She is young, spunky, confident and rather frank in her chat with the media for Student of the Year 2 (SOTY 2), her acting debut in Bollywood. So when Ananya Panday, actor Chunky Panday's daughter, tells us that she looks up to Alia Bhatt as her role model in Bollywood, we are not surprised and we know she is following in the right footsteps. Like Alia Bhatt, who made her debut in Karan Johar's production and directorial Student of the Year, Ananya Panday makes her debut in SOTY 2. The sequel is produced by Dharma Productions and directed by Punit Malhotra.
International Business Times, India speaks to Ananya Panday on her experience working in her debut film, her first co-star Tiger Shroff, her upcoming projects, being an industry kid and her father Chunky Panday's struggle, and her bestie Suhana Khan.
Ananya also speaks about working with Tiger Shroff and Will Smith, and not getting a chance to work with her favourite Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra. Ananya, who is rather popular on Instagram, also reveals how she tackles trolls. Excerpts from the chat.
IBTIMES: This is your debut film and first experience of promoting a film. How has been the experience?
Ananya Panday: We're just back from shooting for Super Dancer (the dance reality show). This is my first promotional, so I'm excited for everything. Karan Johar gave me the title 'Keen Kumari' on Koffee with Karan. So, I'm really taking that forward and I'm the enthu cutlet of the group. I'm very excited about the promotions and all these firsts that I'm having for my debut SOTY 2, like my first song launch, first trailer launch first city visit and so on. I'm never gonna get this time again, so I'm just making the most of it.
Tell us about your character in Student of the Year 2. Did you audition for the role with Dharma Productions?
My character's name is Shreya. She's very feisty and won't take no for an answer. She fights for what she thinks is right, but is a little misunderstood. I'm quite similar to my character.
The first time I heard the script of SOTY 2 was in this room (where the interview was being conducted at Dharma), so it's weird – I've not come here after that. I gave an audition in another room and it was a very scary, 'cos I thought Karan Johar will be there. But he wasn't there and later saw the audition video of my two scenes, and the team really liked it.
At the time, I was just 18 and on my way to USC (University of Southern California) to study media and communication. I was being practical that if I don't get through the audition of SOTY 2, I would study and then maybe come back and pursue acting. If I hadn't landed SOTY 2, I don't know which film would've been my debut. Being young, there are not many roles that I could do. But I cleared the auditions and once I knew I was part of the film, I stayed back.
Have you trained as an actor in a film school?
I've always wanted to be an actor, but I'm not a trained actor. I've just played 'acting games' with Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan's daughter) and Shanaya Kapoor (Sanjay Kapoor's daughter), imitating our moms Gauri, Bhavna and all. (Smiles) I've pursued drama in school. Since my grandparents were doctors and I love biology as a subject, I almost had this moment in life when I thought I'll be a doctor. But no, acting is my calling. I'm a very filmi bachcha.
SOTY 2 releases on May 10. Are you nervous about your Bollywood debut? Are you ready for the comparisons with the original Student of the Year?
I'm actually very excited. I was nervous before the trailer launch. But now, I'm just waiting for people to watch it. We've worked so hard and for so long. There's so much love attached to this film. I think it's natural that people are gonna compare the two films, since it's a franchise. And the first three students have such a big, massive fan-following. It's normal to compare, but SOTY 2 is a very different film, so I don't know what points audiences will compare it on. I hope they like our film as well.
What was the advice from Karan Johar for SOTY 2?
Karan asked me whose career I looked up to in the industry and who I aspired to be, and I said, 'Alia Bhatt'. She's my absolute favourite since the start. I'm not trying to be like Alia or follow what she's done, but I really admire her. Karan told me, 'You do you'. Alia is where she is because she has been herself and always made her own decisions, and done different things, which people have appreciated.
How were your preparations for SOTY 2?
I'm very lucky that my first film was with Tiger Shroff. I really had to keep my energy levels high and up my game in dance. I've learnt from Tiger Shroff now, but I really had to practice my steps, 'cos he was always practicing, even if there were two minutes in between shots.
