Banita Sandhu’s life is about to change. It’s not every day that a regular college girl from London gets a chance to work with one of Bollywood’s hottest young stars and one of the industry’s best directors. But that’s exactly what has happened to Banita who makes her debut with Varun Dhawan in Shoojit Sircar’s October, releasing tomorrow (April 12) in the UAE.
“It’s still sinking in, I haven’t got a handle on it yet,” laughs the young debutante when we speak to her. Banita, a third generation Indian settled in Wales, always knew she wanted to be an actress. Her parents were supportive of her passion too, their only condition being that her education shouldn’t get affected. She kept her promise, choosing to graduate in literature from Kings College, London where she felt, she would get an opportunity to pursue both, her interest in acting and her studies. She did a few ad campaigns and short films, continuing to audition for different roles. Even so, Bollywood was farthest from her mind. “I knew Bollywood only through my mom who used to watch Hindi films, dad wasn’t too interested too much. I remember watching Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan films while growing up,” says Banita.
All that changed when one such advert led her to meet Shoojit Sircar and his team. The ad had a strong storyline and it was during that shoot that Shoojit discussed the first draft of his film he was writing along Juhi Chaturvedi (the acclaimed writer who has also written Vicky Donor and Piku). “He kept asking me about my future plans,” recalls Banita. “I wondered if he would ever cast me in his film but then he never got back. But six months later, the producer called me with this offer.”
Needless to say, Banita is thrilled to be making her debut with such a fabulous director. More importantly, she is happy that her student life isn’t disturbed! “It was meant to be a 60-day shoot, we wrapped up in 37 days,” she says. Which meant more time to come home and spend with her parents and friends. Incidentally, Banita still has to come to terms with the glitz and frenzy of Bollywood while balancing her student life in London. “I feel I am living two lives, a public one in India and back to being a student in the UK. My friends are excited and supportive, but they don’t understand how big Bollywood is. They are used to seeing me fly off for work, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” she says nonchalantly.
Coming to the movie itself, Banita says she initially struggled with connecting with her character, Shiuli. “We made her a simple girl next door but she is not a frivolous person at all. Gradually I understood he r better. In fact, playing her made me a better person,” she says echoing co-star Varun Dhawan’s words in his interviews about how playing his character Dan (a hotel management student), changed his perspective.
And talking of Varun, Banita drops another surprise when she says she wasn’t aware of his work before she started working with him. (Well, those millions of girls drooling over the Judwaa 2 star would surely get a shock!). “He is known for his masala movies but Shoojit has the ability to bring out the best in an actor. He has done an outstanding job.” Now, that’s as non-starry as it can get! Welcome to Bollywood Banita!