Joined: 16 February 2006
She's the odd one out in a family of doctors but arguably the most revered of the Mehras. She is known to the world as Divya Thakur of Uttaran. Apparently, the new identity has even caught on with her family members and neighbours, who now address Pragati Mehra as Thakurain much to her amusement.
Starting off as an RJ on AIR in 1999, then anchored the 2000 Olympics on DD before finally meeting her destiny in 2008 with Colors show Uttaran, Pragati has indeed come a long way.
Ganesh Chaturthi is primarily a Maharastrian festival. As a Punjabi, have you been celebrating it regularly?
No, I've only started celebrating this festival after coming to Mumbai. A few of my Maharashtrian friends told me that how Lord Ganesh fulfills your prayers. If you're bringing the Lord to your house once then you have to bring it thrice for you prayers to come true. Well, some of my prayers have come true and I've now become a Ganesh devotee.
Tell us about your background.
I come from family of doctors. I did my graduation in Fashion designing. Though deep inside I always knew I wanted to be an actor. However, I began my career as Radio Jockey with AIR. From there I was picked to anchor sports events on DD. I took it up as I felt this will give me exposure to camera. In 2000, I covered the Olympics.
Around that period, I got my break in television with Zee Punjabi show you are right sir. I got this break after an actor quit this show. Later, I anchored a Bollywood show for ETV called Yeh hai Bollywood. I've been hosting it for seven years now.
In 2002, I decided to quit radio and solely concentrate on television. So, I came down to Mumbai. Fellow actress and friend Payal Nair asked me to get into ad modelling as that is the only thing which would give me the right exposure. So, I took up various ads. That worked in my favour as I bagged a parallel lead in DD show Amrapali. Then I followed it up with shows such as Kagaz ki kasthi, Mansha, Bombay Talking (Zee studio) and Hum do hai na for Sony. However, it wasn't until Kumkum that I played a substantial role. I played the main antagonist in the post-leap period. The it was Kuch is tara and finally Uttaran.
Speaking of Kumkum, the show didn't do all that well post the leap. Besides there were rumours of Juhi Parmar throwing tantrums.
The leap may not have worked but Kumkum was still a popular show. Besides, prior to the leap, they bumped off all the earlier characters. So once you showed them as dead you couldn't bring them together. Perhaps, the audience couldn't connect with the new families. Kumkum was popular but I personally I didn't gain much from the show. As for your second part of the question, I've never had any problems working with Juhi. She's a very jovial and funny person contrary to her on-screen image.
Though you did a Balaji show Kuch is tara it is Uttaran that made you a household name. Your view?
Absolutely! Even though I worked for a big banner like Balaji, Kuch is tara didn't work for me. My character never shaped the way it was meant to be. The switch to being a comedy show didn't work in our favour.
As an actor you can do many TV shows but until you produce that one hit you're not recognized. Uttaran has provided me with that recognition. Well, you won't believe it but I had to give the look test for this role seven times. In fact, on the sixth attempt I got fed up and threatened to walk out as the creative team was paying too much attention to trivial stuff like whether this earring is better, or the size should be small.
Post the leap in Uttaran, Divya Thakur has become very subdued. Has this worked against your favour?
Well, you're right and in fact I've had my arguments with the creative over this change. However, in the end I was told that there's no room for personal sentiments here but this is the requirement of the story. So, Divya had to turn to a positive character. Well, Pratima Rawat (Nani has taken over as the antagonist. She was introduced precisely for this purpose.
Uttaran makers had faced allegations of plagiarism.
As per the original novel, the poor girl avenges her humiliation by
sleeping with her rich friend's fianc That's when she tells the girl's
mother that is what it means to use Uttaran (second hand products). Is your show too going to pan out that way?
Back then we were asked this repeatedly but I've always maintained that the two stories are completely different from each other. The only similarity is in the title which is purely coincidental. There will be no such thing happening in our show. Ours is basically the tale of a relationship between a mother and her daughter of two classes – the rich and the poor.
Sparsh and Ipshita made Uttaran the show it is today. How are the new girls faring vis--vis the little ones? Do you miss those kids?
There's no denying that both Sparsh and Ipshita made Uttaran but the news girls have only taken it to another level. Our TRPs have soared and that is testimony to the fact the Tina and Rashmi have been accepted as Iccha and Tapasya. The kids had their own charm. They were brilliant actors but mischievous too. The moment their shot was over, the girls would bring the house down. At times, we joked and requested that they be sent home quickly.
Coming back to your first job, do you miss radio today?
Honestly speaking, I don't but I do listen to radio regularly. Radio today has become more of a job but that's now how it should be. While radio has boomed we don't have that many good RJs. The most important thing to be a successful RJ is that you must possess the FM lingo. Often what happens is most RJs get carried away and speak more of the local language. So, that will not be understood by a non-Maharastrian in Mumbai.
It's very important that a RJ should not speak too much or too less. In this regard, I rate Jaggu as the best. He's got the complete hang of the FM lingo.
Well what about sports? Did your experience turn you into a sports enthusiast?
Ah! I watch most sports but I'll never lose sleep if I miss a match. I personally make it a point to not watch any final which India is playing.
Finally, what about your personal life?
Well, I'm still single and happy. Years back, I was in a relationship with a guy but it didn't work out. He's left behind in Delhi and I'm now settled in Mumbai. I haven't given up the search for my Mr.Right. If someone suitable comes along my path then I wouldn't mind settling down with him.
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