Sanya Malhotra. (Image: DC)
Sanya Malhotra has been on a roll ever since her debut in Aamir Khan's Dangal. Not the one to rest on past laurels, the actress has proved her mettle as an actor by picking versatile roles. Be it playing a widow in Pagglait, a modern woman in Badhaai Ho or a strict cop in Kathal, her choice of movies are testimony to her acting prowess. In her latest release Jawan, she has matched acting chops with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan and Nayanthara. In her career spanning seven years, Sanya has skillfully balanced critically acclaimed roles, which consistently empower women, establishing her as an impactful actress in the industry.
In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, Sanya Malhotra shares her Jawan experience while clearly spelling out her career plans for the future.
How did you prep for your action sequences in Jawan?
I think for me because I started off with a film like Dangal, I really got into fitness after that, because I used to miss training that hard in the gym and for wrestling. So I got into fitness and I really enjoyed doing stunts and weird stuff at the gym already. So people used to ask me, ‘Why are you doing this? our workouts look really hard.’ But I don't know. That's how I keep myself entertained in the gym and never knowing that maybe I was, unintentionally or subconsciously prepping for my role in Jawan. We did train with a fantastic team from South Africa and LA, they had come down to India, and taught us all the stunts that we did on top of the truck and inside the truck. And there were weeks of gun training as to how to hold the gun, how to pose with it. So all of that was done too and that is how I prepped for the action sequences.
What was your first day like on the sets with so many big stars around?
It was good, to be honest, because these big actors are very professional when they're in front of the camera. And they are their characters, you know, and when you're in front of the camera with whoever you are with, I think I'm very lucky to have worked with some really good, amazing actors in my career. So I just feel very comfortable doing those scenes with them. I did get nervous when I first met Shah Rukh, sir, for the first time on set. I had already met him many times at parties and I'm always a fan girl around him. When I was on set with him, I would get nervous here and there. But all the other times, it was always Azad or Vikram Rathod on set and not Shah Rukh Khan and for that I have to give them the credit for making us feel so comfortable on set.
Okay, how was it to share screen space with SRK?
I still can't believe that I'm in a film with Jawan with Shah Rukh sir. I feel as if I'm still dreaming about working with him. It feels surreal. I'm overwhelmed with the response for my character, and I feel very honored to have worked with him and to have shared screen space with him. Especially I think, while shooting for ‘Zinda Banda’, I was so excited to see myself dancing alongside Shah Rukh sir. I remember on that day, I was just waiting to go back to the hotel so that I could call my parents and tell them that I'm dancing right next to Shah Rukh sir. And I love dancing, one of my favorite things. And I'm doing it with one of my favorite actors. So I felt very, very good.
You worked with four big superstars in a single movie—SRK, Nayanthara, Deepika and Vijay Sethupathi. What's the one lesson you learnt from each of these actors?
I like how at ease SRK sir is at all times. And I have learned that from him. From Nayantara ma’am, her humbleness, and how prepared and confident she is when she's on set as her character. I didn't get to work on set with Deepika because we didn't share the screen space together. So we are in this film, but we never met each other on set. With Vijay Sethupathi, I think it was a great learning experience because he has got a very different point of view to being a villain in a film like this. He also has a comic streak, he also takes a different approach from an actor's point of view to see a villain like this in a film Like Jawan. So I think to see different aspects of how you can play a role differently is something that I learned from Vijay sir.
Tell us one thing we don't know about Shah Rukh Khan?
I think he's an open book. If you see all his interviews, I think he is who he is. He's very open about his life, about his views about everything else in the world. So I think there is nothing that people don't know about him. He's extremely humble.
What is Nayanthara like on the sets?
She’s amazing to be around. She really inspires me as an actor. I remember one of the times we were just sitting and she said ‘I've seen all your films’. And my mind blew, and I was like, really? I couldn't believe that Nayanthara ma’am has seen most of my films. We talked about films that she likes to do and acting. She's a very nice, humble and warm person. She’s also very confident, not just on camera, but even off camera. So I really admire her and she's very, very inspiring.
Vijay Sethupathi is a huge star down South. Tell us about his working style
It's very unique, I must say. As I said earlier, I think he’s got a very different point of view, or a different approach towards playing a villain in a film like Jawan. And that is very inspiring. I think, as an actor, we should see all the other aspects and all the other ways you can play a specific character. And he really did an amazing job on set as Kaalie in Jawan.
Tell us about the director—Atlee
I think I'm so glad I got to work with him. He really pushed me out of my comfort zone, because this sort of a film was a very new environment and new territory for me as an actor, as well. So whether it was action, or whether it's the scene in the hospital, the backstory of Eeram, I feel that he really pushes all the actors and is a true captain of the ship. He gives people that freedom to be themselves. He also gave freedom to all the technicians and actors to shine. He has a very solid vision for his scenes and what he wants from the actors and technicians and all the people on the set. It was a huge set and he really was able to manage it beautifully. So he's absolutely amazing. And I hope I get to work with him again, someday.
Was choosing an action film like Jawan a conscious effort to break free from the goody image you portrayed in your previous movies?
I think I'm always, as an actor, looking out for different kinds of rules and opportunities to work in. Opportunities that will help me get out of my comfort zone, characters that are not similar to the ones that I've already played. So when I got Jawan, it was not from the point of view to break free from any kind of image that I have built. I think I have done every sort of film, every sort of character till now in seven years—whether it was Dangal, Pataakha, Kathal, Ludo—they're all very different. And yeah, it was just from a point of view that it's very different and it will give me an opportunity to learn something new.
Tell us what has changed post Jawan?
I think I'm very lucky. I'm constantly working and have a great lineup this year and I'm also going to work on other films very soon. So I am hoping that Jawan will change a lot of things. But for now, I'm really enjoying the release, celebrating it with my friends and family and all the other people who are watching it every day.
Which actors do you have on your wishlist?
I would love to work with Tabu, Shahid Kapoor, Kartik Aryan and Shah Rukh Khan again. I think Shah Rukh Khan tops the list again. I hope and I wish I work with him again.
Did you always want to become an actress? What would have been your alternate career?
I love acting, I love being on set in front of the camera. So there is no alternate career for me. I like dancing, but that can't be my career. I'll always always be acting.