“Humare samaj ka jo chakravyuh hai, uss se nikal pana thoda mushkil hai” – Kamla Sharma, Shaadisthan
Be it Rishtey, Kundali, Saat Phere: Saloni Ka Safar, or Balika Vadhu, Nivedita Bhattacharya has worked in narratives that have highlighted strong women as protagonists.
After featuring in the film Kya Kehna, she was missing in action on the big screen for a brief period, but made a comeback with projects like Darr @ the Mall, Phobia, Chicken Curry Law, and Aiyaary.
Two decades later, Nivedita has finally solidified her craft as an actress with the OTT boom. In her latest release Shaadisthan, she essays the role of a submissive mother Kamla Sharma, who is put to test as she questions her life choices.
The actress gets candid about her role in Shaadisthan, lack of logic in television content, a hush-hush marriage with actor Kay Kay Menon, and more.
Nivedita came on board for Shaadisthan at a time when she lost her father. As she battled her inner turmoil, it was the film’s director Raj Singh Chaudhary, who was adamant about casting her and only her in the role, that eventually brought her on the film's sets in Rajasthan.
She says, “Raj said I have this script and I would like to give you a narration. The day we were fixed to meet up, I had to fly down immediately because my dad was unwell. He was critical. I ended up overstaying and rescheduled all my shoots. I called up Raj and told him I can’t leave my dad and you can go ahead with someone else. But he waited, and I lost my father. While I was in my mourning period, I read the script in bits and pieces. Since it was a mother’s part, I asked Raj why do you see me in this part, but he was very sure he wanted to cast me.”
Nivedita, who comes from an urban background says that she had to convince herself to step into the shoes of Kamla Sharma.
She says, “We have a lot of families where the girl is married off pretty early, not having a career, and their life continues with children and just looking after the family. Some women are happy with just that. It is a choice they’ve made for themselves. However, the question that the director asks is that does Kamla have a choice or is she compelled to. Perhaps if she had a choice, she would have not chosen this life. There’s a very fine balance without actually giving any gyan or lecture about it. My character for me is not in a derogatory space. Kamla has a sheltered life and has only seen that but when Kirti’s (Kulhari) character’s perspective comes into this woman’s life, is when she knows what she’s been missing out on.”
Nivedita kickstarted her acting career by doing theatre and still manages to do it as and when time permits. As an artist who has worked in television, films, and now OTT, she deciphers the representation of women onscreen and why she’s been picky all these years.
She says, “Initially in television, women were shown in a positive light. However, things just diluted and became unbelievable. There are these leaps out of nowhere, stories being put for a toss, characters behaving in a certain way and one fine day it’s a 360-degree turn with no justification. These are the elements that kind of took me away. I have to be convinced about my part.”
“I am not watching a lot of TV now; thanks to OTT we have a lot of content. The parts which come to you are really strong women but then how convincing are they because you have this antagonist who is trying to make the lead’s life hell. That saga still continues. There is very little logic. Television did great stuff back in the day which gave us actors a place to explore. However, the entirety of a daily soap after a point was lost. We didn’t know where the narrative is going or how it will end because the TRP would decide if you’re going to die or kill somebody,” she adds.
Weighing in on films with female protagonists Nivedita asserts that presently, women are pivotal in a story, but it wasn’t the case when she stepped out looking for roles in films.
Nivedita says, “There was a phase during the 90s when women were just supposed to look beautiful and sing songs. The other aspect was that she’d get raped so that the male actor can take revenge. It was something that never excited me. Thankfully television at that time had a lot to offer and I decided to step into the small screen. Of course, film has a larger impact, but what am I doing in this story was always my question.”
Not many are aware that Nivedita is married to actor Kay Kay Menon. The two have maintained a low profile when it comes to their personal life.
How did they reach their Shaadisthan? Nivedita says, “We both were doing theatre. It was during a play when we met during rehearsals. We have a common set of friends. It’s not like you meet someone in a project and move on to the next. Even if we were not working together, we were always in the same circle, which then transitioned into love. We were in the initial stepping stones, struggling, looking for more work, our careers had just begun. We said ‘OKAY’ might as well just get married. Instead of giving rent to two different houses, we’ll just pay the rent for one.”
When asked why have they been secretive about their marriage, she signs off by stating, “It’s a part of our life and there’s no need to bring that forward because both our agendas are that our work should do the talking and those who know us, know we’re married. We didn’t want to shout from a rooftop ‘oh we’re a couple, look at us, take our pictures’. We’re only visible when our work is visible.”