June 23, 2024

Sanjeeta Bhattacharya: Shah Rukh Khan behaved with us like a friend on Jawan sets – Exclusive | Hindi Movie News

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It’s a dream come true moment for Sanjeeta Bhattacharya to share screen space with Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan. Being a graduate of Berklee College of Music and being a part of Indie album Shuruaat which got a Grammy nomination for Best Global Music Album, she never thought that acting was coming her way.
In an exclusive conversation with ETimes, Sanjeeta spoke candidly about her upcoming film Jawan, her favourite memory with Shah Rukh Khan, what she was like growing up and more.
How does it feel to make your Bollywood debut with the stellar cast of Jawan?
Honestly, I never thought that I would be acting in the first place at all. Feels Like Ishq was the beginning. And after that, within a year, to have this kind of an opportunity to work with some of the biggest actors in the country is amazing. It’s unreal. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this could be possible. There is so much to learn from them, especially because I’m from a different industry. I’m a musician. So now to explore this new art form, along with some of the most talented actors is an incredible opportunity.
Were you intimidated by Shah Rukh Khan, Vijay Sethupathi and Nayanthara on the sets?
Of course, you are a nervous wreck before you meet them knowing that they are like living legends and icons! But honestly, as soon as they stepped on set, I was very much at ease because I saw them for who they are, someone who I look up to, and they didn’t make us feel intimidated. Shah Rukh Khan would come and he would give us a warm hug. He would individually hug all of us and say hi. He behaved with us like a friend. He treated us like a team. He never made us feel alienated or separate. So it was a very easy, very comfortable environment to work in.
What is your favourite memory from the sets?
I have so many favourite memories. But one of my favourite things was, someone on set must have told Shah Rukh sir that I’m a musician. So he’s like, ‘Oh, really? Okay. That’s great.’ The next day we had to shoot again. And he brought this guitar and an amplifier and a microphone. I was amazed, because we never imagined that he would do anything like this. Everyone was having dinner and I just sang the song for everybody in the cast. And it was amazing. It was a surreal moment.
And then another one out of the hundreds of amazing memories that I have is of my friends. So now Sanya Malhotra, Priyamani and all of us have become really close as friends. So just dancing with them felt like childhood. It was so sweet to learn a dance and do it. I couldn’t believe I was dancing on a film set. It was incredible.

How did you land this role?
Even I don’t know. The course of events was that I had done Feels Like Ishq and then I had done a bunch of ads for different brands. And then once Feels Like Ishq released in July 2021, I had a show in Kolkata in August 2021. And randomly, I got a call from Mukesh Chhabra‘s office who is the casting director. And they said, ‘We are casting for a film, we can’t disclose too much about it right now. But are you in Bombay?’ I said, ‘No, I’m in Kolkata, but I’ll be traveling soon.’ So then they were like, ‘We’ll send you the script. Come over when you are here and do the audition.’
So I basically didn’t know anything about the project. But I knew it was for a film. That’s all I knew. They didn’t tell me anything. I went to Bombay, I went to their office, I did the audition. And about a week later, I got a call back from their office saying, ‘You have been selected, Sanjeeta. And now that you are selected for the role, we can tell you that the protagonist of this movie is Shah Rukh Khan.’ And when they said that, I think it was about 10 or 11 at night and I screamed, I was like, ‘What! It’s unbelievable.’ It was crazy. You never imagine that. I think they must have seen me in Feels Like Ishq or maybe they saw me in an ad, maybe they saw me in my own music video because in my music videos, I act as well. So maybe they saw me there. Whatever it was, it was an incredible opportunity and I was just floored by it. I just jumped into it.
How do you strike a balance between singing and acting?

