Sunita Chand Rajwar is an Indian film, television and stage actress who graduated from the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi in 1997. She acted in Sanjay Khanduri’s directorial debut Ek Chalis Ki Last Local as the gangster Chakli, where she was nominated for a Max Stardust Award 2008 in the category Breakthrough Performance – Female. Her recent projects were Stree (Janna’s Mother), Bala (Ayushman’s Mother) and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Champa Chachi).
She comes from a very small town, Haldwani in Uttarakhand, with no theatre/film background. She belonged to a lower middle class family. Taking this profession back in the 90’s was a very difficult decision for someone who had never stepped out of her own state. She took the leap of faith and without any financial back up decided to listen to her heart. She is very thankful to her family for being an immense support in all her decisions.
This is what she has to say in a very candid interview with TSS Team
How did you get to where you are today? What is your story?
Every story starts with a flashback so let’s go back to late 80’s. Back in school I was not a very bright student but was always a loved one of my teachers because of extracurricular activities. I simply loved dancing (I was known to caste a magic on stage) and singing (though I took part in every competition and never won even a consolation prize ever)
Back in my head I always had a yearning to act on stage and eventually there it was, when I got my first break in my school’s Silver Jubilee Celebration for a short movie. I was dedicated since then. I had to enact a crying scene so I used onion peels for the tears to look real. After completing my secondary education, I faced challenges in choosing subjects for my higher education. I chose to study from Kumaon University at Nainital and took history as my major, back then I didn’t know that this is going to change my life forever. It was here that I met my mentor, late actor Nirmal Pandey, who was then an NSD graduate and was looking for some female caste for one of his play – Ajua Bafol. As I was a petite girl, I was given a meagre role of a “dasi”. It was because of my interest and dedication that I used to watch the complete play during rehearsals. I got absorbed into it so much that I by hearted the lines of all the characters including their entry, exit and actions. Whenever anyone was absent, I used to rehearse on their behalf, ready with all lines and cues. My dedication didn’t go unnoticed and it made me a favorite among my seniors at Yugmanch, Nainital. Later, Nirmal Pandey encouraged me to join NSD and he was the one who helped me with my preparations.
But as it is said, life is not bed of roses, in spite of giving my best I couldn’t get through on my first attempt. I felt disappointed but my mother told me that I should not give up and can always try again until I succeed. By reminiscing her words, I continued preparing for my next attempt. Alongside, I became an active member of Yugmanch to enrich my theatre skills. Yugmanch is a very old theatre body in Nainital which has produced more than 20 NSDians, me being the 15th. Along with that I took a job in a restaurant to manage my expenses.
‘God helps those who help themselves’, so finally in my 2nd attempt I cleared my entrance in 1995 and in 1997 I became a proud graduate from National School of Drama. In NSD I transformed from a naïve small town Pahadi girl to a confident and growing actor. I shared the workspace with likes of Swanand Kirkire, Rajpal Yadav, Nawazudin Siddiqui, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Atul Kulkarni, Meghna Malik and many more.
After NSD most of my batchmates moved to Mumbai to look for a career in Bollywood but I stayed back in Delhi. Generally actors dream of big screen but my dream was to come back to my hometown and do theatre with Yugmanch.
Only if life was that easy and sorted, we all make mistakes and at times you learn things the hard way. I had a bitter relationship experience which left me with scars and I felt my dreams were shattered. I could have moved to my hometown but I couldn’t let my parents down because they always had high hopes for me.
Life took a you turn and it took me 2 years to move on. Then I finally decided to move to Mumbai.
Today I feel that bitter relationship was a blessing in disguise as it brought me to Mumbai and gave me a shot at big screen. It is true, every dark cloud has a silver lining.
Moving to Mumbai was difficult, emotionally as well as financially. Life is indeed magical, during my days at NCC (Yes I was an NCC cadet), I had met Achint kaur during one of the NCC Camps and we became very close friends. Later, we parted ways. It was destiny that I met her again in Mumbai after 13 years. She was the friend INDEED. When I had nothing but only struggle, she was the one who gave me shelter. Even some of my initial works I got through her.
Since then I never looked back. Today after 20 years in Mumbai I have acted in a number of TV Serials, Web series, and films. Back in 2008 I got nominated for Breakthrough performer of the Year for my work in Ek Chalis ki last local. What more could a naïve small town Pahadi girl would have asked life?
Some glimpses from her days at National School of Drama
How would you define yourself?
I believe in “carpe diem” but I do look forward to what life holds for the future. Moving ahead and not repenting the mistakes but learning from them has always been my mantra. I have taken many wrong decisions in my life, but I don’t resent them after all I am a human. Being a small town girl, I was very conscious of my looks and ability. I was not at all confident but still my life took me to the metropolitan city Mumbai. The only thing that gave me strength was my simplicity. I never showed off that I am an NSDIan. Whenever I worked with any non-trained actors I easily befriended them.
I was humble enough to learn from anyone. I always shared my life story with others so most of the people could relate to me and share their stories too and this is how I met some of the best people in my life that I will cherish all my life.
I am not very egoistic and I believe whatever is mine will come to me, so there is no point to be greedy. I just believe in doing good work. It took me 20 years to set myself in the city and being in entertainment world. I am still not very popular but this does not bother me as I am content with my life. I believe everyone has their own graph one should not compare oneself from others.
We are sure you must have had phases of immense struggle in your career, how did you keep yourself motivated during difficult times?
I never wanted my parents to feel sorry about my situation because that would have hurt them. They had faith in me and they were always proud of me, that gave me the strength to fight and move ahead with whatever difficulties life threw at me. I took different jobs when acting was not happening and meeting different people in this span enriched me. I just didn’t give up. I worked as an assistant director, casting director, dialogue writer and stage costume designer. Looking back was never an option. Also I thought there was a reason why I was in Mumbai. I believed in fate and made the most of my situation to be where I am today.
Life is…………………………………………. Fill in the blanks.
In my life, I met some wonderful people, made amazing friends who became my strength. Above all, I met my husband Alok who has been a pillar in every aspect of my life. For me life is literally beautiful and nothing is more precious than friends and family.
Sunita Rajwar with her husband and some of her close friends/co-stars
What are the 2 moral values you have always stood by and you think is essential for success?
- First is to be real, to yourself and to others.
- Second is hard-work and ability to praise others.
If you want to change one thing in the world what would it be?
I would want everyone to treat each other with love and respect irrespective of caste creed and status. Nothing above humanity
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan
Ek Chalis ki Last Local
Mai Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti hu
The White Elephant
Paap Ka Ant
Kaphal: Wild Berries