A young generation of stars are shining over Bollywood, and one that has perhaps been brighter than other debutantes this year has been Disha Patani.
The model-turned-actress announced her arrival into the big time with a starring role in smash hit film MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.
Disha also has major projects, including big-budget movie Kung Fu Yoga opposite Jackie Chan, and has generated the kind of press attention in India reserved for established names.
With big banners chasing after her and a growing fan base, the Mumbai-based actress has become one to watch next year. Eastern Eye spoke to Disha to find out more about the leading lady everyone is talking about.
How do you look back on the last couple of whirlwind years in cinema?
I have been very lucky. I came to Mumbai when I was 19 and didn’t know anything or anybody. I had no one to show me the way and auditioned for everything I have got. It’s getting bigger by the day and expanding to reach a larger audience. All I can say is the journey has just begun and I am enjoying it.
Have you got used to all the attention?
(Laughs) I think I am now. It’s so encouraging when kids tell me how much they love and adore me. It’s really wonderful that my work is being appreciated because that is what we actors set out for.
Was acting always a part of the masterplan and what made you pursue it?
Honestly speaking, no it wasn’t. The plan was to become an air force pilot growing up because my father and brother are in a similar field of work. I came from a family where most are in the civil services so I wanted to be a strong and independent woman, and believe I am. I grew up doing mostly everything boys could do. But then I took up modelling and started auditioning for films and commercials. That’s when I realised how much I enjoy being in front of the camera and wanted to take it up as a career.
The camera clearly loves you, but how did you feel facing it for the first time?
I’m a shy person in real life, so it was a really big deal for me. I had to drop my inhibitions and learn about acting while auditioning for roles and commercials. I found that the only time I’m not shy is when I am facing the camera. I also love dancing and feel more comfortable dancing in front of the camera than in front of people. So I was excited the first time, I felt at home and it made me realise how much I wanted it.
You must be happy with the success of MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. Did you expect it to be such a big hit? Yes, I did. (Director) Neeraj (Pandey) sir has beautifully showcased the highs, lows and difficulties MS Dhoni has faced to be the legend he is today. Also, not to forget the humongous fan-following of MS sir, so yes, I did expect it to do well. We all collectively worked very hard on the film and are thrilled it has done so well.
What was the experience of acting in your first Hindi film?
Working in any film is hard work, but how can you not enjoy yourself? This is a profession many dream of, but few are able to do it. It was super fun working on MS Dhoni: The
Untold Story, and as it was my first Hindi film, it will have a special place in my heart.
You auditioned for Kung Fu Yoga and landed a lead role alongside martial arts legend Jackie Chan. What has that whole experience been like?
It’s a blessing in disguise! It gave me the opportunity to work with the kindest and most grounded human being on the planet. It was a complete joyride and I got to learn a lot from the legend himself. I can’t wait for audiences to see the movie.
What is Jackie Chan like as a co-star, and can you share any memorable stories?
I always really looked up to Jackie Chan, so it was like a dream come true to do an action film with him. When I met him I wasn’t intimidated, instead I was just very excited. He’s such a humble and kind-hearted man, and I can’t praise him enough. It was such an honour working with such a legend.
There were so many memorable moments on set. I remember he taught me a Chinese song and I taught him a Hindi song from Bang Bang. Also, everyday he would get cake, ice cream or chocolates for everyone on the set. (Laughs) He loves feeding people. No other actor does that. He would be concerned for everyone’s safety.
What can we expect from Kung Fu Yoga next year?
The genre of the film is action comedy, so you can expect a lot of action and comedy. I am sure it’s a movie that will appeal to a global audience and one that has brought different cultures together.
Going forward, how are you selecting the films you do?
If you hear a script and connect with the character and story instantly, then that’s it for me. I don’t want to be eye candy in a film, so am looking for projects that will not only be exciting, but challenging too.
You have been linked to a lot of projects. Which other films do you have on the way?
(Laughs) They are still on their way. I will surely let you know once they reach me.
Is finding great roles the biggest challenge you are facing as a newcomer?
No, not really. It’s a really simple equation actually. If there is a good script and a great role on offer, then I am up for it.
Your sexiness is being written about a lot, but what do you think makes a person sexy?
Sexiness doesn’t lie in your looks or body shape, I feel that it is within you. You have to be confident, take your own decisions in what you wear and how you want to be. You will be sexy if you are confident. Even if you are not confident, just be yourself.
Who has been the most interesting person that you have met on your cinematic journey so far? I would say Jackie Chan. Like I said, he’s the most humble and hardworking man I have ever come across. He told me that he’s never gone on a vacation because he’s been working seven days a week, 365 days a year his entire life. He loves telling stories and sharing his experiences with full-on drama and action. I would listen to his stories in awe, like the way you listen to stories as a child. He is a legend of the truest kind and very inspirational in so many ways.
What would be your dream role?
As a newcomer, I would love to venture into different kind of roles which would not only be challenging but also help me grow as an actor. I don’t want to limit myself in any way. But since I’m a lot into fitness, dance and physical training, I would love to do something which involves all three or any of them if possible.
Which leading man from the east or west would you love to be romanced by on screen and why?
(Thinks) It would have to be Tom Cruise! He’s super cute and very talented. I would like to do an action film with him someday in the future.
Tell us something that not many people know about you?
(Laughs) I really love food, I eat a lot.
How have you handled the press writing about your personal life, and are you used to it now?
It doesn’t bother me at all. I’m here to work and only stories related to work affect me. I take both positive and negative feedback only to make myself better.
Have you made a masterplan for the rest of your career?
I’ve got no major plans. I just like to take life as it comes.
What inspires you most?
There are so many inspirations around us. Hardworking and passionate people really inspire me to do better for myself.
What would you say is your idea of happiness?
I guess my idea of happiness would be being at peace with who I am.
Which is your all-time favourite movie?
There are so many great movies from around the world in so many different genres, styles and languages. But if I had to choose one, it would be The Avengers. Everything is
so grand and larger than life in a superhero movie, be it the characters, set design, action, VFX and sound effects.
Finally, why do you love cinema?
There is not one specific thing that I like about cinema. I enjoy the industry because as an actor you get to play some larger than life characters that wouldn’t be possible in real life. To keep it short, I like the lights, camera and action.