Theatre and Fashion

Stories From The Stage And Screen with Joyeeta Dutta

A journey of growth and love for the arts
21 June, 2024

From lighting up both the stage and the screen, Joyeeta's a truly multifaceted gem. Her screen debut in "A Suitable Boy", directed by the legendary Mira Nair, no less, launched her career, and the magic continued with a sensational role in the stage adaptation of Mira's BAFTA-winning "Monsoon Wedding" – talk about full circle moments! 

Always honing her craft, Joyeeta recently trained at the renowned ATELIER Mask & Movement Theatre in Italy, adding to her impressive background. She has also briefly trained with actor Adil Hussain. But Joyeeta's journey wasn't always on the stage. Born in Assam, she moved to Delhi and graduated with a degree in Political Science.

Currently residing in Mumbai with her two cats, she indulges in her love for classic Hindi cinema music, heartwarming stories featuring diverse women, the occasional witty malapropism, and, true to her magnetic personality, all things that glitter! 

Joyeeta wears the Aipan handwoven set

JODI: So, what’s your day-to-day like? We know you studied political science, but what sparked your love for acting? Please share your background and story here with us in detail. :)  
JOYEETA: As long as I can remember, I have always been very comfortable being on stage and I enjoyed performing as a child. However, I never thought of it as a means of livelihood because there was barely any representation of people like me in the films that I grew up watching and most people in the theatre in Assam did it on the side with a more conventional job. It was when I met Adil Hussain, that my dream felt more like a possibility and soon after, I started training with him briefly. As luck would have it, my first gig was for Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding The Musical. And that’s how the journey began for me.   

JODI: Do you remember the first theatre show or movie that made you go, "Yes, this is what I want to do!”?  
JOYEETA: I was in Grade 4 or 5 when there was a production of The Wizard of Oz that my school was doing and I remember that my sister was playing Dorothy and I was one of the maids who came in to just polish her shoes in one song but that was one of my first experiences of being in a production and from then on, being on stage felt like it was something I needed to do. 

Joyeeta in the Kashi Silk Dress.

JODI: Moving from a small city to the bustling streets of a big one—how was that ride? Do you love the change?  
JOYEETA: I feel very lucky to have had the experience of living in different places. I love to have the opportunity to explore and discover, so for me, I feel at home everywhere in the world. 

JODI: What’s the coolest thing about living in Mumbai? And what do you miss the most about Assam?
JOYEETA: Bombay is brimming with so many creative people and I am always curious to meet and learn from people who practise different art forms.  
What I miss the most about Assam are the blue skies, traditional Assamese food made with locally sourced ingredients, and my family.  

Joyeeta in the Sohrai Co-ord set

JODI: We were stalking your Italy sojourn on Instagram. It looked like a dream- what was that trip about?  
JOYEETA: I was doing a programme in Movement and Mask Theatre for 3 months in Tuscany. The focus of our research was on how to apply principles of movement in making masks with our hands and then performing with those masks and embodying them wholly, essentially, becoming the mask. The concept of masking everything and focusing on action- was at the heart of our research there. What was so dream-like was having the best of both worlds- living in a small town in Tuscany away from the harshness of the city, and having a stimulating artistic community to grow and learn alongside 11 artists from across the world, from China to Brazil and in between. It was the most magical experience of my life.  

Corners of Joyeeta's home

JODI: What’s something surprising you’ve discovered about yourself through acting?  
JOYEETA: That it is my way of healing.  

JODI: Making your screen debut in "A Suitable Boy" under Mira Nair’s direction—what was that like?  
JOYEETA: It was nothing short of a dream come true. Mira is so inspiring, she’s a visionary with a great sense of humour, attention to detail, and a phenomenal love for life and art. She is a beautiful force and a lodestar, creating with her is pure magic.  

Joyeeta starring as 'Tasneem' in 'A Suitable Boy'

JODI: You seem to have a soft spot for love stories and tales about women. What draws you to these themes?   
JOYEETA: Identifying with them, feeling less alone in the human experience.  

JODI: If you could work with any director or actor, who would be your dream pick?    
JOYEETA: When it comes to actors, I would love to have the opportunity to work alongside so many. What comes to the top of my mind is the entire cast of the film Monsoon Wedding. I am in awe of all of them - Tillotama Shome, Vijay Raaz, Naseeruddin Shah, and the entire team. As for filmmakers, the list is endless again. I am truly inspired by Payal Kapadia.  

JODI: Imagine starring in a biopic about an influential woman—who would you choose and why?  
JOYEETA: I would love to play Gauhar Jaan who was India’s first record artist. She even threw lavish parties for her cat!  

Gauhar Jaan (on left) Joyeeta with her cats (on right)

JODI: Is there a book you’re dying to see turned into a movie or play? Which role would you want to snag?  
JOYEETA: Boats on Land is a collection of beautiful short stories by Janice Pariat. All of them are fantastic and as they are mostly set in Assam and Meghalaya, I relate to them deeply since it connects me so vividly to my roots.

JODI: What last film really stuck with you, and what did you love about it?  
JOYEETA: Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry. It is a beautiful, funny, and tender film about love and loneliness. It moved and shifted me.  

Covers of Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackberry (A film); Boats on Land (A book); Monsoon Wedding (A film)

JODI: Fantasy dinner party guests?    
JOYEETA: That’s a secret, but Tracy Chapman is at the top of the list.  

JODI: What’s your favourite old Hindi cinema song to groove to, and why?  
JOYEETA: It’s hard to choose one, I love so many. The cinematic portrayals by Helen, Meena Kumari or  Madhubala are some of my favourites. I think it’s the surprising elements of movement and emotion in rhythm and the poetry of storytelling that really move me. 

JODI: When you’re not working, how do you unwind and recharge?  
JOYEETA: In the company of my friends, as most of them are creatives - we spend time talking and discussing ideas. We also laugh a lot and eat a lot together!! Time with them nurtures me deeply. I also enjoy going for runs, dancing and spending time with my cats.  

Joyeeta in the Hasan Handloom Dress.

JODI: What’s a piece of advice you got early in your career that still sticks with you?  
JOYEETA: To befriend uncertainty.  

JODI: And lastly, what’s your favourite JODI piece to wear?  
JOYEETA: It has to be my first Jodi piece - the Dia one shoulder dress.

Muse: Joyeeta Dutta
Photographer: Anurupa Praharaj