Apart from Tiger Shroff, how was it shaking a leg with Hollywood star Will Smith?
I missed not shaking a leg with Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra, the original stars in Student of the Year. Will Smith was a good alternative to that. There was so much hype before he entered the set and everyone was quiet. Once he came in, it was even more magical. He's such a lovely person and didn't have any airs about him. Between shots, he didn't behave like some star, although he has every right to. That's something we all need to learn from him.
You belong to a film family and enjoy certain privileges. Do you think about it?
I'm well aware of my privilege, like I've said on KWK, too that I know I belong to a film family. But for me it's been like, my father was a huge star before I was born. After I was born, he took a break from those big films. I have seen ups and downs in his career, and know well enough not to take advantage of anything. I also auditioned for this film, and this has been my dream as well. So, I don't think it's fair to take that away from me. I don't want to take anything away from my father as well, because he's worked so hard and got a lot of respect and love in the industry. Wherever I go, it's always about my father. So, I don't want any negative attachments associated with my dad because of me. I think I just have to work doubly hard and find my place in people's hearts.
Do you follow your father Chunky Panday's work?
I love his film Aankhein because I love Govinda and his chemistry in the film. It's amazing. I love his recent films like Housefull. I've not watched a lot of his old films, but now I should!
What advice did your father give you before you entered the industry?
He didn't give any advice, because he knows that the times are very different now. Even if he tries, our generation is too different from theirs, so it might not be applicable right now. But I've learnt a lot from his behavior and that he has always stayed the same person in spite of failures and successes. He is always ready to laugh at himself. The fact that he never got affected by failure or trolling helps me, I'm also taking the trolling in a positive way. Thick skin is in our family.
What do you have to say about Suhana Khan's acting debut in Bollywood?
Suhana's going to NYU (New York University) for studying acting and I think that's amazing. She is such a good actor, if you've seen her videos online. I've always seen her act and loved how she is. We don't have any serious conversations about acting. We're like sisters so, it's the fun and fluffy stuff. But if anyone is making a film on three best friends, please cast Suhana, Shanaya and I – maybe a Dil Chahta Hai 2!
Suhana and Shanaya were so excited seeing me in the SOTY 2 trailer. I don't think they can believe it that I'm actually in a film. Even I can't believe it! When I saw the trailer, I thought it was someone else's film, but then I realised it's us on the screen. It's not sunk in yet. We always send each other pictures on the Charlie's Angels group that we have on WhatsApp. There's just so much love around SOTY 2.
How does it feel when fans shout out your name during promotions?
We have Tiger with us, so everyone's screaming for Tiger! So, we (Tara and Ananya) are just like, 'Hi, please notice us. We're also here'. Most of the attention of fans is with Tiger and I'm happy. We're very lucky that we've such a big star. He's so humble and the attention he is getting is crazy. We're just getting a small part of it. I hope that one day I will get the same.
How did you land a role in Pati, Patni Aur Who? Taapsee Pannu was supposed to play a part in in the film, but was dropped without notice. Any comments?
They saw me in a Lakme ad and that is how I landed the role. Actors in general, and I, don't get involved in the casting process. I think the role that Taapsee was supposed to do was the one Bhumi Pednekar is doing. I don't think she lost the role because Taapsee is an outsider. I think talent speaks...I'd love to work with Taapsee Pannu one day.
We guess this grounded nature comes to Ananya Panday from her family.
My mom gives me a reality check. She's been through my father's ups and downs, so now she knows how it is. When you are in that storm, like my dad was, my mom saw it from the outside.
How do you react to the various memes around SOTY 2 on social media?
I love it! Since Koffee with Karan only my expressions have become memes. I love sharing them and put them out on my (Instagram) Stories and they're really funny.
Will you be choosy about your films?
I don't think I ever want to take a break. I don't think I want to not be in front of people's eyes for a long time, because I feel that people's attention span is short. So, I wanna make sure I do as much good work as I can. I don't want to take it easy or take things lightly. I just want to keep working and keep being visible to people.