Making her presence felt in cinema of six different languages, the Cadbury girl Anjana Sukhani, has come a long way. Just as she makes her Marathi cinema debut with ‘Laal Ishq’, produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, we speak to her about the film and more…

“My heart will always be with Hindi cinema purely because that’s the language I think in, that’s the language I converse in”

Now that the movie is about to release, what is the feeling like?
Honestly, I am not nervous at all I think I am pretty confident that the film is going to do really well. So, no nervous energy but just anxious to know people’s reaction because I think this kind of a thriller love story has not been tapped in Marathi cinema on that scale. Of course, the combination of Sanjay Bhansali, Shabina, Swapna Tai and Swapnil made it a big thing. I think it’s just the reaction that I am really curious about. In terms of the dynamics of commercials, I am not scared at all.

How did this movie come about? How was it to prepare for the role in a whole new language?

The movie came across to me just by a simple phone call. I have realised one thing that every regional cinema has a different kind of acting setup as well so when you go to Telugu, which I’ve done ‘Don Seenu’. Telugu is a very loud, boisterous so whether it’s emotional or action, everything is very animated. Kannada is somewhere in between, Punjabi is again between animation and real. Marathi is extremely real, very rooted and grounded. In terms of preparation, I had to do emotional preparation more than physical preparation because it was a new language, new people and new culture. I do understand Marathi so of course there was a little hitch and I was under-confident, I didn’t know whether I can pull it off or not. There was a lot of emotional preparation because I don’t relate to the character in real life. Jhanvi is nothing like who I am as Anjana I guess that took a lot of effort to dive into something that I’m not at all because her character is very complicated, indecisive, sensitive and yet very strong. So there was a lot of fluctuation in her emotions every now and then which I personally don’t deal with it, in my personal life. I think that’s really what’s needed to be worked on and also to control the bubbly nature, that I have as Anjana. Jhanvi didn’t require that at all there is a certain ability in her, there’s a certain calmness; she will not just jump off like that and get excited too easily so those things needed to be worked out a lot but otherwise I think it was pretty easy because the team has been amazing. I had great support from Swapnil and the director.

Did you all do any workshop?

Yes, we did a lot of workshops. I think for two weeks, the entire cast would sit down and read the entire script every single day. It also was very important because it’s a love story with murder mystery. It needed a lot of great camaraderie between the actors and we were some 11-12 characters in the film which are important. So, just to get the hang of that how each relationship is with each other, it was very important to gel on a certain level. This was the part where the workshops helped us break the ice in terms of at least language for me, people for me, and a little to get along with the diction and pronunciation of words.

What was your reaction to the role and story when you got the call from Sanjay Leela Bhansali?

When I got the call, my first thought after hanging up was, am I up to it? Will I be able to do a Marathi film?  I have done a lot of other languages, but Marathi never crossed my mind. Then I thought to at least go and hear it out. Firstly, because it’s Bhansali Productions and Shabina; and the hit Jodi of Swapna and Swwapnil. So, the first thought was to give it a shot. You can always say a ‘no’ if you don’t want to do it or if you feel that it’s not within your comfort zone. And then, the first day I met them, Swapna Tai gave me the gist of the film and I liked it. It was interesting and I said if I can dabble in Telugu, which is tougher, Marathi should be a cakewalk that way.  And again because of the setup and the character, the script has not been done in the setup before. I think everything and every aspect was very exciting because I never did such a thing before at all. And then when I left from there, Swapna Tai told me quite later, that we think we got a Jhanvi. That was an amazing compliment that she saw me being the part; that she had visualised. So, I think there are so many factors involved to saying a ‘yes’ to the film there was no reason not to say a ‘yes’.

How was the experience acting with the renowned Marathi actor Swwapnil? What did you take back as learning from the shoot?

Honestly, the first time I met him I was like oh my God, he is known as the Shah Rukh Khan of Marathi cinema and he must have a lot of attitude and I don’t know how it’s going to be. But he was really cool and humble. I think the first or second day of reading itself, we had broken the ice and it became very easy. Specially, it becomes very easy for an outsider when the person when an actor like him breaks the ice and all of them made me feel very comfortable. I think one learns a lot from every actor he/she works with because there is a lot of give and take that happens between people when you are performing and I think what I learnt from him was this amazing quality of being a very giving actor.  For him, it is not just about his performance it’s how the scene will be in totality. So in every aspect he has helped me a lot to perform better because he was a better giver as an actor.

