Ananya Panday Hello! India cover shoot© HelloIndia

Actor Ananya Panday On Her Bollywood Journey So Far, Her Squad Of Star Kids, And Her Dream Movie Role

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Nayare Ali

Large luminous eyes that dance with unbridled joy, a porcelain complexion with an aristocratic nose and a super svelte frame that makes her the perfect muse. Ananya Panday is inarguably beautiful. So it comes as no surprise that she was hand-picked by bridal couturiers Harpreet and Rimple Narula to showcase their newest collection.

The perfect muse

Ananya Panday cover shoot floral lehenga©HelloIndia
Ananya Panday cover shoot brown lehenga©HelloIndia
Ananya Panday red lehenga cover shoot©HelloIndia
Ananya Panday cover shoot white lehenga©HelloIndia
Ananya Panday Hello! India cover shoot©HelloIndia

At the shoot in Mumbai, Ananya is a vision in an elaborately designed, double-layered red and gold bridal lehenga, embroidered with zardozi peacocks, her slender waist accentuated. Looking regal in her posture, she completes the ensemble with a stunning polki and rose-cut diamond necklace with a maang-tika, her hair up in a semi-formal bun. You can’t take your eyes off her. And that is exactly the effect that the designers were looking to create.

“This season is all about eclectic bridals, and we created this capsule collection keeping Ananya in mind. The looks have a sense of nostalgia and are inspired by our travels and love for cinema and vintage textiles,” says Harpreet, while Rimple eulogises Ananya’s beauty and talent: “She has an innate sense of innocence and vulnerability. When she is in front of the camera, Ananya has the ability to effortlessly transform herself from a young ingénue into a sultry temptress with just a flick of her eyes.”

Posing as a bride comes rather naturally to this effervescent young woman with a radiant smile. Ananya is confident and relaxed as she appears to enjoy preening for the camera. “I had fun playing dress up. I’ve probably been imagining my wedding since I was five!” she laughs. “I want to have the most fun at my own wedding. I don’t want to stress about the outfit I’m wearing, so it definitely has to be something easy, breezy. I want to experiment with a colour like pink or blue.”

“I got all of that in Rimple and Harpreet’s pieces. It was such a magical experience for me. They have the most exquisite pieces—a blend of rich Indian textures and designs with modern experimental colours and structures,” she graciously returns the compliment the designers paid her.

This was her first time in Rimple and Harpreet’s creations, but she’s no stranger to fashion designers. Ananya, who turns 23 this month, swears by Sabyasachi, Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, Arpita Mehta, Anita Dongre and Manish Malhotra.

Staying grounded

Ananya is the daughter of popular ’90s star Chunky Panday and his entrepreneur wife Bhavana. This well-liked couple share a cosy friendship with the best of Bollywood and have had a stable marriage for over 20 years. Ananya shares what she’s learnt about marriage from her parents.

“Friendship is the most important factor to make a relationship work,” she says. “You need to have strong communication and be able to laugh through the good and bad in life, together. That’s something I’ve always seen in my parents and even my grandparents.”

What is also evident how close Ananya is with her younger sister Raisa and the senior Pandays, who ensure that their daughter stays grounded. “They keep me below ground if possible!” she says in good humour. “My parents are my biggest critics and also my biggest cheerleaders. They have always said that no one sticks by you like family and reinforced humility in me and my sister since childhood.”

The doting sister that she is, Ananya shares how the sibling rivalry turned into sibling revelry. “When she was a little younger, maybe till two years ago, we would fight a lot. But now that she’s almost an adult, she’s my best friend. We can talk about everything, and she’s the one who gives me advice all the time.”

And friendships, be it with her sister or her close circle, form an integral part of this straight-forward star’s life. Ananya often shares photos with other star kids on social media, including Suhana Khan and Shanaya Kapoor. Her posts speak of easy camaraderie and a bond that dates back to their childhood.

But it’s her friends from school that keep her in touch with the world beyond Bollywood. “I’ve known my school friends since the age of four. We studied together at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School for 14 years,” she says. “We are a gang of six girls. They have seen me work towards being an actor, and they’re all very proud of me. None of them are associated with the film industry, and that’s a great way for me to have normal experiences.”

Born for the camera

This die-hard Bollywood fan is all about Hindi movies in her tastes. So much so that Ananya has a soft spot for popular cheesy songs, which she’s known to play in between shoots. On set for HELLO!, Ananya poses and pirouettes like a seasoned model, completely in control of her moves. It’s hard to imagine that the young actor was a nervous wreck at her first fashion shoot in March 2019.

“It was a cover shoot right before my first film was released. It was shot in Palermo, Italy,” she recalls. “I remember eating a lot of pasta and gelato before the shoot—that’s something that definitely hasn’t changed! That was when I discovered my love for the still camera, as well. I think my experience with shooting for fashion has been parallel to my journey of self-love. I learn something new about myself every time I do a fashion shoot and get a little more comfortable with myself.”

Ananya may have opted for a conventional glamorous debut clad in high-street fashion with Karan Johar’s Student of the Year 2, but it was her charismatic performance in Pati Patni Aur Woh that made the audience and industry alike take notice of her underlying talent. And this three-film-old actor (Khaali Peeli was her third release) has upped her game with a slew of prestigious projects lined up.

“I just wrapped up Shakun Batra’s next untitled film with Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Dhairya Karwa. This was a dream project for me, and I can’t emphasise how much this experience taught me. The team was like my family,” she shares. “I’m also in the middle of shooting the pan-India film Liger with Vijay Deverakonda, directed by Puri Jagannadh sir. I also have two very exciting film announcements coming up, which I cannot wait for!”

There is a fun side to this millennial lass with a quirky bio on Instagram. It reads, “Private investigator, serial chiller.” And since she likes “chilling”, you are likely to find Ananya swimming with the turtles or chasing sunsets in comfortable outfits in the Maldives on her days off. It was at this idyllic destination that she was spotted frolicking with her rumoured beau, actor Ishaan Khatter. While Ananya smartly refrains from any verbal endorsement of this relationship, it’s all an extension of her personal space.

The new favourite

With multiple brands to her name, Ananya is clearly the new flavour of choice for endorsements. In a recent shoot for an advertisement, she disarms you with her spirited rendition of her idol Kareena Kapoor Khan’s iconic character ‘Poo’ from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. It’s this charm and appeal that makes her a popular face with filmmakers and advertisers alike. Ananya knows how to get the balance just right.

“I’ve learned to stay balanced no matter how high the success or how low the failure. To never compromise or change my core values, or the person I am due to circumstances. And to always prioritise being a good human being,” she says, revealing a philosophical side to her breezy personality.

It is this sense of equilibrium that helps Ananya navigate through the tough waters of living in the digital age. “We have a voice that we know reaches millions in a second, so we need to be doubly sure of what we say or do because there’s a larger sense of responsibility. But I also think it’s the best time to be an actor right now, with the variety of opportunities and roles there are and mediums of cinema,” she avers. And given Ananya’s determination, it is only a matter of time before she rules the roost.

Photos: Errikos Andreou; Make-Up: Mickey Contractor; Hair: Ayesha Divtre; Creative Direction and Styling: Amber Tikari; Production: White Paper Communications; Outfits: RAH by Rimple & Harpreet; Jewellery: Raniwala 1881

This story has been translated for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s October 2021 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!