Sanya Malhotra says she never thought playing Sandhya in her latest film Pagglait would have such an impact on her. The actor, who currently relies on all the positive reviews the film is receiving Netflix, said, “People write great characters, so now is the perfect time for me to be an actor.”
Pagglait is Sanya’s first film as the main protagonist. Director Umesh Bist revolves around a young widow and how her life changes after the tragedy, as she realizes that 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 more, the film is appreciated for Sanya’s performance, aside from its subtlety.
In a candid discussion about the release of Pagglait, Sanya opened up about portraying Sandhya, working with a dream cast, and the possibility of doing various characters so early in her career.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
In a short filmography, you managed to play various roles. What are you looking for in scripts?
I do not know! I act on my intuition. Content is also 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 get it. If they don’t write great characters, how am I even going to experience my roles? It will all become very monotonous.
Starting with an ensemble in Dangal, now playing lead roles, the filmmakers are increasingly trusting you with characters. How do you feel?
With Sandhya, I had doubts about the possibility of succeeding such a complex character. But Guneet (Monga, producer) and Umesh (Bist, director) trusted me so much, more than myself. It is all so rewarding. First of all, hitting Dangal and the way my career went after that was a dream.
What do you think is your strength as an artist?
Pagglait is the first project where I’m not so critical of myself. Otherwise, I was a perfectionist, but with a negative connotation. I was never happy with my job.
What was your definition of Pagglait before making the film?
I had heard this term. It is used a lot in northern India, with a soft twang like – “pagla gaye ho?”. There is nothing derogatory. But that changed completely for me after making this movie. This film is very close to my heart.
Was Pagglait a conscious decision to move away from the characters you’ve already created?
As an actor, I don’t go into the technical details of what will be good for my filmography. When I heard the script it spoke to me on many levels, I had to do it. I never thought Sandhya was going to inspire so many women. I am also happy to have been able to play various characters.
Now that it’s out and loved, do you feel relieved of all the expectations?
Honestly, I was pretty relaxed. It’s never happened before and it’s because of the movie, the people involved, and my character. There was no pressure or I didn’t even think about the expectations. I’m grateful that I got to play Sandhya and I’m very happy with the response from the audience, the way they internalize the character and the script.
What has been the best compliment so far?
It comes from a family member. I never knew she had experienced a similar situation in her life, so similar that she also found pictures in her husband’s closet. I am very close to her but I never knew about her. When my mother saw it, she pointed out that it was her story. I told her why she didn’t tell me while I was doing it because for me there was no reference. I had to develop my backstory. She said that for widows there is no inspiration. It is as if their life is coming to an end. So my mom told me that my family member was my biggest inspiration, and that’s the biggest compliment for this character.
Did playing Sandhya change you in any way?
It made. I never realized during the filming things that I was learning from her. But after the shooting was finished, it was very difficult to get her out of my system. I was supposed to start a movie but it was pushed because of COVID. And then, during the lockdown, I got so attached to Sandhya. I realized how emotionally mature this character is. She taught me the lesson of forgiveness. And it is very hard.
There are innuendo about how we are still caught up in social repression and stigma. Did you ever feel angry at anything while filming?
I lived his life for 45 days. I thought like Sandhya. Sometimes I always get this mode that only Umesh sir can notice. Recently in an interview, while explaining what she had to go through, I got angry and agitated. I realized I was coming back to that state of mind. We do gas women in our company, so you can’t ride a bike, even if you passed your exam, you don’t need to work if the guy wins well. All of these things are there in the movie and it affects me personally.
Pagglait a dream cast. What was your best memory and your biggest impact while shooting the film?
When you work with good actors on set, you never feel like you are filming or delivering dialogue. With all of them, I felt there, I could live the life of Sandhya because each of these actors was also living the lives of their characters.
Is it difficult to carry a film entirely alone?
Not at all. When you don’t expect such things from male actors, then why do this from women? I decided after Dangal that I had to do all kinds of characters because I never learned to act, so everything I learn is on set. I don’t care how the movie plays out.
You were also nominated in the Best Actress category for Ludo with 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 a kind of validation. I live my dream life. I am extremely grateful for it and want to make the most of it. Until the moment I play, I want to do it happily.
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