Jaya Bhattacharya’s claim to fame as one of the finest and versatile actresses of the Television industry with a huge array of work has recently taken the OTT platform by storm with her performance in the popular Netflix show “Delhi Crime”. She mostly played characters with shades of grey but in real life, she is nothing but a beacon of positivity and white light. Like her on-screen avatars, Jaya is a no-nonsense personality in real life too, who doesn’t shy away from raising her voice against issues like animal welfare and environmental concern. Her empathy towards others and the need to constantly do good deeds, made her shave off her hair during the COVID-19 pandemic, which “was going to prohibit us from doing a work that gives us happiness” and donating it for wigs for cancer survivors. This benevolent soul is quirky and always ready with her infectious laughter. Jaya is an energy healer who lives her life by choosing tranquillity over materialism. The Voice of Woman recently got in touch with the veteran actress who is known for her iconic roles in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Gangaa, Thapki Pyar Ki, Jhansi Ki Rani, and also been part of films like Devdas, Lajja, and others. Read her exclusive interview here. What inspired Jaya Bhattacharya to pursue acting as a career? Did you face any hurdles initially in the acting industry? I had no aspirations because everyone around me used to say that I am good for nothing and even I believed that. Acting just happened to me. When I started acting, everyone thought I was great and I started getting work. I was getting featured in almost all projects that were being made back in Lucknow. My seniors in the industry started promoting and recommending me to others, and that’s how I came to Mumbai. S.M. Zaheer Saab recommended me to Manohar Shyam Joshi Saab and he, in turn, sent me forward to Bhappie Sonie Saab, Ramesh Sippy, and others. I kept getting work and that’s how I stayed back in Mumbai. If not for such support, neither could I have come to Mumbai nor stayed here. So, it was pretty good for me. Yes, I have encountered some hurdles in my life. But I was lucky in the sense that I had a boyfriend, who was much older than me and had done some great work, so, people knew him here. So, I was pretty much protected, most of the time. Still, people who didn’t value that tried to mess around. I learned to be strong because my ex-boyfriend taught me to be strong, just like my father did. Being in the acting industry is tough. Many find it hard to cope with the hardships and end up battling depression. What are your thoughts about this? They say that the grass is always greener on the other side, and that holds true for the acting industry – “the tinsel town”. Everybody thinks that it is so easy, that you need to just get there and be seen on the screen, and you become famous. Please, get out of the cloud. Most people do not know how much hardships each person is going through, even when they have reached the pinnacle of success. We never get to know what’s happening there, till and when we actually try to know. So, it is not easy being in this particular field. There are as many hurdles here as in any other industry. Lots of times there is no work, and you have to do a certain role because you have to make ends meet. In the entertainment industry, you are not forced to do anything that you would not like to do, if and only if, you don’t let that happen. If you get what I mean! If you are of the bend of mind that if acting doesn’t happen for me, then I am finished, that’s when people can use you. You should be okay that if one particular project doesn’t happen for you, then some other project will be there. If you don’t get one particular character, then there will be some better role for you. Everybody goes through those phases. So, breathe and be at ease! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Prepare yourself not only for your part but also what if it doesn’t happen for you, then it will not be the end of the world for you. You have portrayed so many roles in different TV serials and films. Which character did you like the most to portray and why? I have loved various characters and loved a lot of them, so it gets difficult to choose any one. I loved playing Suniti in Koshish- Ek Aashaa, the character of a blind girl in Anurag Basu’s 5 part series, the role of the strict Sudha Bua who had a soft heart in Gangaa, and of course my unforgettable role of Vasundhara in Thapki Pyar ki- it had all the shades that a mother can have. I loved my role in the Netflix web series- Delhi Crimes. My role in Lajja was extremely memorable, transforming from being a timid woman to someone who takes a stand because I am a very strong woman. I personally believe that nobody can be just black or negative. You recently appeared in the Netflix series “Delhi Crime”. How was your experience working in this new age online streaming platform? Is it different from the traditional media platform? “Delhi Crime” was an awesome experience, something I never had before. It was also an unlearning process of what I have been doing for years. I felt a little awkward and tensed at the beginning on whether I would fit in or not. Then, I just let go and it was so beautiful. On the sets, everything was like well-oiled machinery. Working with Rishi Mehta, Shefali, and everybody else was total bliss! I would love to do more such work. Working in a web-series is very different from television. The funniest thing is that a lot of youngsters came up to me and said that we realised how great an actress you are after watching your performance in “Delhi Crime”. I was shell shocked but then I realised that we do a lot of OTT on television, and maybe that’s why youngsters believe that we cannot do normal acting. I am blessed to have been part of such an amazing project and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who made it possible for me. During this lockdown, you decided to shave your head and donate your hair for cancer patients, a humble and selfless act. What would you like to say to all girls out there who are too conscious about their looks? First I shaved my head and then someone