Gitikka Ganju Dhar
This year saw our very own Gitikka debut in the most awaited film of the year, Aamir Khan Productions’ Laal Singh Chadha. The film, opened to rave reviews from across the world, including one from The Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences and went on to become the highest-grossing Indian film of the year in overseas markets. The film did not satiate the humongous box-office expectations attached to an AK starrer in India, but for Gitikka, it has turned out to be a win-win situation. She made her filmic debut with one of the most respected film banners in India and took a bow on receiving a widespread thumbs-up for her on the mark, natural potrayal of the character of Manjit Massi in the film. Aamir Khan remarked, “For a first-time performance by an actor, we were pleasantly surprised with her nuanced performance.” Gitikka has been signed on for a new film project, meanwhile, she continues to host with elan, the frontline of large-format and special events in India, with the same professionalism and finesse she has been widely depended on for, over two decades, still the chameleon, evolving and changing, adding cognizable value to any project she is roped in to talk for. Aptly described as a dream to work with, we caught up with the Dream Catcher in Mumbai and spoke to her about all things interesting.
How did the project (Laal Singh Chaddha) happen?
It was more than two years back, I remember I was seated at my study table, writing a script and the phone rang, someone from Mukesh Chabbra’s casting agency was on the other end and asked if I would like to come in for an audition for a very important project, and at the end of explaining the scene to me, she said that the particular scene was with Aamir Khan. My interest was piqued and I told myself, just go in there and enact the scene as honestly as possible. A few days later, I got a call confirming me for the role. I was also told that I was finalized to play this character from among many auditions of established actors. I’m telling you, sometimes it is natural thing to feel gratitude, and for Laal Singh Chaddha, I feel it in abundance. Here I am, busy navigating my career as an anchor and this role falls into my lap! I did nothing to manifest it. That is the beauty of the casting process nowadays, the immersive process of looking for the perfect actor to suit a role has resulted in so many good actors entering the film industry and establishing a foothold.
When asked about why she chose to debut in a character that panned out from the age of thirty to the age of seventy, she said, “I wanted to experience the process of filmmaking with Aamir Khan. Also, when one takes off with an Aamir Khan Productions’ film, many quality opportunities are bound to follow. In my opinion, for someone of my mindset, it has been, absolutely the right decision to debut in a role that showcases one as an actor and someone open to essaying varied characters”.
So yet again, she chose differently. How has the response been to her presence in the film, we asked her – Initially, when I shared the news via coverage in the press, I think my friends, family and colleagues were pleasantly surprised and excited. Post the release of the film, it was an immediate shift, that I felt had occurred. The Live Industry registered my presence in the film and were extremely generous in their expression of the same and now, post the film’s presence on Netflix, I have received congratulatory messages from different parts of the globe. It is way beyond what I expected, belies reason and has taken me unawares. But for once, I am enjoying it.
How was the experience of working with Aamir and Kareena?
Aamir is one of the biggest movie stars of Indian cinema. But all I said to myself is, don't be in awe of his skill or stature or it will burden you as an actor. In fact, I looked at it as a precious learning experience. All that I needed to do was to go in there and do a good job. Aamir leads the way in terms of creating a very professional environment on set. Aamir will give you suggestions if something needs to be improved in the shot and that is always, a great help! Post pack-up, at cast and crew interactions, he is a very chilled-out person and you won’t feel like a big star has just walked in. Kareena, what do I say, I think she is such a beautiful woman and is a very sweet person. She is a natural actor, the ease with which she switches on and slips into character is phenomenal!
You kept this under wraps for almost two years. How and why?
It is the sensible thing to do, is’nt it! One cannot predict how one’s role will pan out, how one’s performance will fare or how long the film will take to hit the screen. Who counts chickens before the eggs hatch! Was it difficult for me to keep the secret? No. It is strange, normally I am the worst keeper of secrets related to me and I am the best keeper of secrets pertaining to everyone else, I have a deep stomach, never will I break someone’s confidence, but when it comes to information regarding my own self, I am an open book! Thank God, something worked to keep me quiet on this one!
How is the emcee workometer faring post the film’s release?
