Ananya Pandey: A keen student of Indian cinema

SKY-HIGH DREAMS: Ananya Pandey
SKY-HIGH DREAMS: Ananya Pandey



RAPIDLY rising Bollywood star Ananya Pandey has constantly been in the headlines since making her Bollywood debut with 2019 films Student Of The Year 2 and Pati Patni Aur Woh.

Having grown up in the heart of Hindi cinema, the daughter of actor Chunky Pandey has taken all the pressure in her stride and recently welcomed her third high-profile movie release Khaali Peeli, which premiered on ZEE Plex.

The young actress loved everything about the film when it was narrated to her by director Maqbool Khan and is confident it has turned out exactly how the entire team has envisaged. She loved playing the challenging Khaali Peeli character and is looking forward to expanding her horizons as an actress.

Eastern Eye caught up with Ananya to discuss Khaali Peeli, lockdown, her future plans and inspirations.

Tell us about Khaali Peeli and the character you play?
The film has action, romance, drama and comedy, so has a little of everything. It is a big masala entertainer and when people watch it, they will have a lot of nostalgia, and love for how Mumbai used to be. Also, nostalgia for old Bollywood music, and how films were made in the 1990s. My character is like my spirit animal. She is so much fun, fearless, unabashed, super-cool and a bit of a drama queen. I was living my dream playing this character. I was living vicariously through her. I think some part of me wants to be like her, as she is cool.

What is your own favourite moment in the movie?
Some of my favourite moments are the action sequences, especially when I am doing it, as I have never done that before on or off screen. I was also nervous as to how I would pull it off, so watching myself doing action in the film is surreal for me. Also, the sequences where Ishaan (Khatter) and my character are together in the frame are also my favourite moments because of the relationship our characters (Pooja and Blackie) share. Their banter, love and flirtatious vibe is something unique. There are a lot of twists and unexpected moments, which people will need to watch the film and find out.

What is Ishaan Khatter like as a leading man?
Ishaan was the perfect hero and co-star for this film. He is my partner in crime. My character Pooja would not have been as interesting without his role. I am grateful that we both got to work on the film. The whole vibe just worked out and I hope it translates on-screen. We had a blast off-screen. We would always be laughing and had a good time. While shooting, we improvised and fed off each other’s energy. This is the kind of energy I crave in my co-star and finding it in Ishaan was perfect. I am excited for people to watch him as he has done something really different. Audiences will be in awe of him in the way he has pulled off this character.

Ananya Pandey with Ishaan Khatter in Khaali Peeli

Who are you hoping will connect with the movie?
I hope everyone connects with the film. It’s a fun film so people across age groups will like it. The biggest high will be getting a lot of love from audiences. If they want to watch something entertaining and have some fun with all the elements, then they should definitely watch this film.

How disappointed are you that your film Khaali Peeli couldn’t release in cinemas?
The initial reaction was a bit of bummer because this film is made for a big screen and I would love to watch it in cinemas. But understanding the current situation, thiswas the best option for our film, so I am not disappointed. In fact, I am really intrigued and excited to see the way ZEE Plex system works out, which is the pay per view section, and also on Zee5 where it’s releasing. As an actor, I would want as many people as possible to watch the film and give their love. I am really excited about the release.

What is your acting master plan?
There are no plans. I am just looking to do different things. All my films so far have been diverse. I want to learn, grow, observe and remain a student always. I want to keep exploring things while working with actors and directors. I also know that I might make mistakes, but I want to learn from them. So, the idea is to continuously improve myself and evolve, get better and garner love from the audiences along the way.

Growing up, it has always been your dream to become an actor and you said about feeling completely at ease in front of the camera. But have you got used to the rollercoaster of working in movies yet?
I am not used to the rollercoaster of working in movies yet and I don’t want to get accustomed to it, as it would then make me comfortable and complacent. So, I don’t want to be in that position. I want to constantly be surprised, learn, make mistakes and grow from them. I don’t want to get too comfortable in any zone or space.

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned?
The biggest lesson I have learnt is to take the positives and negatives in my stride. I am not getting carried away by the love, nor getting bogged down by any hate. I am just trying to be myself, keep my head down and do my work. I am trying to give my best and hopefully, get the love from the audiences.

How are you selecting films you do?
I’m choosing films that excite me. I don’t look at how big or small my part might be in that film. I want to do exciting roles and ones that challenge me. I want characters that provide me some scope to learn and help me grow as an actor. I want to work with people who I can learn a lot from and who’ll teach me different things. I want to be a part of films that excite me in general. I want to do different things and not be stuck in a zone.

Who would you love to work with in future?
I have a long wishlist of actors and directors I want to work with and have it typed down on my phone. But I am not going to say it out loud as it is currently being in manifestation. When it happens, I’ll let everyone know that it is ticked off my bucket list.

What is the best advice you have received so far?
The best advice that I have received recently and is also very simple is to just chill and enjoy myself.

What other confirmed projects do you have on the way?
I’m currently shooting for Shakun Batra’s next untitled film with Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Dhairya Karva. I’m really excited about it. Shakun was definitely on my dream list of directors I really wanted to work with. This film is an exciting tick for me. I’m also working on Puri Jagannadh sir’s next film with Vijay Deverakonda. It is a pan-India film. That’s going to be super fun. To be a part of a pan-India film is a huge deal for me and I’m very grateful. Both of these films are going to be very different from the three films that I’ve already done. I cannot wait for the audience to watch these films and hopefully, love them.

How have you handled lockdown?
(Laughs) I’ve had my days! There were days which were very smooth sailing and others when I felt extremely low. But it’s okay because I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve learnt to be grateful for everything I have in my life. I’ve become grateful for the moments that I spend with people. I’ve also become even more connected to my family. In the last one-and-a-half years, I was constantly working and didn’t get to spend enough time with them. Now, I cherish the time I spent with them. I’ve learnt to be patient and now believe that good things come in good time, and everything happens when it has to. I’ve learnt to be grateful for the small things. I’ve realised that I don’t need a lot to be happy.

What inspires you?
The thing that inspires me the most is probably love – be it the love of people who believe in me like my family and my friends or the love of my audience, which really motivates me. Self-love inspires me to grow, evolve and challenge myself.

Do you have a dream role?
My dream role would be something that’s very far away from who I am. It has to be completely different from the person I am so that it is a challenge for me. I also want to step into a genre I haven’t explored such as horror, an out-and-out comedy or an action film. The list is endless. I want to explore everything possible. I’ve said this so many times that I just want to learn, grow and thus keep getting better.

Why should we watch Khaali Peeli?
You should watch this film if you want to be happy and entertained. It has a bit of everything, including action, romance, drama and comedy. This is a light-hearted film and as an audience, I would love to watch a film like Khaali Peeli. It has a lot of fun moments, twists with some amazing action sequences and songs. I love these masala entertainers. We have made the film with lots of love, hard work and effort. You should watch it for our director as it is his first feature film.

Watch Khaali Peeli on

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