suggested that I donate my hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients. For the last 28 years, I have been looking after stray dogs feeding them and getting them sterilised. Then I discovered humans who needed a little support- “lift me-ups”. So, I and my team were out on the road feeding the strays twice a day, helping the injured ones, and going out to deliver cooked food in the beginning and delivering ration even now too. We were out of our homes about 3-4 times of the day, and on returning we would need to wash from head to toe. I had earlier an issue with sinus which I healed by the process of energy healing. So I sneezed and it was scary in the current situation, as I have a 90-year old father to look after. So, I thought that if my hair, which was wet since I don’t use any chemical products or hairdryer, was going to prohibit me from doing a work that gives me happiness, then I don’t need it. My hair will grow again. I asked one of my teammates to do it for me. Looks never had much importance to me, because someone once told me “Yeh ladki tyaar hoke achi lagti hai”- this girl looks nice when decked up. Sic. There is more to me than just looks and this is applicable to everyone. So, I always look after the inner me and the rest can just follow. It is very heartwarming to see that you regularly feed and care for the stray dogs. However, many people ruthlessly abuse strays. What would you like to say in this regard? I have been looking after stray animals for many years now. It is a completely selfless act and I fund it entirely from my own pocket. I only have one thing to tell those who hate or abuse animals: how can you worship the divine who has created all of us and yet abuse his other creation. Every microorganism contributes towards maintaining the balance of life on earth. You finish the bees and you will starve. So, those who can abuse helpless and innocent animals can abuse just about anyone- whether friends, family, or neighbours. People should be aware of such people because you never know when these people might strike and on whom. There is some negativity in such people that will make them overlook your requirement for kindness. We humans have become so selfish, blinded by greed. We are destroying nature for our profit, and people are killing innocent animals. Will this ever stop? I ponder on the same thing too, that when will our greed for material things ever cease. During this pandemic, everyone is locked inside without access to all the fine things that we often take for granted. We no longer need to dress up or do make-up because there is nobody to see, nor travel anywhere in our luxury cars. Whereas nature is blooming, isn’t that a lesson that we need to learn. But the question is have we learned anything or are we still blindsided? The intelligent humans couldn’t repair the hole in the Ozone layer but Nature did it with so much ease. Let all of us wake up to the fact that we are dependent on nature rather than it being the other way around. Even if we are not there, nothing will stop in nature, rather it will thrive. Materialistic things will give you momentary pleasure. I have this funda that till 40 years, we are running towards our goals, earning and buying stuff that we think is going to make us happy but a decade later we realise it doesn’t give us happiness. Then we start looking for various godmen to guide us and this leads to the creation of more such negative people but there are some brilliant spiritual leaders too. Happiness doesn’t lie in materialistic things, it is found in our Karma. It will help us feel fulfilled, happy, and at peace. Do one good deed every day and then feel the difference. With so many sexual assaults against women and the delay in providing justice, will our country ever be safe for women? In a country where the goddess is worshiped, people do not care to revere the women who are alive and kicking. She is abused in every phase of life. Till every man is taught to respect his mother, wife, and daughter, till then nothing will change. Every boy will make his sister stay home because he knows what kind of looks he gives to other girls in the streets. A guy needs to change himself and his acquaintances first rather than making his sister stay at home. But we choose the easy way out. Society needs to change and these delayed punishments are not helping at all. I don’t know when it will change but I know for a fact that my country needs to change. What is your mantra of life that keeps you motivated? My mantra in life is extremely simple and it might appear very strange to some people, it is “I don’t care”. I don’t care what other people think about me, or what they want from me. I care about my principals and my expectations from myself. If I can wake up every morning and look back at myself in the mirror, then I am on the right path. I will do whatever I think would help someone and won’t hurt. I don’t care for baubles and I don’t take any stress in my life. All is well. Why take stress when there is so much in life to achieve. I try to do good and positive deeds so that when I reminiscence during my darkest hours, I can smile fondly. If you are doing a good deed you don’t need to publicize it, just do it quietly. This is what keeps me going and makes me feel alive and strong. What message would you like to share through The Voice of Woman? Even if each one of us takes minuscule steps to express our gratitude to Mother Earth then half the battle will be won. We are born here, we get our food from the land, and we live and die here. But we never think about giving something back to our planet. I will use a simple comparison, when we get our payment from somewhere we show our appreciation to them by saying Thank You, but when will we say “Thank you, Earth”. Can we stop using single-use plastic or wasting water? Each of us can choose one thing and work on that, and once we master that, we can move to the next task- and that’s the best way to show our indebtedness to the Mother Earth. Allow this planet to breathe and blossom further. Let’s not forget all that we learned during this Covid-19 pandemic. The Earth doesn’t need us, but we need the Earth! Thank you!