19th April 2020

I see only myself as Sita: Dipika Chikhlia

Dipika Chikhlia is better known as Sita Maiyya in Ramanand Sagar’s  stupendously  influential  serial Ramayan  which has made an unexpected comeback  in  our lives. In  an interview with Subhash K Jha, Dipika  talks about the importance of being Sita  in this era  of  ghor kalyug.

Did  you ever expect your serial  would return  after  33 years?

No, never in my wildest dreams did I  imagine this return and  this kind of response to  Ramayan  in this  age. When I heard  the Ramayan  was  coming  back I  knew  the  older generation  from the  40-50 age bracket would  take to it instantly. But I  wasn’t sure of  the the kids, the  younger audience  since  their  tastes  are so different.To my surprise  12-13 years olds are watching it avidly and understanding and loving it. Mujhe bahot zyada  khushi ho rahi hai.I am very happy it has come  at a time when people are  able to  watch it carefully

Does  the  idea of the  Ramayan  going forward  please you?

I  love the idea  of  new generations  watching it. I always had people telling me, ‘Meri Saas aapki fan hain. Mere Dadaji aapka show dekhte hain.’  I  never  had  young people telling me they watched Ramayan. But  the millenials have changed the audience-profile  for  Ramayan.They are sitting with their parents watching and  enjoying  it. But you know what I really appreciate about the  audiences’ response  this time?

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What, tell me?

That I am being  acknowledged as  a good actress. I was always praised  for mye looks  when  the  Ramayan was first telecast. I wasn’t acknowledged as a good actress. That is changing this time, thanks to the newer generation.

Playing Sita limited your  chances as an actress?

Oh yes. Everyone knows how difficult it has been for me  and the other actors  from Ramayan to come out of  the characters we  played in    the  serial. People did not want to see  us  in any other roles other than  what we played in Ramayan.Comparatively I   had  it easy since  I wasn’t in so much costume specially  after Sita Maiyya’s  Banwaas. I could still be accepted by the audience  in a lovely saree and  bindi on my forehead. But the  other actors from Ramayan were in  heavy costumes all the time. The  newer generations are far  more progressive. They understand that we were only playing characters from the Ramayan . It’s not so   difficult to  play other roles  now.

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Did  you  the  role as  a social  responsibility?

I do  see playing Sita Maiyya as a responsibility. I  have  shouldered that  responsibility  quite well so far, I  intend  to  go on doing it. I’d love to do  more roles. But I’d only accept parts keeping in  mind my image as  Sita Maiyya.I never tried to  break  the image  of  Sita Maiyya  because  that  would’ve backfired.  People saw me as Sita Maiyya. And it would not have been  gracious on  my part to play with Indian sentiments. We have grown up on the  Ramayan  and  the  Mahabharat and they are  the basis of our religious beliefs. Why would I  fight  such powerful forces?I was happy being accepted as  Sita Maiyya.

How relevant  is the Ramayan  today?

The teachings  of  the  Ramayan will always remain relevant. It is a  wonderful story. I always kept urging the  younger generations to  watch Ramayan  long before the current re-telecast. I told them they won’t have access to the original Ramayan written by Tulsidas and Valmiki. There’s  a lot to learn about life, humanism, and compassion in the serial. And the current generation is getting the point.

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What  do your  children have to say  about you and the  serial?

Initially  my children  didn’t have much  to say  about  me  and Ramayan except that  I looked pretty.  But now they are going with the  flow of the story.They are enjoying the serial and  luckily for me, they don’t think of me  as  Sita Maiyya when they  are  watching Ramayan.That’s a relief.

After  you who can play Sita?

Whom would I like  to see as Sita in  my place? Nobody else!!  I see only myself as Sita. When  people  call out  ‘Sita Maiyya’ I still  turn around reflexively. So yes,  I am the eternal Sita.

How do you see  your future?

You know,  the other day I was speaking to the Sagars(the family behind the  Ramayan serial) and they agreed that  the  one good thing that  will come  out of this re-telcast  is that  people will see us actors  from the serial for parts in  future  projects. We  are all fabulous actors and we’ve all done  a good job in the Ramayan. A  space  can be created  for us now in the  film industry.

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