After making her long-awaited debut with Punit Malhotra's campus caper Student of the Year 2 earlier this year, 21-year-old Ananya Panday will now be seen as 'the other woman' in Mudassar Aziz's romantic comedy Pati, Patni Aur Woh, the Hindi remake of BR Chopra's original of the same name from 1978.
However, Ananya claims her character of 'woh' must not be misinterpreted as her personal beliefs. "If I'm playing 'woh,' it doesn't mean I endorse extramarital affairs. It's just a character. These days, the 'woh' in a relationship can be anything from the mobile phone to work life, anything that creates a rift between the married couple."
She also adds her character has been done up in modern colours as the original 'other woman', played by Ranjeeta Kaur, was rather gullible and simple-minded. "These days, both the woman and the audience can't be fooled easily. That's why the hero (Kartik Aaryan) has to convince them very hard at every stage that he's saying the truth. So neither the woman nor the audience is as gullible as they probably used to be in the late 1970s."
Ananya reveals she had seen the original much before she was offered the remake. "But I saw it once again after I was offered the part just to reach the conclusion that we were making a completely different film. Also, here, I played a working woman who comes to Kanpur for a job. I played a woman, and not a girl unlike Student of the Year 2. So I had to be more ladylike, more womanly. I have the tendency of moving my hands a lot, and giving a lot of facial expressions. They worked in my favour in Student of the Year 2. But I had to control those when I played this part." Ananya claims she enjoyed moulding her body language as per the character she was playing.
"I like playing these different kinds of characters. I mean, what's the point of playing just myself onscreen? I'd rather do a documentary then. So I've decided I don't want to play myself again. I'm blessed to born in this bubble in which my parents have given me a lot of privilege. So as an actor, it's important I observe normal people in order to play them well onscreen. Look at Bhumi (Pednekar, her co-star in the film) for example. She has done such a range of roles, and aced them all. She's really an inspiration for the choices of her characters. I aspire to do the same."
She reveals her path to breathe life into various characters is already shaping up with her next film, Maqbool Khan's romantic comedy Khaali Peeli opposite Ishaan Khatter. "I always wanted to do a full-blown romantic film. I think it's this one! It's also challenging because the entire film is shot completely at night. Tiger (Shroff, her co-star in Student of the Year 2) sleeps very early so we never shot at night. Also, Ishaan is a ball of fire. Whenever he enters the room, it's a sudden burst of energy. If you think I talk a lot, you should talk to Ishaan. He's 10 into me."
Ananya says she had to change her lingo to get into the shoes of her character Pooja in Khaali Peeli. "In both my first films, I've spoken more or less like myself. But in Khaali Peeli, I had to change the way I speak. The language Pooja speaks in is more Bambaiya. But I really enjoyed the change since I felt like a new person. I was less conscious since I moved away from what's a major part of my being. So I could own the character more."
The resolve to live many lives comes as a pleasant surprise from a 21-year-old, who could have been swayed by early success and fan following after (and even before) Student of the Year 2. "I'm glad I garnered a huge fan base after my first film, especially among kids and teenagers. It's really special because I was a teenager when I watched the first Student of the Year. I fell in love with Alia (Bhatt, the leading lady of that film). Since then, I've been a huge fan as I've literally grown up with her.
I wish to lead my life in a similar way as she handled success well at such an early age. She is the first to laugh on herself, to take a joke on herself. She hasn't shied away from acknowledging her mistakes. Because come on, she was young, she would make mistakes. Similarly, I'll also make mistakes but I'm willing to admit them, and learn along the way."
She adds she has learnt a thing or two about handling success from her father, actor Chunky Panday. "He told me the real challenge is not to deal with failure, but to deal with success. Whenever you're successful, remind yourselves that it's just a phase because it will change. More than what he told me, I've learnt from just watching him lead his life and career the way he does. He was phenomenally successful at one point of time. After that, a dip came, post which he's now doing character roles. He has played so many villains now, and is now navigating the digital space. So he's proven success doesn't lie only in being the 'hero'. Content is what makes you successful."
Ananya reveals she has a couple of Chunky Panday connections in Pati, Patni Aur Woh. "Firstly, my dad has always been connected to Govinda. He took me, when I was very small, to the set of a film in which he worked with Govinda. And now, I also have some connection with Govinda since we redid his iconic song, 'Akhiyon Se Goli Maare' (from 1998 comedy Dulhe Raja). It's a song that has to play at every party. We went on Nach Baliye to promote the film, and Govinda was a judge. I really enjoyed sharing the stage with him, knowing I've just danced on the rejigged version of his iconic song."
"Secondly, my dad is best known for his comedy. Wherever I go, I keep listening to people say, 'I'm joking!' (his dialogue from the Housefull franchise, in which he plays the character called Aakhiri Pasta). So I'm glad I'm taking his legacy forward by doing a comedy like Pati, Patni Aur Woh," says Ananya, signing off.