Ridhi Dogra Interview© Instagram

Ridhi Dogra On The Joy Of Bringing Characters To Life On Screen

As we settled in for a conversation with actress Ridhi Dogra, we couldn’t help but notice her striking presence, with a warm smile and a calm confidence that instantly put us at ease. With a versatile portfolio of roles in Indian television and web series, and experience in the production department at Zoom Television, Dogra has made a name for herself as an artist who never fails to deliver nuanced performances.

Since her breakout TV roles on Jhoome Jiiya Re (2007) and Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak? (2010), Dogra has continued to impress audiences with her commitment to her craft. Ushering in a new phase in her illustrious career, the actress’ recent Bollywood debut in Lakadbaggha and her portrayal of a powerful woman in the male-dominated world of cult web series Pitchers 2, have only cemented her status as a rising star in the industry.

With her upcoming projects, including the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Jawan and the next season of her hit web series Asur on the horizon, it’s clear that this talented actress is just getting started. In this exclusive interview with HELLO!, Dogra shares her thoughts on the evolving landscape of Indian entertainment, her creative process as an actor, the power of storytelling and the joy of bringing characters to life on screen. Read on to discover the many layers of Ridhi Dogra, as she opens up about more fun stuff ahead.

HELLO!: What inspired you to pursue acting, and how did you get started in the industry? Tell us a little about your journey..

Ridhi Dogra: “As a young adult, I always knew that my ultimate goal was to be happy in life, regardless of the path I took. I was already a dancer and working in Zoom Television in production, where I gained valuable industry knowledge in every department. At one point, I had tried my hand at everything except legal and administration, which became a running joke. When the opportunity to act arose, I jumped at the chance because it sounded like a fun adventure.

Despite knowing that pursuing acting meant leaving my steady 9-5 corporate job behind, I was confident it would bring me happiness. Since I had experience as a production person at Zoom and a dancer at Shiamak Dawar’s, being on set was a natural fit for me. After two years of indecision, I finally fully committed to acting in 2009-2010 and haven’t looked back since.”

H!: You’ve been in the entertainment industry for quite some time now, what’s the one lesson that’s been constant all these years?

RD: “One lesson I’ve carried with me over the years is that you should always be in a state of learning and unlearning. Another one is that you must keep working, no matter what. Never underestimate the value of any work, and don’t hesitate to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty when needed. There is no task too menial or too lofty that one should shun, as each experience can offer unique opportunities for growth and learning in the grand scheme of things.

One such example is TV work. I think I’m one of the few actors who is genuinely proud of their work in television, especially because I chose my roles carefully and stood up for what I believed in. Even as a young adult, I’ve fought so many battles on TV sets where I’ve refused to conform to ‘cringey’ and unrealistic ways in which some things are portrayed in Indian soaps, like the heroine being all decked up and sleeping in a sari, or wearing over-the-top jewellery. I was determined to break free from the constraints of typecasting and stereotyping in my acting career.”

H!: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an actress, and how did you overcome it?

RD: “Being an actor itself is challenging—in a good way; you constantly have to up your game. Everyday is a new day, your struggles and battles are very personal and internal. There’s no institution structuring and supervising your work, it’s just you setting goals for yourself. The biggest challenge as an actor is to avoid stagnation. You don’t even realise when you’ve started becoming irrelevant or stopped connecting with your audience—whether you’re an actor, director, writer, producer, musician, even the best artists come face to face with this.

In the world of acting, one must be able to look at oneself from an external perspective at all times, a skill that requires constant practice and self-awareness. To overcome this, I’ve always surrounded myself with people who impart honest advice and keep me grounded.”

H!: How do you approach character development, and what kind of research do you do to prepare for a role?

RD: “Oh, I ask a lot of questions! My cluelessness gives me a process [laughs]. One thing to remember is that no question is a bad question. So, my process is to remain curious and speak with every person from the creative team— writers, producers, directors, creative producers. I give myself an advantage by acquiring comprehensive knowledge from every angle. Not to forget, the beauty of identifying what’s in between the lines is where the magic happens. As an actor, it is crucial to read between the lines in a script to bring nuance and depth to your performance.

So, I take the time to delve deeper into the script and uncover its hidden layers and subtext to deliver a fully realised and memorable performance. Otherwise koi bhi aake sirf lines bol sakta hai, na [anyone can just say the lines]? Which is why another important part of my ‘process’ while prepping for a role is to eat, sleep and breathe the script, and to keep re-reading the scenes until they’re the fabric of my being.”

H!: How do you unwind after a long work day? Can you also share some of your skincare hacks?

RD: “For unwinding, I definitely love my massages, I mean who doesn’t? And a stripped-down-to-the basics type of a skincare routine because I don’t like fiddling with my skin too much and dousing it in chemicals. Also, taking cues from my mother and grandmother has been truly valuable. They are both ageing gracefully and still look fabulous. I find comfort in the thought that if I age like them, I’ll have nothing to worry about, you know?

I also do my face yoga everyday and keep my skin hydrated with a wonderful home-made cream. One skincare hack I swear by is to apply a moisturising face cream before working out, trust me your pores will thank you. This will stop your skin from getting dehydrated and itchy after a sweat sesh, and keep it fresh and plump.”

H!: What kind of self-care practices do you engage in to maintain your physical and emotional health?

RD: “I work out daily for at least 20-30 minutes for my physical health, but I make sure I don’t overdo it. I’m not one to follow the latest fitness fads or trends, I’ve never been that way. Another self care practise I do is journaling, watching movies and spending time with my beloved plants. I also light some dhoop (incense sticks) in my home in the evenings. I’ve found that it not only cleanses the energy of my abode, but also uplifts my spirits when I’m in the throes of my evening blues.

