Ananya Panday has always been in the limelight, but not necessarily of her own accord. With three-and-a-half million followers on Instagram, she was constantly the target of the paparazzi, even before her first film hit theatres. This is probably because her childhood, a glittering swirl of popular faces from the film fraternity (her parents are Chunky and Bhavana Pandey), is not a requisite mention but an inextricable part of who she is. It is also a testament to her exposure to the industry and to the passion and proclivity she so naturally developed for films.
Dress: Bobo Calcutta; bralette: Parnika Label; earrings & cuff: Valliyan; cuff with stones: Outhouse Jewellery; ring: Roma Narsinghani; shoes: Fendi
It is no surprise then that Ananya was not the least bit intimidated when she shot for her first film with Tiger Shroff, an actor who already has had his fair share of screen time, comparatively. Or, with Tara Sutaria, for that matter, who started her television career way back in 2010 as a child actor. “I wasn’t (intimidated), in fact, I was really motivated to perform better while I was on set,” she says of her time on Student Of The Year 2. “Having not had any formal training in acting or dance I felt the need to double the effort and practise so much more, especially when I saw Tiger dance. I feel like when you’re 18 or 19, you have to have fun, live in the moment, and not overthink things. On sets, I was having fun doing so many things for the first time that it never felt like we were making a film.”
The iDiva team also bore witness to Panday’s comfort level on a set when she walked in to shoot with us. She was unusually calm and seemingly unperturbed by the number of people gawking at her flawless skin. Her demeanour was warm and she was receptive to everything everyone had to say. “I don’t ever want young women to look at me and feel any kind of pressure to look or dress like me. I want people to be able to walk up to me and talk to me. It shouldn’t be hard because I am young and I don’t have a filter. I say things that are embarrassing all the time. I tripped and fell yesterday. Even with brand shoots, I am trying to focus on young and fresh brands that resonate with my personality. I want young girls and women to feel like they connect with me and that they don’t have to aspire for unreal beauty or fashion standards,” she reveals.
Outfit: Atsu Sekhose; choker & rings: Kaj Fine Jewellery; gold chain: Viange Vintage; long chain: Vasundhara Jewelry; shoes: Sophia Webster
From the way she expresses herself, it is clear that Panday is animated, charming, and impeccably mannered–virtues she wears as naturally and as beautifully as a peacock wears its feathers.
She also peppers a stream of articulate thoughts with occasional puns as you engage in conversation, like a well-timed comic break in the middle of an intense scene. That’s exactly how she shifts from talking about sharing screen space with Hollywood legend Will Smith to calling herself a “stalker” around him. “Tara and I got super excited about Will Smith being on set because we had heard the rumour from someone. I didn’t believe it at first because Punit (Malhotra) tells us everything. However, he didn’t tell us about Will for the longest time and tried to keep it a secret. A day before, while we were shooting a song, Punit casually tells us and we were shocked. When Will arrived, he seemed like the most chilled-out person. He was nice to everyone in the room. I just stared at him like a stalker and no words came out of my mouth.”
Even though Panday is grateful for her work being appreciated and for having another film in the pipeline already, she doesn’t discredit her family’s connections in helping her in the journey. “I feel like coming from a film background does give me an advantage over others because access is the hardest part to overcome. The fact that I can meet a Karan Johar is something that is available to me because of my parents. But I also believe you can have access but what you do in that room is purely dependent on your talent. If you have access and don’t have the talent to back it up, people won’t invest their money in you. Having said that, I do believe nepotism exists and it exists in all industries, not just Bollywood,” she says, addressing, headlong, the long-standing debate on star kids getting favourable treatment.