“I don’t want to play a character that is easily replaceable and doesn’t add anything to the storyline. My priority is not just to look good on screen. I want to play important roles,” says Sanya Malhotra
Slowly but surely, actress Sanya Malhotra has carved out a place for herself in the film industry. Born and raised in Delhi, her first encounter with showbiz happened when she auditioned for dance india dance, a dance reality show. Although her time on the show did not go as she had planned, she eventually moved to Mumbai and after several auditions, landed a plum role starring Aamir Khan. Dangal (2016). Over the years, she’s proven her mettle with sensible performances in slice-of-life films like Photograph (2019), Pagglait and Meenakshi Sundareshwar (both in 2021), among others.
And now with five films in its kitty including Blow: The first case, Kathalhindi remake of Great Indian cuisine, Sam Bahadur and Jawan, apparently, Malhotra seems to be the latest blue-eyed girl in Bollywood. First post catches up with her as she talks about improving the representation of women, both on and off screen, working with female filmmakers, sisterhood in the film industry, working with l actor Rajkummar Rao and more.
Excerpts from the interview:
With an impressive list of films to come, do you feel that the filmmakers now trust you more?
Yes, and it also makes me believe in myself more. Before, I was very critical of my work. I honestly believed that I didn’t deserve the kind of job I was getting. I had constant thoughts whether I belong here or be a good actor. But the trust that directors and creators have shown in me has really been a game-changer. I give myself credit because I know I put my one hundred percent into every character I play on screen. I’m happy and grateful for the work that comes my way and for the filmmakers I’ve worked with over these five years. They helped shape my career, especially since I had no knowledge of theater and film.
Talking about your next projects, you have Hit where you shared screen space with Rajkummar. Tell us a bit about this experience.
We all know how good Raj is, but when you work with him, you’ll see he’s still a student, and I really admire that quality in him. He pushes himself with every character he plays. I was also a student on the set of Hit because I learned a lot from him. He’s always there for the clues and is present even if the camera isn’t on him. And that’s because he’s so passionate about his job. He is a serious artist. It’s very special to work with him and to share screen space with him. I can’t believe I worked on a movie with Raj and I hope we can work on something else too, soon. He’s a dream co-actor.
On a different note, you completed five years in the film industry some time ago. What is your goal today?
I look for challenges. My goal in the early days of my career was to continue to learn from each role and each film without getting too comfortable. The day I would be comfortable with the kind of roles I do and my work would start to feel like a routine, then there would be no more fun, and that would be the day I would stop acting. .
What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed in Bollywood over the past five years?
The way women are now portrayed on screen excites me as an actress. These are the characters I wanted to see growing up.
The kind of women I was looking at on screen seemed very unrealistic and I couldn’t identify with them. Plus, it’s good to see so many women working behind the camera. It is important because it ensures that we are represented in the right way. I am happy to be part of this change. As an actor, I consciously make decisions that help me portray women correctly.
Would you say playing a woman without diapers is a deal breaker for you?
Well, I don’t want to play an easily replaceable character who doesn’t add anything to the storyline. My priority is not only to look good on screen. I want to play important roles. If I’m in a movie, might as well do something meaty.
You will be led by Meghna Gulzar in Sam Bahadur. Do you notice a change when you have women deciding in a movie?
When you have female directors telling a story about women, there’s more sensitivity and empathy in the narrative. It’s something Anu (Menon; director) once said, and I totally agree with her.
What do you think of off-screen female friendships and sisterhood in the film industry?
I recently watched Quarrel, a show about how Hollywood stars Joan Crawford and Betty Davis were manipulated by men and the media into fighting each other. Stories of female actors who struggle sell. I could relate to them because these are the stories I grew up watching and reading. But I don’t see it at all. And I’m glad it’s not there anymore because it’s time to support each other. Enough of actress A versus actress B! We need to inspire and motivate everyone to do well.
Speaking of female ties, you share quite a close friendship with actress Fatima Sana Shaikh, with whom you will collaborate again in Sam Bahadur after Dangal and Ludo (2020)…
I’m sure it’ll be a good one. I loved him in modern love (2022). Five minutes into the movie, I called her to tell her how much I loved her. I said, ‘Fatty, I can’t see you. You are the character, you are Raat Rani to me. I’m really proud of her. It was such a brilliant and inspiring performance.
You are also known for your impeccable dance moves, which we often spot on social media. Have you challenged yourself in this space as well?
I’m learning Bachata! I’ve never done dance with a partner, and it’s so refreshing. You need to match your partner’s pace and take cues to move a certain way. Dancing solo is much easier. You can move anywhere. I hope to accommodate my schedule.
So, is there a dance movie in the works?
I’ve been waiting to be part of a dance movie for so long now. I think I’m going to go ahead and write a script on my own and start approaching the directors. I think I can find something fun and creative (laughs).
Titas Chowdhury is a Mumbai-based journalist with a keen interest in movies and beaches.
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