In this era of social media dominance, it’s easy to get caught up in a world of endless scrolling, comparisons, and negativity. If I come across something that doesn’t bring me joy, I don’t hesitate to unfollow it on Instagram. That’s my way of disconnecting from the toxicity of social media and focusing on the things that truly matter. I don’t even keep tabs on what my industry colleagues are doing, what parties they attended and who gossiped about whom. Instead of falling for every trend or getting lost in the noise, a social media cleanse allows me to prioritise my mental health and wellbeing and curate my online experiences to only include what truly sparks joy. Plus, when I open Instagram, I want to feel inspired and uplifted, not drained or anxious. It’s a small but powerful act of self-care that helps me stay focused on what truly matters in my life.

Above all, I crave the thrill of hearing about someone’s life through genuine, face-to-face conversation rather than relying solely on social media updates. I’m really old-school that way, and a little mystery can go a long way, you know?”

H!: What was the most challenging part of playing your character, Prachi, in Pitchers 2? How did you prepare for the role?

RD: “Entering the world of venture capital, funding, and startups was a daunting task for me, especially since my knowledge of it was zilch, apart from finding my niche in the TVF family. But even after joining the team, I had to work hard to showcase my worth, contribute ideas that mattered and earn a seat at the table of impactful opinions.

I also spoke to a lot of experts and venture capitalists to really understand my role from inside out, but the amazingly written script is what gave me direction and got the best out of me.”

H!: You’ve played a wide range of characters throughout your career. Which character has been the most rewarding to play and why?

RD: “All of them! I would be lying if I picked one over the other. In a way, I’d say working in a series, film or TV show can be more ‘rewarding’ if the story revolves around your character, and you get to feature in every frame. I guess when you know you’re carrying a project on your shoulders and you’re responsible for however it’s going to turn out, it inspires you to give it your all.

The small part I played in Asur felt especially rewarding because it was the first time I was entering the OTT space. The best way to describe my experience on the show is this Patti Smith quote, ‘No one expected me. Everything awaited me,’ I think that’s what this character was for me. Despite the small extent of my role on paper, I poured my heart and soul into it as an artist, dedicating myself to attending acting workshops and thoroughly preparing for the part. And I may not have been the anticipated star, but I still shone bright and took the viewers by surprise where nobody was expecting anything out of me. It was definitely a personal milestone that I hold dear.”

H!: What is your personal definition of success, and how has it evolved over time?

RD: “My personal definition of success has got nothing to do with my work, honestly. I think being able to remain in a positive mental space sans anxiety and getting a good night’s sleep on a daily basis is a parameter of success in my books.”

H!: What advice would you give to young actors who are interested in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry?

RD: “As someone who’s been in the industry for a while, I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to prioritise your mental wellbeing if you want to succeed as an actor. Happiness is not going to come from achieving more success or making more money, it’s all about investing in yourself. So whether that means setting aside a couple of hours each day for drawing, yoga, or exercise, or talking to a therapist, you need to focus on keeping your mental health in check. Being part of the unpredictable world of acting, or any creative field for that matter, can take a toll on your internal state, so it’s important to take care of yourself first and foremost.”

H!: Can you tell us about any exciting, upcoming projects you’re working on, and what we can expect from them?

RD: “There’s a lot of exciting stuff coming up. Of course there’s Jawan with SRK coming out in June. Then there’s Asur 2 releasing in April and a romantic show that’s coming up after that—a debut of mine in that genre, might I add. I’m also going to be a part of season two of an extremely beloved series. And I will get to explore action sequences in this one. That’s all I can say for now!”

H!: What is something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?

RD: “There’s a lot! One is that I hate driving. I much prefer being driven around, free to soak in the sights without the added stress of navigating and steering a vehicle [laughs]. And they’d also be surprised to know that I’m a complete weirdo. I keep surprising not just others but even myself.

One instance was when I found myself seated next to the iconic Shah Rukh Khan on the set of Jawan, but I was too shy and overwhelmed to strike up a conversation with him in front of others, and also perhaps because I didn’t want to be just another fan in the crowd and disturb him. It was only when we were alone that we really got to talk. Later I screamed at myself for being this way. I mean how much he means to me versus how little I spoke to him is unbelievable. It’s just one of my many quirks, I suppose [laughs].”

H!: If you could act in any movie or TV show from the past, which one would it be and why?

RD: “I don’t know about a TV show from the past, but I’d definitely love to play a spoiled princess because I think I’d be great at it. I’m a huge fan of The Great, an English show that I’ve binged on every season. It offers a unique, fictional spin on the story of Russia’s Great Empress, and I can’t get enough of it. In particular, I’ve always been drawn to the disruptive warrior princess character who’s both a troublemaker and a mastermind, basically someone who challenges the status quo—I’d jump at the chance to play that kind of role.”

H!: What’s the most memorable or hilarious thing you’ve ever done on a film or TV set?

RD: “Being on set is where I feel most alive; it’s like a second home to me. One time, I was feeling particularly mischievous and decided to cause some trouble by playfully urging everyone to wrap the shoot up quickly. I even grabbed a heavy light stand and jokingly brandished it around, much to everyone’s amusement. It’s all on video and my friends and I still laugh about it to this day. I’m quite the joker on set, I’m constantly singing and dancing in between shots, my colleagues can attest to my insanity!”

H!: Can you tell us two truths and one lie about yourself, without revealing which is which?

RD: “I am a great cook. I am a water baby, so much so that I could live under water. And the third thing is that I’m too sensitive.”

H!: What do you want people to remember you by? 

RD: “Oh my, can we revisit this question in 30-40 years? Just thinking about it is making me feel older! [laughs]. The way people remember me isn’t important, as long as I leave a positive impact and contribute meaningfully during my time here, I’m content.”