Her film career began with a string of multi-starrers before she found her foothold in stronger roles and calling her journey "unconventional", Divya Dutta says, unlike the norm of film industry, she has only improved with time.
Divya, who recently received a National Award in the best supporting actress category for Irada, said right from the start of her career, she followed three Ps formula—passion, perseverance and patience.
The actor said, "You do need to be passionate about what you are doing, persevere all the time and have the patience that its probably not going to happen tomorrow. It might take a few years because it is an unpredictable industry."
"For me, it has been the most unconventional (experience in my) career. People get their best when they begin and then they keep fading out. For me, it has been the other way around. I think I am getting my best now," she added.
Divya started her career in 1994 with Ishq Mein Jeena Ishq Mein Marna and followed it up with a lead role in Veergati, which featured Salman Khan.
These films, however, did little for the actor and left her "disappointed" as she wanted to do more.
"Those were films where I had two songs, a few scenes. When I started, I used to look like Manisha Koirala and everyone used to give me that identity. It was like, 'There is this cute kid on the block with a good smile, give her two songs and five scenes'.
"I wanted to rise beyond it and do something else. That's when Train to Pakistan happened to me, and then I did Shaheed-e-Mohabbat Boota Singh, which got a National Award. From then on, people started noticing me that 'She is not just a newcomer, she is an actor'," the first-time National Award winner said.
During that phase, Divya heeded to her mother's advice to take up roles in which she believed in.
It eventually paid off, as the 40-year-old actor bagged Veer Zaara, alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji. The 2004 film marked a turning point in her career.
"There was a fear of failure. But, somewhere in the heart you know what makes you happy, what doesn't. You have to make those choices and stand by them and I did.
"I sat home post Veer Zaara for a year and then I got Delhi-6. You have to keep telling people 'I am not going to repeat the parts I have already played'. I like to choose roles that people think I won't be able to do," she said.
Divya, who recently featured in Irrfan Khan's Blackmail, said though the audience has accepted her as a performer, she cannot be complacent. "You have to keep doing different roles, keep finding yourself. You can't sit on your laurels because then people keep giving you similar kinds of roles. It is a journey to say lots of 'no' before you get the 'yes' you want."
"Now, my struggle is to continue the journey of not being typecast in any box, to continue to have no image, so I can be a wild child and play all the roles I want to."