Ananya Panday wants great work as well as popularity

Ananya Panday with Vijay Deverakonda in Liger. Photo: Hype PR

Her debut film, Student of the Year 2, was quickly followed by Pati Patni Aur Woh in 2019, and Ananya Panday played the pretty yet simple girl in the former and the ooh-la-la siren in the latter. This variety got her the Filmfare Best Debut award in that pre-lockdown year,

During the pandemic, Ananya had to do with the OTT release of Khaali Peeli, and earlier this year, she imparted a rare depth to a confused character in Gehraiyaan.  Just four films old, Chunky Pandey’s daughter now does her first all-out commercial film in Liger opposite South heartthrob Vijay Deverekonda.

Full of beans when we meet, the actress is open about the challenge in doing this all-out commercial role here and about her future ambitions. Excerpts from an interview follow.

This is your first out-and-out mainstream film. What is your role and how easy or difficult was it doing this mass character role vis-à-vis your earlier ones?

This is a full-on fun film and my character is super out there, a chatpataa (spicy) drama queen who is a troublemaker! And yet she will yet do anything for love—now that is a layer about which I can’t tell much as it could reveal the story!

Well, I did find it difficult to break my inhibitions in such a role, but then I have always loved these kind of films. My dad’s career was full of such films and he loves this brand, and insisted that I take the film up. There were certain fears—how my facial expressions would make me look and how I was sounding. But the trick was to let go, and not think of judgment on my role. I have to override my insecurity.

The promotions have been at fever-pitch. How did you find it all?

You know, after the pandemic, it was simply great to meet people again, to laugh and cry with them and hold their hands. It was crazy to see how many fans Vijay had, and even I had pan-India! Actually, I was more scared of the crowd for their safety, like someone even fainted. But the love was so overwhelming I can’t even explain how it felt.

Did you actually finish that giant Gujarati thali in Surat, about which we got pictures from the film’s PR team?

(Laughs) No, no! But I did eat about 30 percent of it, I think! I had also eaten a good amount of moong dal halwa the previous night, or maybe I would have eaten a bit more!

Your dad insisted you do this film. What does he think of today’s promotions?

Oh, he loves it all! He was excited. And would even send me his reviews of what was happening, and I had to remind him, ‘Dad! I know! I was there!’

Do you get to do any action here? Also, Liger also stars Mike Tyson. How was your experience with him?

I was a Green Belt in Taekwondo in school—yes, I know that’s hard to believe! (Smiles). But in this film I have no action, but I hope to do such films in the future though I know it will be very hard work.

As for Mike, he was amazing. He has a walk like a lion in the wild, and is a true gentle giant. Just observing him felt so good, because he was so chilled-out, and very helpful to me. He even told me that if I needed any help in the future I could ask him! He is, in short, a story I can tell my grandchildren with pride!

And what do you like about Vijay?

Above all, I like Vijay’s calming energy! Right now, I am nervous yet excited because as actors, we can’t do much for a film beyond doing our best. But Liger has been made with so much love, and is such a happy, joyful film that Vijay is very sure that it will be a blockbuster and I am going with his feeling! With Liger, the crux is its high emotional value, and for me, it is my debut in four languages as well!

So what is important—a good role from the point of view of acting, or a hit?

I hope I am not being selfish when I say that I want both! I do want to keep doing different roles and not bore myself or others, and I don’t want to be put in a box. At the same time, I do want my film to reach the widest possible audience. So I want to satisfy the creative fire with a pan-Indian validation! While the love of the audience is paramount, I also want to focus on improving myself as actor.

Are you looking for that one breakthrough film in this movie?

I think that magic happens when you don’t know it will! Maybe someone was  supposed to do it earlier and you came in. Actually, you can’t plan breakthroughs! Actually, for me, even the lockdown was more of a point of reflection. I was quite lost earlier, with many big dreams, speeding away but not knowing where. I got to  spend time with myself and think of how I wanted to define my process, and have now got more streamlined. I shot Khaali Peeli during the lockdown and then towards its end, did Gehraiyaan.

I recently watched a video which said that Chunky Panday was someone who was ‘Ananya’s father’. How did that feel?

Well, I always want to be known as Chunky’s daughter! (Smiles)









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