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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Sanya Malhotra: Before Pagglait, I never used to be happy with my work

Sanya Malhotra got candid about her latest release Pagglait, what went in her mind while portraying a young widow Sandhya , and getting to do varied characters so early in her career.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: April 2, 2021 8:24:25 am
sanya malhotra films pagglait successSanya Malhotra had three releases in the last one year - Pagglait, Ludo and Shakuntala Devi. (Photos: Sanya Malhotra/Instagram)

Sanya Malhotra says she never thought playing Sandhya in her latest film Pagglait would have such an impact on her. The actor, who’s currently riding high on all the positive reviews the Netflix movie is receiving, said, “People are writing great characters, so it’s a great time for me to be an actor.”

Pagglait is Sanya’s first film as the main protagonist. The Umesh Bist directorial revolves around a young widow and how her life changes after the tragedy, as she realises how she has not been the agent of her own life and embarks on a journey of self-discovery and forgiveness.

With an ensemble cast including Ashutosh Rana, Raghubir Yadav, Sheeba Chaddha, Sayani Gupta, Aasif Khan, Shruti Sharma, Rajesh Tailang and many others, the movie is getting appreciation for Sanya’s performance, apart from its subtlety.

During a candid chat post the release of Pagglait, Sanya spoke about portraying Sandhya, working with a dream cast, and getting to do varied characters so early in her career.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

In a short filmography, you’ve managed to do varied roles. What do you look for in scripts?

I don’t know! I act on my intuition. Also content is the hero today. I can only thank the writers. As an actor, it’s an easy job for me to pick a nice character and go and shoot for it. If they don’t write good characters, how will I even experiment with my roles? It’ll all become very monotonous.

Starting with an ensemble in Dangal, to now playing lead roles, filmmakers are trusting you more and more with characters. How do you feel?

With Sandhya, I had doubts if I’ll be able to pull off such a complex character. But Guneet (Monga, producer) and Umesh (Bist, director) had so much confidence in me, more than I had on myself. All this is so gratifying. Firstly, to land Dangal and the way my career panned out after that has been a dream.

What do you believe is your strength as an artiste?

Pagglait is the first project where I’m not as critical about myself. Otherwise I’ve been a perfectionist, but with a negative connotation. I never used to be happy with my work.

What was your definition of Pagglait before you did the film?

I had heard this term. It’s used a lot in North India, with a sweet twang like – “pagla gaye ho?”. There’s nothing derogatory. But it completely changed for me after doing this film. This film is really close to my heart.

Was Pagglait a conscious decision to move away from the characters you’ve done before?

As an actor I don’t get into the technicalities of what will be good for my filmography. When I heard the script, it spoke to me at a lot of levels, I had to do it. I never thought Sandhya is going to inspire so many women. I’m also glad that I got to play varied characters.

Now that it’s out and being loved, do you feel relieved from all the expectations?

Honestly, I was quite relaxed. It’s never happened before and it’s because of the film, the people associated and my character. There was no pressure or I was not even thinking about the expectations. I’m grateful that I got to play Sandhya and I’m very happy with the audience response, how they are internalising the character and the script.

What’s been the best compliment so far?

It’s from a family member. I never knew she had been through a similar situation in her life, so similar that she too found pictures in her husband’s cupboard. I’m very close to her but I never knew about her. When my mother saw it, she pointed out that it’s her story. I told her why didn’t she tell me while I was doing it because for me there was no reference. I had to develop my backstory. She said for widows, there is no inspiration around. It’s as if their life ends. So my mother told me my family member is my biggest inspiration, and that’s the biggest compliment for this character.

pagglait stills sanya malhotra Sanya Malhotra plays a young widow in Netflix film Pagglait.

Did playing Sandhya change you in any way?

It did. I never realised while shooting, things I was learning from her. But once the shoot got over, it was very difficult to get her out of my system. I was supposed to start a film but it got pushed because of COVID. And then, during the lockdown, I got so attached to Sandhya. I realised how emotionally mature this character is. She taught me the lesson of forgiveness. And it’s very tough.

There are undertones about how we are still caught in social repression and stigma. Did you ever feel angry about anything while shooting it?

I was living her life for 45 days. I used to think like Sandhya. Sometimes I still get in that mode which only Umesh sir can notice. Recently in an interview, while explaining what she must’ve gone through, I got angry and agitated. I realised I’m getting back to that mindset. We do gaslight women in our society, that you won’t be able to ride a cycle, even if you topped your exam, you don’t need to work if the guy is earning well. All these things are there in the film and it affects me personally.

Pagglait has a dream cast. What was your best memory and you biggest take away from shooting the film?

When you are working with good actors on set, it never feels you’re shooting, or delivering dialogues. With all of them, I felt I’m there, I could live Sandhya’s life because each of these actors too were living the lives of their characters.

Is it challenging to shoulder a film completely on your own?

Not at all. When you don’t expect such things from male actors, then why do that from females? I decided after Dangal, that I have to do all sorts of characters as I’ve never learned acting, so whatever I learn is on the set. I don’t get bothered about how the film will pan out.

You were also nominated in Best Actress category for Ludo with some amazing names. How did you feel?

It’s a good feeling to be nominated with such amazing actors. I can’t believe it, what is my life! It’s kind of a validation. I’m living my dream life. I’m extremely grateful for it and want to make most of it. Till the time I’m acting, I want to do it with happiness.

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