#SerialChillers: Sanaya Irani on her Miley Jab Hum Tum days and her transition from TV to OTT

The fifth actor in the #SerialChiller series, Sanaya Irani speaks about exploring new formats of storytelling and their learning, carrying the tag of being a TV actor, and being comfortable in her skin.

15 April, 2023
#SerialChillers: Sanaya Irani on her Miley Jab Hum Tum days and her transition from TV to OTT

From Left Right Left and Miley Jab Hum Tum to Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, Sanaya Irani has enthralled us with memorable performances on television. Her face has lit up the screen, her acting has impressed one and all as she garnered a large fan following. While we haven’t seen the actor on the small screen for quite some time now (close to nine years), Irani shares she has made a foray into the OTT space.

During the interview, the fan in me couldn’t help but bring up how I grew up watching her youth-centric shows Left Right Left and Miley… and when asked to hum the latter’s title song tune, I did not disappoint. She knows the audience has missed her and these shows. She is itching to come back—but only for the right roles. I bet that when we see her next, it’ll be in a performance that will be remembered for a long time, just like how it’s always been. 

Irani talks about her much-loved characters, being a greedy actor, dealing with trolls, finding her love in Miley, and much more.

Here are the excerpts from her exclusive conversation with Cosmopolitan India.


Cosmopolitan India: How did you switch between different characters, considering there was a daily shoot schedule in TV?  

Sanaya Irani: I do only one thing (one project) at a time. When I was on TV, I didn’t switch between two roles—I was new and unsure of my capabilities and didn’t want to do more than one thing. If you’re the lead in a TV show, you cannot work in more than one serial as it clashes with other shows and channels. Thus, getting in and out of character wasn’t a problem. Though when I was doing well in TV, many reality shows came along, but I didn’t take up anything until I finished one thing because it was exhausting. I worked for over 12 hours on set and was sure I didn’t want to overwork and be seen everywhere. I wanted to do one show and do it well. Luckily, it worked out great for me.

And when I did do two shows together, it wasn’t hectic. When I started shooting for Left Right Left, I did a small part in Radhaa Ki Betiyaan Kuch Kar Dikhayengi, but it wasn’t like I was running from one set to another. At that time, my only concern was to deliver a Hindi dialogue without fumbling. 

CI: Are you like any of the characters you’ve played on screen—Gunjan from Miley Jab Hum Tum or Khushi in Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon or the title character in Chhanchhan? 

SI: It might sound clichéd, but there’s a little bit of all of them in me. I am more like Khushi, because I have her level of crazy in me. Chhanchhan and I love animals. Though I’m not as quiet and shy as Gunjan, I relate to her simplicity; I find happiness in the little things that life presents.


CI: How do you deal with trolls and shut off from the noise? 

SI: I’m very good at self-preservation. I cut off from negative energy. There was no social media when I started, so I didn’t face that much backlash. If someone doesn’t know me and says something about me, it doesn’t affect me but if my close ones say something, I introspect and work on it. 

CI: What do you think made Left Right Left, Miley..., etc successful back in the day? Do you think they’d work in today’s day and age?  

SI: Growing up, I remember the saas-bahu genre and K serials dominated TV. They were centred on women, and their TG was homemakers who needed entertainment. Then Star One came into the picture and they introduced shows about the younger generation, which struck a chord with that demographic. 

Who’s to say really (if those shows would work now)? I believe in destiny and that there is always a right time for the right thing. That said, I don’t think those shows would work on TV today; they will work in the OTT space. It worked then because that was the only medium. Today there’s a buffet of mediums available.


CI: You found the love of your life, Mohit Sehgal, on the sets of Miley…. Could you tell us how your relationship blossomed with time?  

SI: When we met as co-stars, we didn’t speak much to each other. Mohit was very reserved, and I always tried to break the ice. It took us six months to start talking and getting to know each other. We were friends before we started dating, and that made it click. The best part is that our friendship is as strong as it was.

CI: What has been the thought process of being away from TV for the past few years? Was it about exploring new formats or wanting to grow as an actor?  

SI: I’m a greedy actor. I did TV for 12 years, and I did it all—played the simple girl, the bubbly girl, the crazy girl, the girl next door, and the village girl. But after all that, the offers I was receiving were similar to what I’d done before. I wanted to explore and do so much more. OTT was an upcoming avenue, but I don’t think my timing was great. I still carry the baggage of being a TV star in the OTT space. Many people say, ‘OTT teams don’t want to work with people from TV’. That said, some actors have done well, and that gives me hope.

CI: Why did you feel that it was the right time to be away? 

SI: I felt I was done with TV and thought I should explore something else. It was the right time for me, but the universe wasn’t timed with me; if it were, I would be doing a lot more than what I do. When I came on TV, it felt like the universe wanted me to be there—people opened their arms and doors to an actor who didn’t know the language or anything about acting. I was surprised when they cast me. That’s what I mean by ‘right time’. Now, I am in a position where I'm comfortable with acting and am more aware and knowledgeable.


CI: We’ve seen you in a couple of films as well as in the OTT space. How’s the change been and what have you learnt during the process?

SI: After TV, I did the web show Zindabaad. I didn’t feel I was doing anything different. I also worked in a film titled Ghost, which changed my approach to acting. It’s a different medium and style of acting. I didn’t know how things worked. TV was fast-paced and taught me to get my shit together quickly. I was jittery during the movie, so Vikram Bhatt, the director, taught me the nuances of the medium, like I shouldn’t move a lot and that the audience should feel I’m talking to them instead, among other things. I also learned about how and why screen size matters. 

CI: Do you get enough time for yourself? And how do you spend it? 

SI: Right now, I don’t have a busy schedule. I work and chill, on repeat. 

CI: What’s next for Sanaya?

SI: I really wish I had a list of things I could talk about. I hope I get to do good work in the future. There are a few things in the offing, but I don’t want to talk about them before it happens. Here’s hoping I do well. 

Cosmopolitan India's series 'Serial Chillers' shines the spotlight on six spectacular TV actors who, with each passing day and every exciting episode, prove they are indeed a force to reckon with.

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