I like the way you called it the workometer, in my case, it is really not a meter, it’s more like a painting changing hues, shades, textures and colours. What can I say, it is good and I am blessed! The quality and content of shows I am engaged on, continues to scale up, I get to take on new challenges each time and often be a part of projects that one can say are milestones for the concerned organizations, ministries and industries, they are mounted by. It is very exciting to engage with clients, bureaucracy, artists and audiences from different parts of the country, as Heads of State, State Heads or corporate leadership engage with different regions launching one national or regional initiative after the other. Each time, one learns a new thing and rounds a rough edge in one’s kit. The responsibility is huge and so the pressure is real, I have learnt to do my best and leave it at that. I just have one things to say to my industry folk, using the medium of this chat – That, I need relief from big ticket events, sometimes, I want to just go in there and execute something sweet and simple, you know! Also, don’t typecast an artist, it may be a waste of someone who is versatile. Yes, I deeply value the niche of being depended on for President, PM, CM-led events, Ministerial, Flagship PSU events, global and national corporate leadership-led events, hey, remember, it was me who worked the graph towards them, but, every versatile artist needs to be a chameleon and I miss that nowadays.
Gitikka's latest kitty of events includes the PM Led Mahakaal Lokarpan in Ujjain, the Golden Jubilee of Indian Oil Servo in Mumbai and an exclusive meet and greet evening in Delhi with Royalty, His Serene Highness Prince Max of Liechtenstein, Europe.
We noticed, how despite prodding to do so, you have refrained from participating in any industry awards this year. Why?
My awards this year were the trophies held by good friends and able colleagues. Internally, I had reached a point where I, just, had to share in their joy of winning. It did’nt feel good inside, however immodest this may sound, and I apologize for the same, people who know me closely know that I am not conceited or vainglorious, but, I knew I was standing in the way for too long, whether the Bronze, Silver or Gold, I would be given either one, I knew I had received abundant blessings, I knew it had become an overdose of me winning the same awards every year! So, I kept away, entirely, from participating or even physically attending any artist award ceremonies this year. The day the fatigue wears off, I may participate or I may never again feel the need to do so. Let’s see how it pans out. If business demands, I may need to! Also, the universe conspires and all that jazz and I was happy to take home awards from outside of the Live Industry realm.
How has your experience as an emcee and host helped you while donning an actors' hat? What were the challenges you faced in the initial phase of the shooting process?
I would say my experience as an emcee helped me immensely, one is confident, at ease, and focused amidst all kinds of working conditions. Having worked with leading artists on stage, I was not in awe of any member of the leading cast of the film, mostly, when one is making a debut, one can be nervous in their presence. But more than all this, I think my being a trained Bharatnatyam dancer, helped. In that sense, I am a performer, even on stage, while hosting. I faced no challenges while shooting at all. It was a supremely professional setup. The atmosphere was an easy one and great work was happening alongside, just like that. That is because Advait as a director is chilled out. Even in the phase of the COVID Pandemic, everyone, the crew, the producer, the artists, everyone kept the faith and kept going. Those were some very, very strenuous times for the directorial and production team. Bottom line, we all believed that this was an Aamir Khan Production, it would see the light of day, it would be acknowledged as good cinema.
You also offer an online course, Communication Unwrapped. What are the benefits of this course, and how can learners apply for it?
As I searched, recalled, extracted, transferred and worded from within, I found to my delight, that, over the years, I had instinctively applied the myriad techniques of communication on stage, television and virtual media. Also as an actor and writer, I realized that I had banked on a deeply connatural resource of communication skills. No wonder, it worked to a good degree. And now, here I am, with a course on communication called – Communication Unwrapped on Menova.org. It is a journey of sharing my experience, learning and knowledge with patrons, I have revised, relearnt and refreshed my own arsenal as a communicator. I hope like me, you too fall in love with the love of my life – Communication. I strongly believe that communication is the skill of the future!
Any future dreams?
Of course! My books, acting in a musical, putting on road the journey as a motivational speaker, a house in the hills, the Girl Child project and a film with #ForeverRahul, Shahrukh. For now, just these!!
We wish the Dream Catcher all the very best and hope that she continues to WOW the audience for many more years to come!
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Aptly described as a dream to work with, we caught up with the Dream Catcher in Mumbai and spoke to her about all things interesting.