‘Will pack my bags the day I stop learning’: Sanya Malhotra
She talks about playing a small-town cop in 'Kathal', and working with Shah Rukh Khan in 'Jawan'
Seven years after she debuted with Aamir Khan’s Dangal, Sanya Malhotra is in the busiest phase of her career. After her recently released investigative satire, Kathal: A Jackfruit Mystery, she has three releases this year: Shah Rukh Khan’s action-thriller Jawan, Sam Bahadur with Vicky Kaushal, and Mrs, the Hindi remake of the Malayalam film, The Great Indian Kitchen. “This is definitely the life I have manifested. It feels unreal. Last year, I was constantly working and shooting five films back-to-back. Now I can sit back and enjoy with my audience,” says Malhotra.
Inspired by true events, Kathal––which was released on Netflix on May 19––brings a story from the heartlands of India, and is set in a fictional town called Moba. Malhotra plays Mahima Basor, a no-nonsense cop, who is put on the case of missing jackfruits from a politician’s garden.
“I was blown away by the premise, and couldn’t believe it is based on true events,” she says, adding, “But Kathal offers more than just comedy. There is romance, mystery, drama and a social message. Its versatility and uniqueness attracted me.”
The film, directed by Yashowardhan Mishra, also stars some of Bollywood’s seasoned comedians, including Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, Raghubir Yadav and Gurpal Singh. Malhotra says working with them was as intimidating as it was inspiring. “When you have comic scenes and the actors around you are so fine, you don’t need to prep, you just have to listen to them and react. There were times when their performances would be so good that I would forget I have to keep a straight face,” the actor recalls.
While she imbibed the comic skills of her co-stars rather quickly, getting the dialect right took a lot more work. “I have Neha Saraf (who plays Kunti Parihar) to thank. She helped me a lot. She’s from Bundelkhand and knows the dialect, so I was constantly conversing with her,” the 31-year-old says.
As for getting into the skin of her character, Malhotra stayed with a female police officer in Gwalior for a few days to understand how she managed her personal life while dealing with serious cases at work. “We would sit in a corner in her office and watch her at work. There is a fear attached to the vardi (uniform), but we were also able to see her kinder side,” Malhotra says.
Relatability is one thing she bears in mind while choosing scripts. Whether it is rom-com (Badhaai Ho and Meenakshi Sundareshwar), dark comedies (Ludo and Pagglait), or social dramas (Love Hostel and Pataakha), the actor has consistently played strong-headed women, and Kathal is no exception. “It is our responsibility to give women the right portrayal. Earlier, we used to be replaceable,” she says, adding, “Female-led comedies were unimaginable, but I am happy that finally, writers are penning women characters who are pivotal for the script.”
Obviously, Malhotra had to look physically fit to play a cop, but that was a piece of cake for her. Says the actor: “Soon after Dangal, physical training became part of my life. I took up crossfit and boxing. Now I am prepared for any action role that comes my way.” No wonder she sounds pumped about her upcoming actioner, Jawan, in which she is expected to do high-intensity stunts. Without revealing much about her role, she says, “It is surreal to work with Shah Rukh Khan; it’s definitely a dream come true.”
Malhotra says she’s happy to be part of films helmed by women directors like Meghna Gulzar and Arati Kadav. “The Great Indian Kitchen is made with a lot of love. Arati is so sensitive, intelligent and one of the best directors I have worked with. The film and character are close to my heart,” says the actor, for whom complacency is a strict no-no. “The day I stop learning, I will pack my bags and go back to Delhi,” she says.
(With inputs from Shama Bhagat)