Full of talent and committed to the world of cinema, Sanya Malhotra has her eyes set on living her best life on the big screen
Currently, Sanya Malhotra is overwhelmed with excitement. Thus far, her three-film-long resume boasts of a record-breaking debut film and another, which was one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of 2018. “The success of Badhaai Ho (2018) has honestly caught me by surprise because weeks after its release, people are still going to the theatres to watch it. I’m so proud of the film, our crew and the love and appreciation we’ve received,” she says.
Despite the applause and positive reviews, Sanya can’t seem to escape her biggest critic. She reveals, “I am my toughest critic. When I saw Dangal (2016) for the first time, I was pleased with the film, but I wasn’t happy with my work. After a screening at Aamir (Khan) sir’s house, I confided my apprehensions about my work with him. I was lucky to have him take the edge off my intense self-criticism with his positive feedback.” While most newcomers get thrown into the deep end of the pool, Sanya had a solid anchor in Khan. “There’s just so much to learn from him that goes beyond filmmaking and acting. He’s socially aware and he uses his star power to give something back to the audience who loves him.”
OUTFIT: Rocky Star; ACCESSORIES: Maathapatti: Ra Abta by Rahul, Necklace: Khanna Jewellers, Haathphool (right hand), ring (left hand, index finger): Anmol, Ring (left hand, middle finger): Jaipur Jewels
Evidently, Sanya’s favourite part of her journey has been the lessons she’s learnt along the way. “I’ve learnt the importance of being selfless—as an actor—when it comes to a script. It’s about finding ways through which you can contribute to the script with your craft. Secondly, you cannot just parachute into a character. You absolutely cannot walk onto a set without prep work and Dangal taught me that. I trained for nine months alongside my co-star Fatima (Sana Shaikh), who had a lot more wrestling scenes than I did; but regardless, both of us were doing the same amount of homework,” she shares. Another revelation Sanya makes is that she didn’t expect to find much work post the magnum opus debut. “Despite Dangal being this masterpiece of a film, because of the manner in which I was portrayed on screen, I didn’t think any director would want to cast me as a lead actor,” she shares. She thought it would be challenging for a filmmaker to look past her tomboy portrayal of a wrestler. “But when I was approached by director Ritesh Batra for Photograph (2019), I learnt another lesson—a good director has a creative mind and foresight.”
Consequently, when Sanya accepts a new project today, she scouts for more than just a good script. “Besides a good script, the cast and crew of a project are equally important. The director and the production house are vital because however good a script may be, you want that film to release eventually. It’s important to factor in these aspects as well,” she asserts.
OUTFIT: Jacket: Sunaina Khera, Sari: Swati & Sunaina; ACCESSORIES: Earrings and rings: Jaipur Jewels, Nath: Ra Abta by Rahul
Despite being a newbie, her confidence as a performer—as an actor and a dancer—is palpable. “I had to gain a few pounds for the second half of Pataakha (2018) and after wrapping up that film, I had to shoot for Morni Banke, the promotional song for Badhaai Ho. For this song and dance sequence, I wore a crop top and lehenga. When the song aired, a few of my friends remarked that I looked slightly chubby. At that point, all I could recall was how much fun I had shooting for that song. In today’s time, it is important to be comfortable in your skin. I work out not because I have to burn calories, but because I enjoy being active. I’m self-critical about my work, but when it comes to how I look on screen it doesn’t matter,” she asserts.
Throughout our conversation, Sanya’s been a revelation. And just like she’s managed to take us by surprise with her spunk and versatility, oftentimes she’s managed to surprise herself. She discloses, “I never thought I’d be able to wrestle. But by the end of it there I was (hopefully) convincing the world that I was Babita Kumari, pulling off these wrestling moves on screen. That’s the best part of being an actor—we get to surprise not only the audience but also ourselves, and see the extent to which we can push our boundaries.”
Here’s to Sanya and the many surprises tucked away in her bag of tricks!
OUTFIT: Arpita Mehta; ACCESSORIES: Nose ring: Ra Abta by Rahul, Necklace: Khanna Jewellers, Bangles (in the centre) and ring: Anmol, Kadas (on the side): Jaipur Jewels
Photographs: Vickram Singh Bawa, Hair and make-up: Natasha Mathias, assisted by Sunayana Subramaniam, Styling: Lynn Lobo, Location: Rocky Star Cocktail Bar