Professionally, too, Ananya has come a long way since her debut in Student of the Year 2 , blossoming into a performer who’s looking to convey the realities of human interactions... Her recent film, Gehraiyaan, co-starring Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi, has earned her praise for her role as Tia. And with her eye on characters that explore the layered complexities of real life, Ananya is ready to expand her oeuvre... Yet while the actor has evolved, both personally and professionally, one thing remains: her infectious enthusiasm towards life and work. Read this special conversation with Cosmo as the covergirl speaks about her dreams, family, inspiring women, and why her ultimate goal is simply to be happy...
Cosmo: And have you learned to handle the negativity that comes with being famous?
Ananya Panday: “I am human, so there are moments when things do get overwhelming. For instance, I could see something and it could really upset me for a bit, but on another day, I could read something worse and be completely unaffected by it. So it depends on the day, honestly. But the way I have seen my father handling comments or negativity, over the years, has been inherently ingrained in me. I have learnt from him to take everything with a smile on my face.”
C: Tell us more about the lessons you have learnt from your father, both in life and films.
AP: “My father has always believed in teaching by example; he’s not the kind of person who likes to give too much gyaan [knowledge]. He tells me about his experiences, but it’s not with the intention of ‘Now you have to do this because I did that.’ He adapts very quickly to change. He caught onto the OTT boom before others did, and he’s still reinventing himself... I truly admire his strength and resilience to keep working hard and having fun at work. We tend to take ourselves so seriously sometimes, we forget that what we do is our passion. Since we love it, we should enjoy the process and the people we’re working with. Of course, you need to work hard. But one needs to be neutral about the successes and failures because those are not in our control.”
C: Do you think actors are more likely to take themselves a bit too seriously? Does it come with the territory?
AP: “As actors, it’s our job to also be sensitive and empathetic. So whatever we feel, we feel it very strongly and that’s something we try to use in our work as much as possible. I can’t speak for everyone, but I try not to take myself too seriously. You know, I just want to be liked, I just want to be good energy to be around, and I don’t want to be too hard on myself or create situations in my head. I want to live in reality as much as possible.”
C: Growing up, your younger sister Rysa would give life advice to you and your friends... What is your relationship with her like?
AP: “Rysa is blossoming into a confident, young girl, and she wants to be filmmaker, which she is working towards. She has just applied to film schools and is waiting for the results... I’m so happy and proud that she has taken this decision and that she’s so passionate about it. I love hearing her views and opinions on cinema as well as the kind of films she wants to make. I am just observing her and letting her be rather than offering her too many opinions.”
C: Why is it crucial for young women to have female role models, and who are yours?
AP: “Female role models are very important because you truly learn through example. We can read or watch as many films we like, but it often boils down to what you see around you because strong women can help you realise that it’s possible for you to achieve anything... And that makes for such positive reinforcement, especially when you see women achieving what you’ve always dreamt of. It can reinforce your belief in yourself, because when you see others do wonderful things, you realise that you can too.
I truly believe that women need to support each other, because only we understand what each one of us goes through in life. As women, we have our own issues and problems which men may never understand, even if they try to. I have been fortunate to have grown up with working women, including my grandmothers. That reinforced the message that I, too, can go out into the world, work, and pave my own path. Also, all my friends are doing such incredible work at such a young age. And all the women in our industry, right now, are breaking the glass ceiling in their own ways. It’s so encouraging to be surrounded by women you can look up to...”
C: What are your hopes for your future?
AP: “I want to become the best version of myself and make a difference in the world. I want to use my voice for the right things, and I want to be happy.
I don’t know what ‘happy’ means yet, but I know I want to be happy. And
I want to be the best actor I can possibly be, keep growing, evolving, and not get caught up in unnecessary things. I have always been a very curious person and I have always wanted more for myself. So I want to keep that energy and fire going.”
C: What changes do you want to bring into the world?
AP: “I feel strongly for many causes, so I hope I can lend my voice to ones that I strongly resonate with. Women and their safety and the environment have always been very close to my heart. I hope I can use my voice and my platform to make a positive impact in those spaces.”
C: You went through a difficult period where you were trolled, but you used that pain to launch a platform in 2019, the So Positive campaign, to help others. How did you decide to create a dialogue around trolling?
AP: “Yes, I was trolled, but the idea didn’t stem from that. I had been thinking about it before that incident. The trolling I went through just gave me the final push to implement my ideas. However, I didn’t know how to go about it: I could have put up a post on Instagram, but I didn’t know how to contact the authorities, nor knew who I could report things to. I felt like there was no clear system to go about reporting a social media incident like that. There was a lot of negativity, trolling, and unnecessary hate on social media, and I wanted to build a safe community where we could start conversations, call out this behaviour, and create a system to report bullying. I think we forget the importance of telling our own stories and how, by simply doing that, we can empower so many others to come out and realise that they’re not the only ones going through tough times.”
C: What makes you happy?
AP: “Being around my friends and family, and being grounded in reality... Little things make me very happy, like going to the cinema or a for nice meal, or simply reading a good book—I have really begun valuing the smaller things in life. And I think what’s going to make me really, really happy is just getting better at my work, improving, growing, and learning.”
C: What are your upcoming projects?
AP: “I’m about to work in a film called Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, that’s being directed by Arjun Varain Singh...it’s his first feature film. Sid [Siddhant Chaturvedi] is in it with me again, and there’s Adarsh Gourav as well. The movie is being produced by Excel Media and Tiger Baby, which is amazing because I have always loved the films they make... they’re so close to real life, relatable, and leave you feeling good. This film is about friendship and navigating love, relationships, and social media. It’s a coming-of-digital-age story where everyone’s growing up within the realm of social media.”
Photographs: Arjun Mark; Styling: Samar Rajput; Make-Up: Stacy Gomes; Hair: Ayesha Devitre; Videographer: Ishan Singh; Location: J.W. Marriott, Juhu