Banita Sandhu: I don't want to steal roles from local talent
British-born actress Banita Sandhu, the heroine of Dhruv Vikram’s Adithya Varma, in this freewheeling chat, opens up about her debut Tamil film
Midway through our interview, I ask Banita Sandhu, "What causes a person from London to come this far to play the role of a Tamil girl?" I could have refined the question further, but with Banita, it is clear that I don't need to use euphemisms. She shoots straight: “The last thing I would ever want to do is come here and steal roles from local talent that deserves it. I am an actress, I serve films. They don't serve me.”
We get to the elephant in the room: Bala’s Varmaa. Banita and Dhruv apparently had a conversation about the first Tamil remake of Arjun Reddy, which got shelved days before its release. She says, “I remember him saying he believed in it. But when the teaser (of Varmaa) released, he felt like the world came crashing down on him. His illusions were shattered when the audience didn’t like it. I always forget that he has done this character twice and it is an incredibly toxic character. I can see the effect it has had on him because he is a bit into method acting.”
The fact that Varmaa got dropped didn’t raise a red flag for Banita though; in fact, it is what drew her to the project. She explains, “It showed that the intention behind this film is pure. A team of incredibly talented and experienced people is keen on making a quality film. How can you say no to that, when you have people like Vikram sir and Ravi (K Chandran) sir being associated, and a script like Arjun Reddy!"
During Adithya Varma's press meet, Banita Sandhu wondered why she was constantly being asked about ‘lip-lock’ scenes. Now, she says she has figured out the reason. She says, “I think it speaks about the culture. I grew up in the UK, and if I were to do a British film with singing and dancing... that becomes the topic of discussion. It is normal there to have kissing scenes and sex scenes. It does get tedious after a while, when people keep asking what it feels like to kiss on camera. It is all professional and there’s nothing scandalous about it.”
What was actually challenging for Banita was playing the role of Meera. “I didn’t relate to her at all. I think it was one of the reasons I took up this role because we both are on different ends of the spectrum. I remember… during certain scenes, I used to tell director Gireesaaya that I didn’t understand why she was doing what she was.”
However, playing such roles excites her. In fact, Banita wants to play a villain sometime. “I think my job is to explore characteristics of myself which don't get exercised daily. We all have that villainous side to us… I would like to explore that and be unapologetic about it.”
Banita admits she had problems with Arjun Reddy. “Especially, as a woman who lives outside of India, who is not accustomed to its culture, I had issues. At the same time, I didn’t want to come here and preach. I am working in a Tamil film, and I have to respect that this is how it works here. Also, I sat with Vikram sir and discussed my issues. I tried to bring in small changes.”
She goes on to talk about Vikram. “I adore Vikram sir. I can't even begin to explain to you how much he has inspired me not just as an actor but also as a human being. I have never seen someone this passionate about cinema in my life. He was always there for everyone on the sets when they needed him. Everyone asked me what was it like to have him on the sets all the time...as if he was annoying. This film never would have happened if he was not on the sets every day.”
The actress is in talks with few projects in India but she says it is too early to talk about them. However, by the looks of it, it appears she will be around.