Dolly Thakore Interview
When an actor, casting director, newscaster, TV host, columnist, radio personality writes her autobiography readers wait with bated breath. More so when the writer is known for her forthrightness and honesty.

 By Jahnavi Pal

Regrets, None is the title of well-known media personality Dolly Thakore's autobiography. For an individual who has worn her heart on her sleeve, called a spade a spade and never shied away from any controversies the book will be worth a read.

If theatre lovers know her for her work in plays like DEATH OF A SALESMAN, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, ALL MY SONS, GASLIGHT, VAGINA MONOLOGUES she is also remembered as the face of Mumbai Doordarshan when she read the news in English and also interviewed several leading personalities. Dolly wears many hats and her work as a casting director for the award-winning film Gandhi (amongst several others) wherein she recruited Indian actors is a milestone in her professional career. Though she has done it all she says the phase she enjoyed most was that of a newsreader.

Having started life on stage as a five year old, Dolly has kept abreast of times. She has also acted in TV serials, web series and is currently rehearsing for a play to be shown on the digital platform. The spirited septuagenarian has a never-say-die attitude and is as professionally active as she ever was.

Regrets, None is a title that is a reflection of her unconventional personality.

Have you always lived life on your own terms?

"Absolutely. I have been very fortunate that I have had the guts to do exactly as I wanted. And it is all there in the book. "

What was the thought behind wanting to pen your memoirs?

"Well, because the strong feeling that overcame me when my life took a different turn I needed to put it down on paper. I therefore started writing this in 1982 and then stopped midway. That was the time I was going to all the astrologers and fortune tellers and that's the time I thought I should write my story. Ten years later I revisited it and continued writing the next part. Three years ago my son asked me to complete it and that's when we put our heads together and I completed it."

How challenging was it sharing your most intimate details?

"I have never been embarrassed about any of the things I have done or any of the decisions I have taken or anything in my life. So when you read the book I hope that that kind of honesty, that kind of courage and that kind of confidence all comes through. And I hope other women will be inspired by it. There is nothing that I have tried to hide or that I am not proud about. Though sometimes there were things that were not so happy but it didn't matter. There was nothing that was difficult to share. I have tried to put everything in it."

Was there any catharsis when writing this?

"No. I have written it as a confession to my son and I have shared every single thing with my son. Who else is there to object, or resent, or pass judgement on anything? The past is what has made me what I am. From every little thing starting from age five is what has made what I am. The experiences, the people I encountered, everything is there in the book. In fact if I have forgotten anything its only in the last three years.

"I started acting at age five. But none of it was for professional reasons. It all just happened and I never thought of it as oh I am on stage! It never even occurred to me that I was an actor. It was only when I came to Mumbai and I was part of the theatre group that I looked at it a little more seriously. In fact I have never earned anything from acting. I got paid Rs 50 when I was doing my plays . In fact I got paid the same when I was reading the news. It was never for the money. Even for VAGINA MONOLOGUES, which paid me three times more than Rs 50, and that too 50 years later, I can say I never made money from acting. I did it only for the love of theatre."

Baring it all in an autobiography often ruffles feathers. Do you think you may have upset anyone?

"Who cares!! And as it hasn't been launched as yet I have had no response. The ones whose opinion I sought when writing it were all dear friends and I have received no comments from any of them. But then they are not readers, they are family!

"I think every single bit of the book is fascinating. Every step in my life has been a learning process. Whether it was the Gandhi film or one of the most significant theatre productions VAGINA MONOLOGUES, it all just fell into my lap. It was not something I was vying for. Every single part I have played on stage has come to me. I have never had to reach out to people for work."

Would you like to comment on the current theatre scene?

"I love what the younger lot is doing today. We were only regurgitating old English works like Shakespeare, Shaw and others. The new generation is writing wonderful scripts. What brilliant talent on the OTT platforms! I am totally bowled over at how talent has evolved in the past few years. Fortunately I have dabbled in all mediums and I have even done a tiny part in a Nadiadwala film. I do whatever comes my way. Now I am doing my first Zoom play called TURNING POINT. It's written by Meher Pestonjee and it focuses on the life of a person afflicted with a spinal cord injury. The interesting part is that I have my director guiding me from Kolkata, the stage manager in Chennai, an actor in Bangalore and here I am in Mumbai. We have rehearsals every evening from 9-11. As I said, I wil never retire."

Seriously no regrets?

"Of course there have been heart breaks, there have been emotional setbacks. But none of this has set my life back. I have not needed to resort to drinking or smoking to overcome these setbacks. It was all a passing phase. It's all gone. I have written this book to give women courage. I am not saying I haven't made mistakes or the wrong choices but this is me. I have lived to the fullest and I have no regrets whatsoever. I am so glad I have lived those experiences."

*Jahnavi Pal is a journalist, writer and theatre buff

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