Sanya Malhotra, who made her acting debut with Aamir Khan's Dangal, spoke about her journey in the film industry on India Today’s e-Mind Rocks 2020. The actress also shared her experience of working with Vidya Balan in her upcoming film Shakuntala Devi.

Is dancing your first love?
Acting is my first love. Dancing helped me become an actor and now I am dying to act.

What are you working on?
We had a project that was supposed to start but because of the pandemic, we couldn't start it. I am doing nothing at all these days, I am eating a lot, I am spending time with my family and making random videos on social media.

How was the experience of working in Dangal, your first film?
Dangal was a very big opportunity. Bahut he mushkil se newcomers like us get a chance to act in a film like Dangal. We gave a month or two month-long audition for it. We were exhausted mentally and physically. We were undergoing physical training to show that we can wrestle. It was a physically and emotionally draining film. I am grateful that I got an opportunity like Dangal. What I am today, I am because of my first film.

What was it like to work with Vidya Balan in Shakuntala Devi?
I am a huge Vidya Balan fan. I can't believe I have done a film with her. I was so nervous on the sets around her. Before Shakuntala Devi, whenever I would meet her at any event, I would act like a complete fan girl. In the film, only in front of the camera, I could feel that she is playing Shakuntala Devi and I am playing her daughter. I am so happy. The film looks so good. She is brilliant, she is an amazing human being. She has a witty sense of humour. She makes the film's sets a happy place to be.

 

Theatre owners are miffed because of digital release of films. What is your say on the whole debate?
We are going through a pandemic. As an actor, I am happy that I am able to entertain the audience. We want movies in these times. It is very tough. I want that movie experience, when we can step out to watch a film in theatres, but I think as a country we need to fight this virus together.

Sushant Singh Rajput's death triggered an outsider vs insider debate. How has your experience been in the industry?
I got a film like Dangal, I acted opposite Aamir Khan. I like the fact that in this production house, they audition, even if you are an established actor. I gave auditions for so many films after Dangal. So, I think things are changing inside the industry. But I think there should be a change with the audience and the media. If you see, the kind of limelight an actor's kid gets, we don't get it. We have to fight for it or do two, three more films for people to know us. As an outsider, there are so many things we have to keep in mind. In our first film, there was a feeling that they might think we won’t be able to do it. There was this stress. The media has to change, there should be equality when it comes to covering an outsider and somebody who is from the industry. Also, I think talent speaks. If you are talented it will show.

Have you heard any horror stories from outsiders, or have you found it difficult to be accepted by the privileged group?
I am not the right person to ask. I started with a film with Aamir Khan. Some of my friends have done a film or two but they are struggling. We can't say that the industry hasn't changed, you can't put all the blame on producers and the directors. The perspective of the audience needs to change. If outsiders also get the same kind of love, this will change. It's good that this debate is happening. People should also recognise actors who may not have bagged a big film like Dangal, but they are showing their performances through different projects and they should get the same love.

What has been your magic moment?
I had never told my parents that I wanted to become an actor. When I graduated, I told them about my passion for acting. My dad was okay with the idea, but my mom was like, "No, don't do it. Do your Masters" That was a magic moment because I never thought that my father would agree to my career choice. At that time, I wasn't close to him. He told me to follow my dreams. The professionally magic moment was when Aamir sir and Kiran ma’am told me that I have been selected for Dangal.

What did you learn from Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Photograph and Aamir Khan in Dangal?
With Aamir sir, we saw it. We were quite lucky to follow the same method. We would train for wrestling and we saw that it actually shows when you prepare for your character mentally and physically. With Nawaz it was a different experience. I was completely awestruck. He isn't Nawaz when he is in front of the camera. He immerses himself completely into the character that he is playing. I think I will have to do 50 more films to understand his method of acting. It is mesmerising.

Tell us about your upcoming films Ludo and Pagglait.
I have no idea about Ludo. We had no script. We used to do what the director would say. I just know what I shot. I don't know how the movie will pan out because I have no idea about others’ parts. Pagglait was an amazing experience. After ages I felt that I got into the skin of the character. Physically and mentally I was in my character. We shot the film in one go.

What was your first reaction after you heard the news of Sushant Singh Rajput's suicide?
I was extremely devastated. My mother told me, but I couldn't believe it. He has always been an inspiration for the people who are not from the industry. I really wanted to work with him. He was a really good dancer. I remember him dancing in a song with Kriti, and I thought to myself that I wish someday I get to dance with him. Whenever I would see him dance onscreen, I thought to myself, I really want to do a dance film with Sushant. When I saw Chhichhore, I could see that he talks like Nitesh sir. Since we knew Nitesh sir personally (Nitesh directed Dangal), I was shocked to see his performance because he acted exactly like Nitesh sir. And I remember texting Nitesh sir and telling him that Sushant talked just like him in the film. Sushant's character was inspired from Nitesh sir. It's a major loss for us, it's a huge void that no other actor can fill. Though I never met Sushant, his loss feels personal.

Will you watch Dil Bechara?
As a fan, watching the trailer was hard. It's a beautiful trailer and yeah, I am going to watch the film. I remember watching Sushant's TV serial with my mother. We had a major crush on him. When he got Kai Po Che, we were excited to see this actor make it so big. His performance in the film was so amazing.

A lot more is written about Alia Bhatt and Ananya Panday. Don't you think it's a longer road for you?
No, it doesn't. Personally, it hasn't bothered me. It has inspired me. It has made me work on my own craft. I have loved their work and their movies. And I have always been secure as an actor. I am living my dream and I am grateful that I get movies and continue to entertain the audience.