Born in 1970, Jayati Bhatia, a renowned television actress, did many serials like Kutumb, Kanyadaan, Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Itihaas, Sasural Simar Ka, and many more. Currently, she is playing a role in Lockdown Ki Love Story in Star Plus. She has been a part of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa Season 5 and has been crowned the Kitchen Champion of Season 4. She is married to Mr. Kiran Bhatia, whom she met on the sets of Kya Yeh Gustakhi Hai. We had an interview session with Mrs. Jayati Bhatia; let’s check what she has to share with us.
- Tell us about your Journey
Well, my journey has been surprising. I am an actor by default as I was preparing and training to become a classical dancer. I started performing as a solo dancer. I am a student of Guru Mayadhar Raut, and by sheer chance, I was studying the Russian language, and there at the Entrance Check of Drama Studio, the director saw me in the canteen. He asked my Russian teacher to connect me with him to cast me in his play, Kya Yeh Gustakhi Hai.
It was about a young girl fighting for her sister’s education. The character was similar to me, and fortunately, I got ‘Behtareen Adakara’ for that. My co-actor, Kiran Bhatia, who is now my husband, realized my potential as an actor. He put me on to theatres, and I was trained under Padma Vibhushan Shri Ebrahim Alkazi. Those four years of theatre training were the golden period of my life. After that, my journey as a professional actor began soon after coming to Mumbai from 1997 onwards.
2. Was there any defining moment as such when you realized that you wanted to be an actor?
No, I never realized that I wanted to become an actor, as I told that I got a chance to be a part of a play, and I did quite well. There was a discipline in me due to my dance background and my ethics that whatever I will do, I will give my 100%. But, when I started training under Shri Ebrahim Alkazi in the theatre, when I realized there is a great catharsis, I would rather say that catharsis was in the process of becoming an actor.
When I started my training, I would get scolded every day, whereas I was doing everything right. I am quite well at mugging up my lines. Being a classical dancer for years, I do not have any fear of moving on the stage. I was comfortable with performing on stage with my hands, feet, and expression. So, it was easy, but I used to get many scolding, as, during these days of four years, I realized that to portray a character, you need to create the character in your mind. And the process of making this gave me peace, and I realized that I am not comfortable being Jayati Bhatia or Jayati Chatterjee as I was before marriage, but I am happy playing the characters.
I am a Bengali and married to a Panjabi. Playing different characters was a way of two things; one is a process of knowing other human beings on earth as you have to understand them to play the role. With that, you become a better human being when you start to know them. Secondly, by playing the character, I could run away from Jayati Bhatia and come into the exciting world of the characters I was playing.
3. What have you learned about yourself since you became a celebrity?
I have learned that I am blessed as I have been gifted with pure love from the people who don’t know me personally. They have only seen me in a web series, theatre, film, or television, and love me for who I am. You might portray a negative character, but as you do it so convincingly and beautifully, people start loving you. I have been blessed, loved, taken care of at places where I was new.
People would come up and hold my hands as they thought they knew me as I came to meet them through their TV sets every day. They made me feel like a part of their family, and I think when we become a celebrity, as you say, people recognized me, and that I believe it is my biggest blessings.
I have also realized that being a celebrity also has its cons as a lot of people think that because you are part of their lives, they can pressurize you to take photos or speak to them even when you are not in a mood or you need to do something else. One incident was when I went to see Niagara Falls. One of my most significant experiences was watching Niagara Falls looking in awe at those beautiful gushing water, and the other people were watching me. So, it was a mixed feeling as I was watching the Falls in awe, and people were looking at me.
4. What kind of role do you feel most comfortable with?
I am an actor, and I have to be comfortable with every character that comes my way. Many characters are there that do not excite me as they don’t have enough layering. They are so simple and straightforward that I do not want to delve into it.
The multilayered characters, or which have significant flaws, heroic qualities, are something that I look for. The characters coming my way or I am choosing should be a journey of the character along with mine. I would understand the character, people in the character’s life, and everything happening with that character now, including the social, political, economic scenario.
