Interview | Photograph is very special, it’s my second film: Sanya Malhotra

Thestatesman.com spoke to the Dangal star who opened up on how she prepares for a role, relatability to a character and much more…

Interview | Photograph is very special, it’s my second film: Sanya Malhotra

Interview | Photograph is very special, it’s my second film: Sanya Malhotra(Photo: Instagram/@sanyamalhotra_)

Sanya Malhotra, who was noticed for her role in Dangal, has since seen no dearth of offers. After two big releases in 2018, Pataakha and Badhai Ho, the actress has opened her 2019 account with Photograph, which also stars Nawazuddin Siqqiqui, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Vijay Raaz and Jim Sarbh.

Thestatesman.com spoke to the Dangal star who opened up on how she prepares for a role, what it was like to work with a critically acclaimed director, relatability to a character and much more…

Is there a difference when you are working with a director who is known for art films?


I don’t know, whether to call this film an art film or not. For me, it’s a film and he is a director. It was not different, but every director is different. They have their own process…

But, with someone who has that image, when it comes to those who direct art films and commercial films. Even though your choice of films have been unconventional,

No, it’s not a different feeling at all. This was my second film, by the way. This happened after Dangal. This was very special for me because I am his (Ritesh Batra) huge fan. I loved The Lunchbox, loved The Sense of an Ending and Our Souls at Night. I think they are really good films. They are very real; I won’t call them art films but they are very real. They are very content driven, their stories are very unbelievable but at the same time when you are watching it you can feel those gamut of emotions inside of you. And, it’s with his scripts also. So, when I read it (Photograph’s script), I was like, I want to be this character; I can’t wait to live her life; though it took him a lot of time because he was working on some other project and he came to India after six or seven months after me reading the script.

I gave an audition and that’s how I got this opportunity to work with Nawaz (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Ritesh (Ritesh Batra).

Given a choice, what would you choose; a character or a script?

It has to be a mixture of both, right. Whenever I am reading a script, if I can imagine myself in the character, it happens naturally. Like somebody is narrating it to you or you’re reading it, you imagine yourself. But at the same time you have to read the script from the audience point of view whether as an audience, if you would like to see something like this or not. For me, both things are very important, kyunki kuch kuch characters, feels like a challenge. Like, Pataakha, when Vishal ji (Vishal Bhardwaj) told me about the character, I was like, I am dying to do something like this and I could see that he had a major doubt on his face that whether I will be able to pull this off or not.

Yeah, I got an opportunity, I auditioned for it and I proved myself, and proved him too… that I can play something like Chhutki on screen.

As an actor, when you’re playing a certain role, do you come across situations when you cannot relate to the character you are playing? If there is trait in that character’s personality that you might not like or relate to, can you like fake it or still play it, by not judging it. For instance;Pataakha

Yeah, there are times. I couldn’t relate to Chhutki at all. But, we made it happen through workshops and a lot of reading. I felt like, yeah, whatever she is doing its fine, it’s her and as an actor you cannot have a judgment about any character, I feel. There is no right or wrong… and nobody is right or wrong. There is no negative character or a positive character. I think all the characters are very grey. They have something good and something bad in them.

So, as an actor you can never be judgmental about the characters you are playing on screen, if you are judgmental, the camera catches it. I am not kidding; it catches everything you don’t believe.

So, how do you keep your judgement out? Or, if you relate to a character too much, say, like in an earlier interview, you said that you could relate a lot to the character in this film (Miloni). How do you keep the “I” and your personality out when you are playing something like this.

It’s very, very difficult. I remember while I was shooting it, I realized that I was very much like Miloni. Before that, I used to think, that I am very talkative, very-out-there, quite an extrovert, but I wasn’t.

I was totally enjoying her life. For a good 45 days, I was totally in Miloni zone. I was enjoying it too much. Even after, the shoot got over, it took me a lot of time to get out of it and take her out of my system because I was really worried. I had only one month to prep for Badhai Ho and I am glad, that after Badhai HoPataakha happened, that’s when I was like I am completely out of Miloni zone.

Is it exhausting creatively, because a part of you has gone out there, is it taxing or is it very satisfying?

It is satisfying but at the same time it is taxing emotionally. Because there are scenes and there are some characters that trigger some emotions in you; happens with me because I am a very emotional actor. I am very new so, eventually I think I will learn how to detach myself emotionally with the character and just fake it, I hope.

 A lot of actors say, that when they are on set, the character is on and once they are off set, the character is off.

Yeah, that happens. But at the same time, some of the scenes like, there was this scene in Patakhaa that triggered something in me. I don’t know it happens with me… It’s a different process for everyone.

What’s your preparation process like? Do you stick to the text or do you like talking to the director or do you like being the character and then developing it…

You know as an actor, I do not have set rules or process. I have a few things that I do with every character. Like I develop a back story and then I neutralize myself. That’s like the breathing exercises that I do before every scene. But, as an actor, you cannot have set rules and regulations because at the end of the day, the captain of the ship is the director.

You have to listen to him and what he wants. Like with Dangal, there was wrestling to get us into the character and we used to just listen to Nitesh Sir (Nitesh Tiwari), and what he wants from us. In Photograph,  Ritesh used to tell us… not tell us, but enter the world of the actor very carefully, with Amit( Badhai Ho director- Amit Sharma), it was more fun… a lot of fun on set because he used to very open about kya chahiye mujhe.. main batata huin… that kind of  a director.

So if you have set rules it becomes very difficult for you to work with different kind of directors. I am glad that I am working with such different personalities; I am learning something new about it, like with Vishal ji. We used to sit, and we could like, say anything to him. I remember he wrote a new scene for Chhutki and Badki, and we were like this is not right sir. We won’t be shooting this one, because this is not right for our characters. He was like, okay fine, we had a long conversation, and he was like please do it for me and see it will definitely work.

It did, while we were shooting, we were like we should shut up and listen to him because it really worked.

Have you seen Pataakha?


It’s a very important scene. It was very important for both the characters and with Anurag sir (Anurag Basu), he doesn’t like to prep. He doesn’t like to do any kind of workshop or anything before the shoot.

So, I like to work with the director and the script and sometimes you don’t even have the script.

Developing a back story is important, that I learnt from Geetanjali Kulkarni who is also there in the film. For her character, she had a back story, she used to wear her costume and do the workshops.  Like her music taste changes and that used to happen to me also, but I thought…those things are like…you don’t put brains to it, those things just happen to you.

When I saw photograph, I talk very differently in the film, I don’t talk like Miloni… but she has a weird way of using her mouth. I don’t know what I did while shooting, I don’t remember and she walks also differently. So kuch kuch cheezein khud ba khud ho jati hai set par.