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There are plenty of examples of musicians in the industry who are also actors or actors who are also musicians. For example, my own co-actor, Saba Azad, who I did Feels Like Ishq with. She’s a musician, she’s an actor, Farhan Akhtar, he’s a musician and an actor and a director and what not. There are so many people who are balancing both very gracefully. And it’s not that hard.
How do you manage your time?
So I take out time to write my music, to go on a vacation and calm myself down. And, you know, it’s about finding the right kind of work-life balance. It does leave you a little bit stressed sometimes because your calendar is always blocked. So you need to try your best to make sure that you are not always working. You have to switch off sometimes.
What do you do when you switch off sometimes?
When I switch off sometimes I go on a vacation. I love the outdoors. I love nature. I am nature, all of us are. But I love to just go with my favourite people, away to a quiet place. And for a week or two, just explore and have conversations with strangers. And through that I find inspiration through observation. What is music? Wnd what is a film? It is a reflection of life. So you have to experience life in order to be a good musician and a good actor. And in order to experience life, you need to go out there. And that’s what I love to do. I see it as a very essential part of the experience that is called life.
You have just turned 28 and you have achieved so much, right from being nominated for Grammy followed by OTT shows and now Bollywood, at a very young age. You must be living your dream right now…
Absolutely! I think the last few years have felt like a dream, like the most beautiful dream and a dream that I never thought I would dream of. This is not something that I planned. It happened very organically, very, very much on its own. It’s as if it was destiny. This is not something that I thought I would be doing. Music, yes, I did think because I have been training in music since I was five years old. But acting was very much like a coincidence. And I don’t know, it found its way to me. And now that it has, I want to make sure that I make full use of this opportunity. I don’t want to let this chance go. I want to give it my everything. I want to do well in it. And I want to explore this new art form in every way possible. And so I hope that I can continue to do so. And Jawan is definitely like a turning point in my whole life, not just my career.
You have been into independent music. Are you also looking to get into playback singing?
Absolutely. If the opportunity arises, I would dive into it. I would say, ‘Yes’. I find a lot of joy in making my own music and writing it. But if someone asks me to lend them my voice, I would love to do it. I love Bollywood movies, or even regional films because there’s beautiful music in Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali films. I would 100% be down to do that because I also speak a bunch of languages and I can sing a lot in about seven or eight. Actually, I can sing in 11 languages, but some of them are not Indian. So I would love to do that.
What were you like growing up?
My dad is a painter, Sanjay Bhattacharya. He’s an artist. So he made sure that we were never discouraged from art. In fact, I was blessed to be born in a family that encouraged the arts. I have two brothers, all three of us were sent to some or the other kind of art lessons. I learned Kathak from Pandit Birju Maharaj, and I learned Indian classical music from Srimati Sunanda Sharma. My brothers learned tabla and one of them is a painter as well. So we were all very much inclined towards the arts. I remember when I was young, I wanted to go to the mall with my friends and my dad was like, ‘No, don’t go to the mall. Practice.’ And I would hate it. Of course, I wanted to do what everyone else was doing. But no, he would ask to practice instead. Now I understand the value of it. Everyday you practice your art for two hours. It counts for something when you grow up. Then you realise that all of that made a huge difference. And growing up, we traveled a lot as a family. So that is pretty much a part of who I am. I love traveling. That is how I grew up. And I was always into music. I was very bad at math. I was very good in my languages, be it English, Hindi or Sanskrit. But science and math, I couldn’t do. But my teachers would tell my parents, don’t worry, she’s going to grow up to become an artist only. So it’s okay. I think I am who I am because of all the encouragement and love that I received from my family, my friends and my teachers while growing up.
You are young and successful. A lot of men must be approaching you with marriage proposals…

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Honestly, yes. I think it’s true with any woman, or anyone who is even remotely a public figure. You are seen, so then people see you, and they send you all kinds of messages. And I have received a lot of messages. It’s not always a straight up marriage, but it’s also like, ‘Will you go out with me if I am in your city? Can I see you?’
And how do you deal with this?
I just don’t respond. You are a stranger, and my personal life is very personal to me. So I don’t respond to these people. And if they have something more to say, other than that, like, ‘I like your music, or why don’t you write this kind of song or something else to add to it,’ then I respond. Sometimes when people say, ‘I love you, and stuff like that,’ I just say, ‘Thank you.’
What if someone you know tells you they like you and want to be with you…
I would say that I will think about it. I’ll just say, ‘Yeah, sure. Let’s start with friendship and then we’ll see where it goes.’ I think it’s very important to be friends.
Are you into that zone at the moment?
Yeah, I am with someone. So, let’s see where this goes. There are certain things which are very personal to me. I wouldn’t want it to be out there just yet. I would speak about these things when they are more concrete, and when I know that this is my life partner. So, once that I have 100 percent surety of that in my mind, then I wouldn’t have any qualms in disclosing their name and everything. But for now, I would like to keep it personal.
Apart from Jawan, what are your upcoming projects?
Right now I’m working on season two of The Broken News alongside Sonali Bendre and Shriya Pilgaonkar for Zee5. I’m also working on another series called Django for Amazon Prime. And music wise, I am planning on releasing a song called X Marks The Spot. And in October, I would be doing like an eight city tour of the country with my band and to play my music post the release of Jawan.



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