To those who don’t know her, Disha Patani may come across as an enigma. Svelte and sensuous, with a physique even an athlete would envy, she may appear haughty and unapproachable unless you decode her mannerisms. However, this is nothing but a defense mechanism that Disha developed to ward off unwanted attention, over the years. Perhaps the reason why one would rarely find her at the infamous bashes Bollywood biggies are known to throw.
“I’m very shy and I don’t drink. So when I attend parties and people get drunk and uninhibited in their behaviour, it gets awkward. I’m comfortable hanging out with my team or my colleagues, but I’m wary of strangers,” she shares.
But isn’t networking and socialising intrinsic to being part of the Indian film industry, we wonder out loud...
“I don’t think it’s just our industry; people expect you to socialise across all professions. But it doesn’t guarantee that it will lead to work. I’d rather let my work speak for itself,” she says, soft but firm.
A few may perceive this approach as one of someone not ambitious enough, but give Disha a character she can sink her teeth into, and you’ll find a competent actress emerging. In Ek Villain Returns, her portrayal of Rasika Mapuskar, a grey character, greedy and ambitious, who can go to any extent to achieve her goals, has earned her immense appreciation as the sultriest anti-hero ever. Ask her whether she was apprehensive about taking on a role with negative shades, and pat comes her confident response.
“Not at all! I was more than excited to play a character that wasn’t just ‘a good girl’. When Mohit (Suri) sir, narrated the script to me, I fell in love with the part. I’d work with him anytime, anywhere. I love his body of work as the women in his films always play an integral role. He’s hugely influenced by the women in his personal life, be it his wife or daughters.”
While the world may tell her she needs to showcase her talent a tad more, Disha has consciously been selective about the movies she’s signed. Her films may be few in number, but the roles she’s portrayed are distinctly varied. Be it Priyanka Jha, MS Dhoni’s girlfriend in his biopic, or Sarah in the midst of a quarter-life crisis in Malang or even the bubbly Diya Abhyankar in Radhe, the actor likes to push her boundaries.
“I get bored easily, so I don’t want to repeat a part I’ve played in the past. I always look for something new. There has to be a connection, and I could relate to these characters on some level. It’s always an intuitive decision for me.”
“People keep telling me I should do more work. But at the end of the day, you have to love your job. If you can’t give your heart and soul to something, it’s not worth it.”
And love her job, she does. The actor even got the opportunity to work alongside superstar Salman Khan in not one but two movies early in her career — Bharat and Radhe. We wonder whether she was intimidated by his stardom...
“It’s not that he was intimidating. I was working with one of the biggest stars in India at an early stage in my career. So I was nervous! But he makes you feel very comfortable. The first time I met Salman, he was cracking jokes and trying to make everyone feel at ease. He’s so easy to work with, humble, grounded and a supportive costar,” she gushes with childlike excitement.
As Disha settles into our conversation, we realise she has an easy vibe, one that allows her to mesh well with most of her costars.
“I’m not best friends with anyone, but I have a decent relationship with all my co-actors. I do have a few friends in the industry. Kunal Kemmu is like a brother to me. I also bonded well with Tara Sutaria. I got to spend some time with Arjun Kapoor and John Abraham. We had so much fun while promoting Ek Villain Returns.”
“Tiger Shroff is a friend. I call him my guru (chuckles) as I look up to him for being so very hard-working and dedicated. I want to be more like him.”
While she mulls over every role offered to her, Disha doesn’t waste precious time waiting around. Instead, she constructively uses her day to pursue her multiple fitness passions. Ask her whether she’s genetically blessed with a fit body and she counters: “Who’s genetically blessed? It depends on your goal, whether you want to be lean or muscular. To me, fitness is not just about looking a certain shape or size; it’s about having a healthy mind. I want to be strong and gain more muscles as I like dancing and gymnastics. A strong muscle tone will help me move faster and jump higher.”
Considered one of the fittest stars in Hindi cinema today, Disha would like us to know she’s mindful about her diet: “It’s 80 percent diet, 20 percent workout. I need to consume more protein to get muscular. I weight train, I do cardio and even enjoy kickboxing and martial arts.”
And that’s how she looks the way she does both on screen and off, slipping effortlessly into the most glamorous ensembles, moving swiftly like a mermaid on red carpets. She enjoys playing dress up occasionally, but Disha’s personal style is simple and comfortable.
“I don’t wear any designer clothes in my personal life. I like to keep it casual and dress according to my mood. Most of the time, I’m in my basketball shorts and oversized shirts. It’s only when I go out that I like to dress up.”
Disha’s is a Bareilly to Bombay story. It’s been 18 years since she moved from Uttar Pradesh to B-town to build her career, and over time, she’s evolved with experience, as has her career.
“I speak a lot more and am a little more comfortable with interviews now. I’ve learnt how to make conversation as it used to get awkward for everyone. I’m also more disciplined in life. When I was younger, I was more of a go- with-the-flow kind of person, but now that’s changed. I’m a lot more responsible today.”
And while she may come across as a sober girl — pun intended — Disha knows how to let her hair down and have her share of fun.
“I love to travel! I was in Spain and Italy in June. It was stunning! When I travel, I love to try out different cuisines; I enjoy walking around and experiencing other cultures.”
But now, the holiday is over and it’s back to work for Disha. So what can we look forward to from the star later this year?
“There’s Yodha and Project K, though I’m not sure when these films will be out (smiles). We still have to finish shooting them! I also signed a new film, but can’t really talk about it now. Hopefully, you will know soon!”
Photography: Madhu Akula; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Fashion Editor: Sonam Poladia; Junior Stylist: Anushree Sardesai; Makeup: Severine Perina; Hair: Humera Shaikh; Wardrobe & Location Courtesy: Tarun Tahiliani
This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the September 2022 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!