Fanspeak: An Audience with Sanaya Irani!
Sanaya Irani, born and brought up in Mumbai began her career as a model. She then had a small role in Fanaa as Zooni's friend Bobo but made her debut in Indian television with Left, Right, Left in 2008. She's been unstoppable ever since. Sanaya worked her way up not only in terms of the channels her shows appeared on (SAB TV, Imagine TV, Star One, Star Plus) but also the screen time of her characters. Her breakout role was Miley Jab Hum Tum in which she played one of two small town sisters who move to Mumbai to attend College. Currently she's starring as Khushi Kumari Gupta in the hugely successful Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon on Star Plus.
The show has a large fan following with both domestic and International audiences. Star Plus recently arranged for Sanaya to fly to the UK and attend a series of events to publicise the show and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the event in Birmingham. The day included a short Interview session in which Sanaya was asked questions by a host, Seema from Raaj FM followed by the opportunity for audience members to ask questions of their own.
Sanaya's much-famed acting abilities are not the result of any acting school or formal training; in fact she used her initial roles as a forum in which to grow and learn. Sanaya says she intentionally picked small characters so nobody focused on her and went 'what's she doing? She can't even act.' When she did initially enter the industry Sanaya was told by a lot of people that she didn't look Indian and says 'It's very annoying because I am born and brought up in India, you can't tell me I don't look Indian.'
Despite being born and brought up in India, Sanaya's hindi is not completely perfect yet and she has to think a lot before she says anything in Hindi. For example, when receiving her Star Parivaar Award she was told by someone to speak in Hindi but after the first sentence she completely forgot and did the rest in English.
The character of Gunjan in Miley Jab Hum Tum (which she feels was her big break) Sanaya therefore chose to do as a challenge since the character was completely Indian. However even after the success and accolades she received as Gunjan, the part of Khushi didn't come to her easily. Getting the role was a struggle as only one person believed in her but everyone else thought she didn't look like she was from a small town or simple enough to play Khushi.
When asked if she felt she could do the other roles on Star Plus better such as Gopi (Saath Nibana Saathiya) or Sandhya (Diya aur Baati Hum), Sanaya said she wouldn't necessarily do their roles better but she would do them differently. As she is aware of the original character sketches for all the characters, Sanaya feels that the characters that the audience sees onscreen have been changed to fit the actor playing them rather than staying true to the original remit. Sanaya however told Gul and Nissar about Khushi: 'keep your character the same and I'll try and fit to it until eventually you say one day 'That's exactly what we wanted.' And that's what happened'
Speaking of the character, Sanaya also mentions that she's watched a couple of episodes when they air and thought Khushi was so annoying that she's surprised Arnav hasn't killed her already. Sanaya therefore warned people away from wanting to be exactly like Khushi; 'Don't try to be like Khushi. One habit of Khushi's I like though is that she likes to see a smile on people's faces and wants to make everyone happy. So do that, but apart from that, be yourself!'
The cast and crew on Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon are the favourite crew of all that Sanaya's worked with and they always have a lot of fun. Sanaya is afraid of cockroaches and one prank that was played on the sets included Sanaya being lied to about a costume bag being full of cockroaches which resulted in her avoiding the costume room for a whole day.
Although she finds it hard to pick a favourite cast member Sanaya has noticed that she misses Daljeet (Bhanot who plays Anjali Jha) the most when she's not on set. Sanaya was also asked to sing her now famous 'Aaj mausam hai suhana' song and she made the audience join in with her and related a small anecdote behind the song's history. 'Somebody wrote it and they gave the script and said to Sanaya you have to sing this but sing it badly then after like three seconds they said actually just sing it because you sing horribly anyway.' She couldn't however remember the words to the other song made famous by the case of IPKKND: Balwant Kaur saying 'it took me eight days to learn it and one day to forget it.'
Sanaya thinks that the chemistry between Arnav and Khushi is so good because she and Barun blend together very well and that they understand each other although she mentioned that even if the actors were both single she wouldn't fall for Barun. When asked if she preferred Barun or Mohit as a co-star Sanaya didn't hesitate to say she obviously preferred working with Mohit since he's her boyfriend although they did use to fight a lot on-set when they worked together.
When reminded of her frequent fights with Barun also (most notably the hair pulling) Sanaya remarked that women in general argue more than men because men tend to say 'leave it' and ignore you whereas women go 'kekekeke' and don't leave the topic alone. She jokes that she pulls Barun's hair because she knows it hurts and there's only two places she can hurt him but he's married and (s)he wants (him) to have babies so she leaves the other place alone.
One topic that came up constantly in our weight obsessed society is how does Sanaya maintain her extremely slim figure. Sanaya thanked her good genes as usual and said she doesn't attend the gym at all which Barun makes fun of her for because she feels tired after taking just three steps. She also said that when she does gain weight her face is where you can mostly tell since it gets bloated. Barun is just the same as her; they both eat and eat but never put on weight. Barun however eats everything disgusting like bread pakode in the morning, that need 20 tissues just to dry up all the oil.
When asked about Khushi's infamous jalebi habit Sanaya said that although she likes eating steaming hot jalebi the ones on set sit out for about three hours and so taste like rubber and she avoids eating them. Sanaya's favourite food however isn't jalebis but chocolate! She tried to give up once but only managed seven days and she was feeling really moody and being mean to everyone around her so she decided to just give in and eat chocolate again.
There have been recent rumours of Barun signing and filming a feature film and we might soon see Sanaya do the same. She says that she would love to star in films because she 'wants to do it all' rather than for the increased exposure and popularity that movies provide. Sanaya also thinks that films provide a better working environment than TV because she'd get more time to herself and more rest. The style of working in films is also different: 'If you don't feel like giving a shot in a film, it doesn't happen that day but on TV the shot has to happen no matter how you feel.'
Sanaya would also want to work with someone other than Barun if she starred in a film, again because of wanting to branch out and currently thinks actors such as Aamir, Hrithik and Ranbir are the most talented in her opinion and would be ideal co-stars. However, Sanaya stresses that she doesn't want anyone to think of Fanaa as an example of her acting since; 'I wasn't acting, I was just standing there.'
Sanaya was running late and so she couldn't stay for long after the interview but a few audience members did get in sneaky hugs during the course of the show including one elderly member who got her husband on the phone to speak to Sanaya and wish her well.
Although the day could have been structured better and the questions more informed and innovative, the day was hugely successful in showcasing the humble nature of Sanaya Irani and providing a fun opportunity for audiences to interact with one of their favourite actors and learn some new information.
By Shuheda Ahmed
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