It should be a journey of understanding human nature; otherwise, portraying straightforward or black and white characters are bland. I run away from such characters. I also love to play the devious, manipulative, or pure and loving character, and as the story moves ahead, you get to play a lot of layers in this character.
5. Which character played by you is closer to your heart?
Whenever I am playing a character, I learn a lot from it, and it also becomes an extension of my personality. Therefore, when I see myself today, I am an amalgamation of all the characters I have played to date. I would say that most characters are close to my heart.
But two characters have left a mark in peoples’ minds as well as mine. It is one from a theatre, written by Tennessee Williams, done at the Living Theatre and under Shri Ebrahim Alkazi’s training. The play’s name is A Streetcar Named Desire. Here I played the character of Blanche DuBois, where I have to transform myself as the character demands thoroughly. I forgot what was happening in Jayati’s life and completely became Blanche for the next six months, during rehearsals and play shows.
The second one that everyone says and knows about is a television show Sasural Simar Ka, which ran for seven years. It created many benchmarks, where I have played the character of Mataji or Nirmala Devi Bharadwaj. Around 2065 episodes and playing Mataji every day, I have become Mataji to a great extent, and audiences see me as Mataji.
After that role, I have been trying to break the image, and I am doing that also with Lockdown Ki Love Story, where I am playing a different character than Mataji. But Mataji is close to my heart only because it has given me immense recognition and respect from across the world. Every time even the Ola or Uber guy sees me, they say you are the same person who had a white band in your hair. I had a strange band of white hair, and people remembered that quite well.
6. What challenges/obstacles did you face in your journey so far?
When it comes to challenges that I have faced till now in my journey, so far, I would say that I am quite blessed. I did not face much as I came to Mumbai on 1st June 1997, and I got my first project on 8th August 1997, and the same year, on 12th August, two more new projects.
Yes, I did the rounds of producers and directors’ offices then, as there were not many casting people. Every memory has been pleasant as they knew about my teacher Ebrahim Alkazi and me coming from theatres and a background that spoke of excellence. That way, I am blessed, but it has been a long road of hard work after that. There was no time to rest, and we had just come to Mumbai, and we had to make money to take care of our lives.
So, I have accepted that wholeheartedly, and today when I look back at five to six years of not sleeping at all and working 30 days. That thing to do for every month and every year for seven years, I do not know how I managed it. Maybe it was the youth or the blood in my stream or sheer passion of working along with a beautiful bunch of co-actors. It has helped me live my life for seven years with no sleep and only work. Theatre has also been a part of my existence. Even after doing television, I had never given up on my passion that is theatre. To some extent, when it comes to dancing, I could not manage to do it, but then I got to do it in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, and I was so euphoric.
Now, it looks like a cakewalk, but it was all because of my hard work and sleepless nights. But I wouldn’t say I like it when people slot us as television actors, theatre actors, or web actors. I have done a few web series as well, and they have become super hits, so my work has been appreciated there too.
So, who are you to call theatre actors or television actors or put us in different categories? This kind of divide in people’s minds should have vanished, and we should be treated as actors. We have become so good at our job that, depending upon the medium, we can change and perform accordingly. Yes, the kind of attitude required for a different medium varies, but we can get in the character’s skin irrespective of the medium. This is one struggle; otherwise, it’s going well.
7. Who supported you to come into this field?
As I have told you, I come from a Bengali background as I was Jayati Chatterjee before I got married. I got to give full credit to my Bengali roots and my mother, Chhobi Chatterjee, who put me in Odissi dancing. The person who saw the potential in me to become an actor or showed me the path, and guided me to take training under Ebrahim Alkazi, the best man in the country, who also let me come to Mumbai and choose projects to make an identity of my own is my husband. I will give the full credits to my husband, Mr. Kiran Bhatia.
