The conversations on nepotism in Bollywood can never go out of fashion, but the topic gets some incredible amount of traction just before a star-kid is about to dive into showbiz. If that has always been the case, then how can Ananya Panday be left alone? The daughter of well-known actor Chunky Panday debuts in Hindi cinema with Student of the Year 2. The teen drama has been produced by movie mogul Karan Johar, who has always been accused of nepotism. But the newcomer is not worried about who thinks what about her. She just wants people to accept her and her talent.
Ahead of the release of Student of the Year 2, Eastern Eye sat down with Ananya Panday for a conversation on her dream launch, her idol and ex-student of SOTY franchise Alia Bhatt and, of course, her upcoming projects.
The debutante also reacts to the success of other star-kids like Janhvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan.
The first question to you is that what is that one question you don’t want people to ask you?
Hopefully, about nepotism. I hope people don’t ask me about that, because I want them to accept me and my talent in general. I want that the audience loves me. So, I hope people don’t ask me about nepotism, even after the release of the film.
Do you think that SOTY 2 is the best launch-pad for you?
I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I remember I was just 15-year-old when I watched the first Student of the Year. My parents were going to the screening of the movie. It was scheduled for 11 p.m. I wasn’t allowed to go, but I begged my parents to take me along. I was sitting on the floor at the screening and then I saw Alia on the screen. In that very moment, I decided I wanted to be this. I wanted to be Alia. I wanted to be Shanaya (the character played by Alia Bhatt in Student of the Year). I wanted to do a film like Student of the Year. I wanted to be a Dharma Productions’ heroine. I prayed so much to Universe that one day I finally got to audition for the film.
What was your reaction like when you were told about being finalized for the film?
After my first audition, I had to do another audition. At the same time, I was doing some workshops with Puneet Malhotra. Frankly speaking, they did not tell me in one go that I was finalized for the film. The project got delayed too, for a year or so. But as they were about to begin production, it started sinking in slowly and slowly. So, it took a lot of time to believe that, actually. I still can’t believe I am a part of this film.
Was it tough to match up to Tiger Shroff’s energy level?
I am not even half of Tiger; he practises so much. When we were in our teen, we used to be a part of the same dance class. However, his talent did not rub off on me. He is indeed a brilliant dancer. When you see him practise, you also kind of feel motivated to do some practice. But even then I won’t ever be able to match up to his level. However, I tried my best.
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Do you think you can match up to ex-student Alia Bhatt’s talent?
I don’t think so. Alia is a flawless actor. She has given so many phenomenal films like Gully Boy (2019), Raazi (2018) and Highway (2014). I cannot compete with her. When she joined the industry, she was also very raw. People liked her rawness and unpreparedness. So, I think, I am also raw. Alia and I haven’t done any acting classes. Tiger is a huge star; he has done so many hit films. Tara has also done Disney shows. But I haven’t done anything. So, that rawness makes us similar in some ways.
How did you train yourself before entering films?
As I said, I haven’t taken any acting classes. But I opted for Hindi instead of Spanish in my school because by that time I had realized that Hindi would help me in the long run in life. I have also learnt Kathak, something that I like a lot. But like the previous students, I didn’t assist anybody on a Dharma film’s set. I have assisted only in one film and that is Raees (2017). It’s an Excel Entertainment film. I was working as a runner. My job was to get the secondary cast from their van and take them to the set. I enjoyed doing that. I did that job in between my board exams.
Whose idea was that?
It was very much my idea because I had never gone to my father’s sets. I had not interacted with many directors in childhood. So, I wanted to know what I see on the screen, how is that made. That experience helps you a lot in life.
How did your parents react to the trailer of the film?
My dad never visited me on the sets. Even my mom came only once, just to see my first shot. After that, she never visited again. They didn’t even see the rushes. The first content which they saw was the trailer of the film and that too on YouTube. Before that, they hadn’t seen anything. At the trailer launch, I was attending the event, while they were watching it on YouTube. They are very sweet. They watch the trailer of my film around 12-13 times a day. They have downloaded it. Before going to bed, they watch it and when they get up in the morning, they watch it again. Their reaction is very sweet.
Did your father give you any advice?
My dad has not given me any advice, because he wants me to handle things my way. He feels whatever I am doing is just right. Having said that, I have learnt a lot from his behaviour. After observing him, I have realised that he never let the success or failure affect him much.
Before I was born, he was a huge star. And after my birth, he took a break from films. He has seen a lot of phases in his life, but nothing changed him as a human being. He has been so nice to everyone. So, that’s what I want to learn from him.
What have you inherited from him?
I think I have inherited his sense of humour. His Hindi is very good, but I lag there.
How do you feel when you see star-kids like Janhvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan, who were launched last year, have been accepted so well by the audience?
I feel charged up. They are my friends. So, when my friends do well, I also feel motivated. I think it’s very important that new faces are launched in the industry. It brings a lot of freshness. So, when I see them doing well, I feel I should do well too. Talking about competition, it’s fun. Look at the Student of the Year franchise! It’s about competition and it’s so much fun. Competition is motivating.
Tell us about your friendship with Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter) and Shanaya Kapoor (Sanjay Kapoor’s daughter)?
So, Suhana, Shanaya and I have grown together. We are like siblings. When we were kids, we used to play acting games. I used to copy my mother; Suhana would copy hers. We used to gossip about one another’s moms.
Is Suhana also joining films?
Suhana is a brilliant actor. I think you can watch her plays’ videos on YouTube. I hope she comes into films because she is so talented.
Tell us something about your next film, Pati Patni Aur Woh.
Yeah, so the film is coming in December. The basic idea of the film has been taken from B.R. Chopra’s Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978). There are Kartik (Aaryan), Bhumi (Pednekar) and I. It’s not a remake. Just the basic idea has been taken from the original film. The same production house is producing it. It’s going to be today’s film, a very relatable and young film.
Student of the Year 2 is in cinemas now.