Kriti Sanon

Kriti Sanon says she is an outsider who has proved herself. (photo provided)

MUMBAI—She has had a great run with just two films, her debut “Heropanti” (2014) and “Dilwale” (2015). Now, Kriti Sanon is all set to do her first dual role in “Raabta,” of an Indian girl living in Budapest, and her earlier incarnation as a warrior princess.

Meeting up in a whirl of promotional activities for the film, Sanon is all beans as she talks to India-West.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: You are an outsider. Having made it with just two films, would you say that nepotism exists here?

A: Of course, nepotism is there in every business and profession. I would be blind not to see it. A doctor’s child usually becomes a doctor, so also a businessman’s child enters the same business. If you grow up within the industry, and someone wants a new face, they will first think of you as they have seen you grow up, and that is easier than having to search outside.

The first three to five opportunities are thus always easier, but after that, it is about how much talent and newness you bring to the table. So after one point, it does not matter where you have come from. Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ranveer Singh and I – we are all outsiders who have proved ourselves.

Q: Which of your films has benefitted you most?

A: “Heropanti” was a film that was designed to launch two newcomers – Tiger Shroff and me. It did well. But for someone like me who did not come from a film family, it was “Dilwale” that gave me a huge reach. It was so much fun that it did not feel like work at all, and because it had Shah Rukh (Khan)-sir, Kajol ma’am, Varun Dhawan and Rohit (Shetty)-sir as director, my audience reach increased hugely. Today, children still love my songs in the film and come and show me my steps.

Q: Still, both were light roles, so how challenging was this first intense role(s) in “Raabta?”

A: Yes, I agree that this is a layered role, totally different from me. Where my characters come from are totally different worlds. The flashback part was more difficult as there was no reference point for the way such a girl would look and behave. A vague reference for the time could be “Game Of Thrones.” The character is tribal, raw and yet a warrior princess. We had to make the audience believe in her.

The interesting part about this alien character was that she hailed from an era when girls were not given much importance and were essentially for reproduction! For men, it was about survival and fighting for their land. In this milieu, I play a girl who is born and bred like a boy, is fearless, and good at hunting, fighting, and riding. For these small and short touches, I had to learn so many things to be convincing. I learned Martial Arts to depict the way such fighters change stance and their body language as they stand and run. The idea was that I should look strong when running with Sushant (Singh Rajput).

Q: Has the process of choosing a script changed for you now?

A: I have always been instinctive about scripts. I like what the aam janta (masses) would, and I ask myself if I would want to watch this film. We give at least three months to a film, so I should enjoy working on it and wake up with excitement every day. My character comes next, and it is not about how different my character is, but about how important it is for the film.

Of course, within all this, what attracts me also keeps changing. I am now doing “Bareilly Ki Barfi,” which is something performance-oriented. It is an exciting script by Nitesh Tiwari-sir, who did “Dangal.” His wife Ashwini is directing it, and I love my character. I play a tomboyish small-town U.P. girl, and for this, I met college girls from Lucknow and taped their talk. They have this sing-song intonation.

Q: Coming back to “Raabta,” people are talking about your rapport and relationship with Sushant and the resulting on-screen chemistry.

A: You know, I am amazed at how people cook up so many stories in such detail. Where we went, what we talked and who heard what we said! It is almost like a screenplay by itself, a daily soap where we learn things about ourselves that we never knew as if this invisible person was present wherever we went and heard every word! (Grins) We make fun of all the gossip. I know people link a pair to benefit a film, and I am totally against it and do not think it has been done here.

But I am of the firm belief that on-screen chemistry comes from the writing and the way the film is made. Like in “Heropanti,” you will see chemistry even when Tiger and I are not together. In “Raabta,” during the song “Ik Vaari Aa,” Sushant and I are at separate places, but there is chemistry still. And on-screen chemistry need not mean off-screen chemistry at all.

Q: This is the first time you are working with a first-time director. How different was it?

A: It’s very interesting that I went to meet Dinesh Vijan for another film that did not happen, and got down to discuss this film! I heard the narration from him with complete dialogues, and he did not have any paper with him.

Q: So it was Vijan’s vision!

A (Smiles broadly): Yes! He is an emotional director. He is not interested in technicalities or exact lines of dialogue, but he approves a take when the feel is right. He has no restrictions, and throws the actors in the ring, giving liberty to us even though he knows exactly what he wants.

Q: And how was Sushant?

A: He is a chameleon, and you see him changing color in front of your eyes. He becomes different, actually becomes the character. When we first met for the audition, we did not know each other. We were given a scene, but in the third take, he suddenly said something different and I reacted impromptu. We caught each other’s reactions, and Dinu (Vijan) loved that.

Q: How would you compare your three heroes till now?

A: All three are very hardworking guys. Tiger and I both have a hunger for improving and Tiger is very disciplined, whether at work or about his workouts. Varun is spontaneous, and always wants to do better until he gets it right. Sushant is very methodical and thus very inspiring.

Q: Do you believe in reincarnation?

A: There is no proper proof, but recently I read “Many Lives Many Masters,” and the book talks about some people who come very close instantly, or how you connect with total strangers, or why you don’t know yet dislike someone. Maybe I am beginning to believe a bit in it. Like I feel this connect with Sabbir Khan and Dinu, but then both are also Leos like me!

Q: Your sister is also exploring singing and acting now.

A: Yes, she was always passionate about singing, and has taken three or four years of classical training. I told her to keep all doors open.

Q: Unlike most young actresses of today, you have never sung in a film.

A: That is because I am not trained. I would like to be first trained, and then sing.

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