'I consider everyone my competition.'
Ananya Panday may have only done four films, but she has already proven that she has what it takes to make it big in the industry.
She will be seen this week in the hugely anticipated bilingual film Liger, alongside Vijay Deverakonda.
"I was scared because it's a very out-there, confident character. I really like such films, but when it's about acting in it, I become a little apprehensive because it requires a lot of breaking of inhibitions, and, you know, going all out, making faces and saying dialogues that you might actually not say in real life," Ananya tells Rediff.com Contributor Mohnish Singh.
Liger marks your first pan-India film. How does that feel?
As an actor, you always want your story, your characters and your films to reach as many people as possible.
I feel it's my debut in four languages.
Having said that, I think we see this film as an Indian film because that's the crux, the emotional crux of the film, that everyone would be able to relate to it.
Do you think this film has the potential to make your presence felt in the South as well?
I hope so.
I am trying something different and this is my first massy, out-and-out comedy sort of film.
I was scared because it's a very out-there, confident character.
I really like such films, but when it's about acting in it, I become a little apprehensive because it requires a lot of breaking of inhibitions, and, you know, going all out, making faces and saying dialogues that you might actually not say in real life.
But I hope people like it.
Did you take any tips from your father Chunky Pandey?
Yeah. The only thing he said was that I have to do a massy film because he loves massy films. He has been a part of so many.
He was like, 'You have to have to do it.'
You know every (promotional) event that we have been going for, he has been sending me videos, stating, 'Look, how many people have come. I am very excited.'
Was this the first South project you were approached for?
No, there have been a few, but I feel this one felt the most right.
I believed in Puri Jagannadh's vision.
I don't think I have ever met anyone who has such a strong vision.
When he narrated the film, I could see the visuals and the picture swimming right in front of my eyes.
It had so much clarity.
He knew when the audience was going to laugh, when the audience was going to cry, and he has so much passion.
We were still filming Liger, but he was already telling me about the three films that he is going to make next.
So he just has so much love for cinema. I loved working with him.
Can we see you in an out-and-out, female-led action film?
Of course, I am just waiting for the right one.
I don't think of it as a woman-oriented or man-oriented film.
I look at the character and the impact that it has, how it challenges me as an actor and how can I do it differently. It's more about the script.
Did you learn any form of martial arts during your school days?
I like action films. I used to do taekwondo in school, but was not very good at it.
I hope that I get to do an action film.
We got the opportunity to work with Mike Tyson in Liger.
We will narrate this to our grandchildren one day that 'We worked with Mike Tyson.'
When it comes to actresses like Janhvi Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan and you who come from star families, do you feel the competition?
There is competition, definitely.
Not just these people, but I consider everyone my competition because I want to better myself as an actor.
We discuss it a lot.
Sara and I have conversed a lot about competition and what we want to work on next and how we see our careers going.
There is a healthy amount of competition which, I feel, should always be there.
What kind of conversations?
Like Sara said on Koffee With Karan that she faced a lot of anxiety in those two years of COVID.
She also spoke about what the future was actually going to be.
Just as a young female actor who is starting out in her career, she was feeling a bit like we are running out of time.
So, yeah, these kinds of conversations.
What was your state of mind during the COVID period?
I think my anxiety was more about what was happening around the world due to COVID.
I was not thinking so much personally that what was going to happen to me because I am a very small dot in a very big scheme of things.
I think I was grateful that I got that time because I feel I was into some kind of an overdrive mode before that as I had started so young and did not know where it was leading.
I was just going with the flow.
I got that time to reflect, to watch a lot more cinema to kind of discover what my process was, how I see my career panning out.
We started shooting Liger and Gehraiyaan very early.
They were one of the first few films to start shooting and Khaali Peeli had just released that year, so I did not think so much about my personal thing.
There comes a point in everyone's life where you are concentrating on your career and your friends get left behind. How do you manage that?
Honestly, when I started my career, they went to college for four years. Now, they are finishing.
I try to balance my life. When I am not working, I am not working.
Whenever I give time to my friends and family, it's all for them.
Do you miss not going to college?
Yeah, at times I wish I had that experience of living alone and being more independent.
Just living on my own that way.
But I don't want to change my journey for anything.
The characters that you have played so far have been all modern. Do you think you may get typecast?
No. I think, I tried to play a very different character in Khaali Peeli.
Even in terms of modern women, it's a vast category.
There are different kinds of people.
I feel I have tried to keep it as different as possible.
Going forward, I am going to make sure that I choose different characters because our country has a lot of stories. There are so many characters.
Where do you see yourself after a couple of years?
This is just the beginning for me.
I just try to learn as much as possible.
I am lucky to work with people like Deepika Padukone, Shakun Batra, Vijay Deverakonda and Puri Jagannadh who I can learn so much from. I try to absorb their experiences.
I have a long way to go and I hope I keep this innocence intact in me for a long time.
How was your experience working on this film with Vijay Deverakonda?
I have learned a lot from him.
Whatever his characters have been in films so far, he is entirely different from them.
He is very sweet, caring, and soft-spoken.
He is very protective in that sense. He was very helpful.
My first shot in the film was that I had to react to one of the fights he was involved in.
He recreated that whole fight and gave me the cue even though he was not in the frame. He did this so that my reactions seem genuine.
He has just been like that. He always tells me that if at all I need something in the future 'Just call me, I will tell you how to deal with things, how to handle things.'
I feel very calm around him.
Did watch Vijay's Telugu films before working with him?
Yes. I saw Arjun Reddy, Geeta Govindam, and bits of Dear Comrade.
You must have seen South Indian films on television. What kind of impression did they leave on you?
I think their larger-than-life quality and vision are really strong.
They go all out in everything that they make.
I don't mean heroism as a man ,but a sense of heroism in their films.
As a female also, just that strong underdog winning, and that victory and human spirits sort of qualities are very strong.
How do your parents react to your work?
They are very proud.
My parents are my biggest cheerleaders and also the biggest critics of my life.
Whenever I go wrong, they are the first ones to caution me.
My dad is very happy that I am doing different kinds of films.
When he was a hero in his time, the film industry was a very different place.
I think he realises that now the time has changed.
He tries not to give me too much advice because he knows he does not want to affect my journey too much.
But he is always there. He is always happy about my success.