8. What projects are you currently working on?
Unfortunately, I am not in Shaadi Mubarak, but the project I am currently working on is not in the theatres. They are not yet opened due to coronavirus. But I am working in Lockdown Ki Lovestory in Star Plus. Earlier, it was telecasted at 7 pm, but now it’s coming at 11 pm and is doing well. With your support, it will do much better. There is another web series that I completed shooting yesterday, The Hostel Girl Season 2 on Netflix by TVF. The director is Chaitanya Kumbhakonum, and the cast and crew of the series are excellent. They are one better than the other, Parul Shah Mehta, etc. It was a cheerful set, and I will be shooting for a web series that got stopped due to lockdown and will resume in January.
9. Who is your celebrity crush?
I am always fond of right talent and good looks, but good talent overshadows good looks. But at some point in time, I used to only look up to Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, and Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor, and every time I see him, my heart goes boom boom. One person with whom I am so impressed is Leonardo da Vinci, a great fan of work, art, mathematics, the way his mind works, and so on.
10. What is one message you would give to your fans?
One message that I would like to give to my fans is to get out of fear. Fear makes you do things that you don’t want to do; it gives you a chance to make excuses and allows you to do something that you; otherwise won’t do, and so on.
Follow your passion, even if you cannot become a dancer or an actor today, wait for the moment, and do not give up on your studies. A person who does not understand the world will never find excellence in their work.
Therefore, it’s essential to read books, watch films and theatres, and request parents who have small children like four to five years, please put your children in theatres. The theatre teachers do teamwork, they teach how to behave with other teams, and it also makes you selfless and brings out the best human behavior. After putting children in theatres, you will see a remarkable change in them as a human being.
11. What is your dream?
My dream has always been to go to different countries and to learn their dance forms. But as I am growing old, I think the body may not be helping me that much, even though my mind is still working super-fast. However, I will be doing this at some point in time and go back to my university days and study dance again. Be amongst the best, and learn from the best. I may not become a professional dancer, but I wanted to do it for my happiness.
12. What is your personal favorite performance?
There are two personal favorite performances: my theatre performance in Vigana monologues, like A Streetcar Named Desire. And the second play which I did with Quasar Thakore Padamsee. It is a one-actor play, so I am only there on stage. It is Khatijabai of Karmali Terrace that I am proud of. I have still not reached excellence in that, but that’s the beauty. The journey is always one, and the distinction is yet to come.
13. If you weren’t an actor, what would you have liked to have been?
If I were not an actor, I would love to become a psychiatrist. When I was in school, I was put in the medical stream. I wanted to become a psychiatrist because I read a lot of books in school and most of the western texts.
They put so much idealism to psychology and psychiatrist, but the person writing my destiny made me an actor. This is what I do; I get into a person’s mind to play a character, live their life, and understand their problems. Therefore, every character I play makes me a better person.
14. Can you tell me one favorite humorous story from your acting career?
People find me extremely humorous, and I have often heard it from many. If they do not see me on the sets, they miss me as nobody has cracked a joke today or did some crazy things. Because when I join a show, everyone thinks I am serious and keep a distance from me initially. Well, I like the process of breaking the ice and becoming friends, and then the fun begins. Well, I don’t have any story to tell you, but I can tell you that I am quite funny on sets.
15. Is there a role you have not played but would like to someday?
People might think that as soon as I am given a character, I start playing it. But that’s not true as I need to work on it a lot and understand how the character needs to be portrayed and its aspects. It’s a challenging role as I put my life into it. Yes, many roles are there that I would love to play and have not come my way yet. But at this point, I am not getting a particular character that I must mention.
16. Which of your roles was the most challenging for you to capture?
The most challenging role was playing Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. Throughout her life, the things she goes through and her status change from a high-society individual to the rags, but she still portrays herself as the diva. To be true to a character who has nothing from everything was challenging. Thanks to Tennessee Williams to create this character and Shri Ebrahim Alkazi to allow me to play this character. I am honored and blessed to have played this character.
These were excerpts of our conversation with the superbly talented actress. We wish her luck in her future endeavors and hope to see great performances in the future.