possible"… u made it girl… I had always said your story is to be told to the world… & The time has arrived…..🤗 Feeling proud.. your life's story is an inspiration to all those who think life is difficult but when u hav the will you will always find the way… That willingness is required in each & everyone… How nostalgic it was to meet u after ages.. can't even tell u… I revived all the memories talking, shopping, traveling.. shooting that interview show "udaan" with u when I too was in media… Oh those days r unforgettable… And yesterday again hrs & hrs of talking I again got goosebumps.. u could see that… U inspire me, u inspire the women inside me & I'm so proud to hav a friend like u in my life… 😇🤗 God bless u girl & u know I'm always there for u with u…. 🤗❤️ Guys I'm sure u all hav seen the trailer & liked it too… "Chhappak" The movie is releasing on 10th of Jan 2020… It's a must watch… Go see it with ur family & frnds …& I'm sure U would love it …. 🤗🤗 #chhappak @deepikapadukone @meghnagulzar @foxstudiosindia
What are some of your learnings from this journey?
This journey has been the most exciting ride of my life. It has taught me to work hard and never to give up, but most important of all, it has taught me to dream.
I am a firm believer now, that “Sapna hamesha saakar hota hai, bus dekh ne ki jurrat honi chahiye.” (Dreams do come true, as long as you can dare to dream and [pursue them]). (Donal signs off)
— Interviewed by Prachi Shevgaonkar.