Her childhood as daughter of an army officer instilled in her qualities of discipline, flexibility and hard work, and her personal quest for perfection took Gitikka Ganju Dhar on a career path that would defy boundaries set for women in her field. An award-winning anchor and show host who is known for her intelligent, well-researched presentations and never using a prompter while on stage, Gitikka has challenged conventions quietly, studiously outperforming her peers.
“Women have a shelf-life in this industry. I’m competing with younger, sexier girls,” she says, matter-of-factly. “But you can’t replace hard work, and if coupled with talent, it’s you who decides how long your career will last, not others.”
Hailing from Kashmir, Gitikka spent her childhood in army schools across India before moving to Delhi to study business management. While doing her Master’s in mass communication from Jamia Millia University, she would often spend time at the institute’s large studios learning film production. “I wanted to be a cameraperson,” she narrates.
One day, she was ‘spotted’ by a TV crew and was offered her first gig as a TV anchor for a Bollywood songs show. Curious, she took it on, earned a good sum of money and decided this was something she was “decent” at. Soon after, she was offered a job hosting an automobile show with leading anchors of the time.
A debating champ and accomplished dancer in school, she was a natural on stage, and more jobs began coming her way. By 2005, she was hosting about 20 prestigious TV and stage shows a month sponsored by global corporate giants, and had a formidable reputation as a ‘thinking person’s anchor’.
But by 2007, she was exhausted. She needed a break.
Gitikka decided to get married. She’d fallen in love with a Kashmiri banker on a flight, and the two tied the knot in 2009. A year later, they had a daughter. “My ship had docked,” recalls Gitikka. “My husband brought stability into my life, and gave me strength and confidence.”
By 2012, the Bharat Nirman Award-winner was ready to get back in the game. Though it isn’t easy for a woman anchor to get job offers after a five-year hiatus, Gitikka still had a certain standing, and was respected by those who had worked with her in the past.
Arming herself with hours of reading, writing, research and practice, she gave her “150% to every event”, never having to resort to gimmicks or “skimpy clothes” to get attention. “I worked patiently. Soon, people realized that if they had a large-format show with a lot of content, I was the best in the field,” she says with quiet conviction. “My career has always run on my terms. I’ve never compromised on my values.”
In her second innings, Gitikka has learnt to be kind to herself. She divides her day between work, her seven-year-old daughter and catching up with the news. And she does not stress out before going onstage: “I do my preparation, and then I let go of all worry. I know I will handle it.” That’s a pro talking.