Kriti Sanon Says Pay Disparity in Bollywood is ‘Frustrating’ and She Feels Helpless When ‘Power is Misused’
Kriti Sanon has established herself as one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood, thanks to successful films like Bareilly Ki Barfi, Luka Chuppi and Housefull 4. However, it hasn’t been an easy journey for Kriti, who entered the film industry without any godfather or a connection. Her Bollywood debut opposite Tiger Shroff in the 2014 action comedy Heropanti earned her positive reviews but it was her nuanced performance as a small-town tomboy Bitti in Bareilly Ki Barfi that won many hearts.
In this interview, Kriti, who was recently appointed as the face of India’s biggest hip-hop festival Vivid Shuffle alongside Vijay Deverakonda, speaks candidly about pushing the envelope as an artiste, the conversation surrounding imbalance of power in the film industry, and taking on a challenging role in her upcoming movie ‘Mimi’.
Over the years, you have done some incredible work in films like Heropanti, Bareilly ki Barfi, and Luka Chuppi. How has the success of these films shaped your confidence as an actor?
In my opinion, success gives you confidence and that’s everything you need to better yourself. Your talent could be enough but if you don’t have confidence, it is never going to come out in the best way. With Bareilly Ki Barfi, I got the confidence to step out of the box into a world that I had never experienced before, and even the audience also had not seen me in that avatar.
When Bareilly Ki Barfi succeeded and my performance was appreciated, it gave me a lot of confidence to do something new and different and unleash this unstoppable version of myself. With the success of Lukka Chupi and Housefull 4, I felt empowered. I felt that the choices I’ve made might just be right because so many people are liking them. So that gave me a sense of safety and security.
You were once told ‘you are too good-looking to be an actor’. Do you feel that you have finally broken that stereotype/notion for yourself?
Well, that has been slightly misquoted. I was sort of auditioning for a certain part and was told that I’m too pretty for it. Maybe they needed someone who was not good looking as per the definition in our society. I didn’t agree with that then and I don’t agree with that now. I personally feel that anybody can look like anyone with hair, makeup and costume. That came true with Bareilly Ki Barfi because everyone told Ashwiny (Iyer Tiwari) that I was not the right casting, since people still imagined me on a red-carpeted ramp, in a slightly more urban world. They thought that I wouldn’t fit in a small town just because of the way I look.
To be honest, I have had a look test where I was almost unrecognisable. So, people just need to see the talent that you have and if you have the capability to pull off a character. The look of the character is not an actor’s job so much, it is the brilliant people that we have around us that change the way we look with all the hair, makeup, and wardrobe we get. So yeah, I am glad that things are also changing and people are believing more in talent than anything else.
You will next be seen playing a surrogate in the film ‘Mimi’. Do you feel a sort of artistic satisfaction when you take on such roles?
Mimi has been my best experience so far as an actor and one of the best journeys I have had on a film set. It is purely because it gave me the artistic satisfaction, owing to the kind of film it is, and the role was interesting as it had the scope to perform a lot more than what meets the eye. Mimi’s journey has got a lot of ups and downs in it, along with many layers of emotions. Everyone on the set was so passionate about it including Laxman Utekar sir and we all sort of lived that film whole-heartedly. I am way too excited for it to release as it says something very important and it’s on a very sensitive subject like surrogacy. I am also excited because it’s been made in a very entertaining and fresh manner where it’s not a serious film. It’s gonna make you laugh a lot, it’s gonna entertain you, make you cry, move you, and leave you with a beautiful thought, hopefully.
Also, the experience of gaining 15 kgs, which I did for Mimi, between the two schedules that I had and not doing anything else for those 2-3 months, just concentrating on gaining weight was a little difficult for me because I have always been skinny since my childhood. I’m someone who binges a lot and have never really been on a diet. To see myself gain 15 kgs was also an experience that made me realise that efforts make a huge difference. So it was really satisfying as an actor to do that and see it translate on the screen and I really hope that people love it.
Do you still have to struggle to navigate your way through power imbalances in the industry? And, what keeps you going when someone else gets chosen over you just for having a famous surname or film connection?
To be very honest, I think power imbalances exist in every field and every industry. My mom is a professor and I have seen it happening in her college also. My dad used to work in an office and it happened there. Somewhere or the other it’s always there around us. What’s more important is for you to realise that you have a journey of your own, totally different from other peoples’. So yes, it does get frustrating sometimes when I feel that I deserve something more than a person who is probably getting it.
I genuinely believe that everything happens for a reason and everything happens for good. So, if some door is not opening for me, maybe the other one will, and maybe that’s the one that is actually better for me, but I’ve just not realised it yet. I’m a very positive person, having said that, I am also human who goes through bouts of frustration and helplessness when I feel that someone is being a bully, or using their power in the wrong way. It’s also frustrating to see the pay disparity in the industry. I use all of this energy and channelise it into my work. That keeps me sane, that keeps me at peace.
What inspired you to write poetry during the pandemic?
Poetry is something that I always used to do back in my school and college days. Once I moved to Mumbai and started acting, I didn’t have the time to write and had another channel for my emotions to be expressed, which was in front of the camera and a lot more exciting for me because I was also getting paid for it. So I think I lost touch with poetry. I knew I always wanted to go back to it, but I was just waiting for a little more time. Since the pandemic had given us so much free time, I got a chance to reconnect with the poetic side of me. That’s how I started penning down my thoughts. I feel that we all were going through a time when there was so much uncertainty and turmoil of emotions, so it was important to vent out your emotions or be creative in some way because that’s what makes you feel good.
As an artiste, I feel we go to work every day and we do something in front of the camera and that makes us feel alive because sitting at home for so long was getting to me. Poetry helped balance that and keep my creative side alive. It’s something that I would continue even though I don’t get too much time. I want to write something or the other, on and off, and hopefully, eventually, when I have enough material, maybe publish a book.
Tell us about your association with Vivid Shuffle.
Breezer Vivid Shuffle is the country’s first and biggest hip-hop league that brings the entire community together to celebrate the genre and showcase talent. Personally, I have always been super fascinated with the platform since it doesn’t just give people the opportunity to express themselves, but gives the hip-hop movement in India, that much-needed push. I loved dance even before I knew I could act, and I love hip-hop as a genre, so I’m thrilled to be the festival ambassador this year and totally ready to live life in color! This is the 4th season and the first time it’s happening virtually, so it’s definitely an exciting time and I’m looking forward to getting to see some amazing talent at the festival.
Just like hip-hop is said to give the youth a space to speak, express, and vent, does acting give Kriti Sanon a platform to channel her inner conflict or lived experiences?
Yes definitely. Before I had started acting, I used to write a lot of poetry. That was probably the only medium for me to vent out and express myself. A lot of things have changed since then, and now acting allows me to channelise everything I’ve been through and easily express every emotion. I also believe that the more you experience in life, the better an actor you can be, provided you know how to translate your emotions and learnings in front of the camera. I think when I started out, it was more about learning the techniques and discovering yourself as an actor. It’s important to know how to face the camera, discover your method, and understand what works for you. I think now that I have been here for 6 years, I have gradually become more and more passionate about acting, and being in front of the camera makes me feel alive.