'I am really grateful to God with respect to the films I get because choosing them are not a conscious effort.'
Sanya Malhotra has a flair for selecting amazing scripts. She has seen critical acclaim (Pataakha) as well as commercial success (Badhaai Ho).
Her new film Photograph, directed by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) and starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, screened at the Berlinale last fortnight.
"Photograph was the second film offered to me after Dangal, so there was a lot of pressure from various people around me who said the second film is the most important one in one's career," Sanya reveals to Rediff.com Contributor Ramesh S.
You were nervous before Photograph premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
I was nervous because I hadn't watched the film, not even a single scene.
I watched it for the first time at Sundance with the audience, and was nervous because I didn't know how they would react.
I was wondering if they would connect with the dialogues and emotions because they were not a Hindi-speaking audience.
But they liked it, and I realised that during my conversations with them.
I was happy with the reactions.
I am usually critical about my work, but I was very happy with my performance in Photograph.
What attracted you to this film?
A lot of things!
First of all, working with Ritesh was a big opportunity for me.
Working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui was also a big opportunity for me.
This is actually the second film that was offered to me after Dangal, so there was a lot of pressure from various people around me who said that the second film is the most important one in one's career.
And so, Photograph was the best opportunity an actor could get.
As I was new to acting, I was sure that I would learn a lot from this film because Ritesh creates a world through his writing. As a reader or audience, one gets completely engrossed in it. That's what happened to me when I first read the script.
Your selection of scripts is really good. Are you taking advice from someone?
When I read a script, the only thing that comes to mind is my character, and whether I can imagine myself in that character, whether it excites me as an actor.
I am really grateful to God with respect to the films I get because choosing them are not a conscious effort.
I am really fortunate to work with amazing directors and actors.
My only conscious effort is to do my job right. Other than that, I am fortunate to get the work I do.
How was your experience working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Photograph?
Honestly, I was very scared at first because it was the second film I started shooting for. And then you are cast opposite Nawazuddin Siddiqui!
Ritesh didn't want us to meet before the shoot, so we had zero conversations.
As a result, I didn't get a chance to know him or his thoughts, like how he prepares for his role, what he thinks about films, what he thinks about his character...
I did so much research on Nawazuddin Siddiqui that I can write a book on him now!
I wanted to make sure that I didn't look stupid in front of him.
But he is an amazing person.
From day one of the shoot, I was at peace. He never shows that persona to other people, he is that good.
Whenever I interacted with him on the sets, he was always Rafi, not Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Pataakha got critical acclaim, but did not create magic at the box office. How did you deal with that?
I am really happy with Pataakha because as an actor, I learnt a lot.
My character in that film is so not me; it is very different from what I am in real life. So to play such a character, you have to come out from your comfort zone.
Also, the film was a big opportunity for me because it was directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. Although it didn't create magic at the box office, people watched it and liked it when it came online officially.
I still remember when I went to Goa for an event, people were calling me Chutki.
So it is a different feeling altogether.
As an actor, I really satisfied with that film.
Do you think people look at you differently after the huge success of Badhaai Ho?
Yes. But that's because of my look in the film -- people recognise me now, as my hair was short during Dangal.
Fortunately, I have different looks in all of my films.
I still remember the day I was sitting in a café and my hair was a bit longer, and a girl came to me and said I looked like the Dangal girl.
I bluffed and said, 'Yes, people often say this to me'.
But she was sitting with a person I knew, so after sometime, I walked to that girl and confessed.
At first, she was still reluctant about believing me, but later, she realised I was not a lookalike, but the Dangal girl herself.
You next film stars Aditya Roy Kapur, and is directed by Anurag Basu. Tell us more.
I had done an advert with Dada (Anurag Basu) before I was approached for Dangal, and from that day, I wished I would do a movie with him.
Now, it's a really a big thing for me to do my fifth film with him.
I love working with him.
Are you open to Web series in the near future?
The Web is a great medium where anyone can watch anything from anywhere. It's definitely going to bring a change in Bollywood with the way people watch movies.
One has to come up with great content and great acting because now our audience has seen everything through the Web medium.
They are aware about what different parts of the world are making. So, you cannot fool them by making just anything. For instance, even if you are making a masala film, it should be entertaining.
Other than that, if there is good content, a good script and a good director, then why not! I would love to do a Web series or film.