“My heart will always be with Hindi cinema purely because that’s the language I think in, that’s the language I converse in”

Now Marathi cinema is really seeing an upwards, so what are your expectations?
When you work it’s not just the critical acclaim that you work for, commercial success is equally important because a lot of people have put in their effort and money. And it’s very important for films to do well because only then more films will be made. So whether it’s from business perspective or an emotional perspective, expectations will be there. Yes ‘Sairat’ has raised the bar to a phenomenal level and hats off to them. I really hope and pray that people lap up to the film. I mean the curiosity has been good we have been welcomed very well in terms of the promo and the songs we’ve released so far. A lot of feedback that we’ve got is that it doesn’t look like a Marathi film it looks like a Bollywood film so if you actually mute the dialogue you’ll feel it’s Bollywood. The canvas has become bigger, thanks to Bhansali sir for doing that. So, yes the expectations are high and we just hope we land up at a certain mark.

 So what’s the next scenario you looking for, regional films or Hindi films?

I’ve honestly never been close to the idea of doing any language film because that’s never been a barrier.  I’ve done Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Hindi six languages already, so not shutting myself to that idea. But my heart will always be with Hindi cinema, purely because that’s the language I think in, that’s the language I converse in, and not that I feel this cinema is smaller than that cinema but when you want to reach to a wider audiences then you become selfish. Then you feel of course Hindi is where I can reach out to more people than regional cinema, but again as I said not closing doors to anything, I’m pretty much open; Hindi rather I will be having a film releasing a couple of months post ‘Laal Ishq’ and we will be announcing it soon once it’s done.

What kind of roles are you focusing on?  

Honestly, I’m not focusing on anything. So when a bouquet is offered to you; you pick up the best rose out of it and decide this one will work for you best and just go ahead with that, also you don’t want to confine yourself to certain kind of role, or certain kind of character. I would love to try my hand at everything so there are a couple of scripts I’m reading right now. One is actually an extremely sensitive beautiful film about a mother and a child; on the other hand there is something which is very real day- to- day life film. They look excitin.

Most of the time actors/ actresses from Bollywood prefer south roles because of its over the top commercials, and Marathi is said to be very rooted to the ground, so do you feel that’s the reason people prefer south roles? 

I really don’t  think it’s about preference, I think when you say a ‘yes’ to a film there is a lot of facts involved it’s not just the story, or not the director, or the set up, or the money, or the cast. I think you see an overall package and then you take a call. And as I said languages is not an issue that way; so I don’t think people prefer south to something, I think these are golden opportunities, we are very fortunate people to be where we are, and where ever we get the best opportunity we would just fly away and do our job and come back.

Since you’ve got a handful of Marathi films, so is it that you are breaking the clutter?

I don’t really see it as breaking the clutter. I look at it as an opportunities that arise and giving you a chance to showcase more than what you have before in different genres. Honestly as I said it doesn’t matter because now if you’re watching world cinema, French cinema, you don’t understand French but you’re watching it or maybe if it’s sub title it’s helping you to ease out in terms of understanding; so I don’t see this as a barrier because ‘Don Seenu’ which I did in Telugu is dubbed in Hindi now and shown on channels across. So people enjoy all kinds of cinema and I think the world is open up to a very vast range of cinema available, specially now when we talk about globalization. I think nobody is close to those chapters in terms of “ humko who samaj main nahi aata isliye hum woh dekhte nahi” we know that youngsters now watch a lot of Korean films, a lot of Japanese, a lot of Russian there’s so much. There is no dearth now, You Tube has opened up doors for everything, there’s no dearth that you are restricted to watching something or even being part of something as an actor. So tomorrow if I get an opportunity where they will say “Hey listen we are doing something in Russia and the show is based in there and we are looking for somebody like that will you be game?” I’ll say I’ll totally be game, why not? You don’t have to draw boundaries; I think we’ve melted those boundaries so we should just be there.

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