When Ananya Birla and Sania Mirza shared a selfie from the Birla jet enroute to Dubai some time ago, it stirred up quite a storm among social media enthusiasts. You could almost hear the spirit of Robin Leach proclaiming, “Welcome to the Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous!”
Rich and famous, they both certainly are. Ananya, an heiress with one of the country’s most esteemed surnames, and Sania, a trailblazer of women’s tennis in India. Yet, one wonders: what could these two high-profile women possibly have in common? HELLO! pays a visit to the stately residence in Mumbai, where Ananya resides with her parents, Kumar Mangalam and Neerja Birla, to meet the besties and unveil this mystery.
True Friends, No Filters
With a friendship built on mutual respect, shared interests and sincere affection, their deep connection has only strengthened by hanging out together. “Sania and I just chill at her place,” Ananya says, sharing how she loves spending time with Izzy and watching Sania be a great mom to him. Despite the myriad of options, you’ll rarely find them at the mall, shopping or eating out; for them, spending time means just chilling in their pyjamas and doing nothing. “We have our own inside jokes and are able to share everything with each other. She knows when I’m in a dark place and that I’m not ignoring anyone or anything like that, but just taking time out for myself,” Ananya reveals.
Here, Sania chimes in, mentioning their fondness for hoodies and track pants, and acting carefree as if they can’t afford to wear anything else. She even recalls a time when they stayed up until 2 am and had a blast. “I had the best time in the world,” she says, happily. Their friendship exudes comfort and camaraderie. “My sister Anam is exactly Ananya’s age, and I am very close to her as well. So, now, it feels like I have two sisters in many ways,” says Sania.
Ananya’s family now has a home in Dubai’s Emirates Hills, so for the two of them, catching up typically involves spending time with a few common friends. Ananya has met Sania’s family and developed a close bond with them. She recently spent a day with them during her visit to Hyderabad. “I was telling her [Sania] recently that I’m not acquainted with people’s lives in general. Like, I knew she was a tennis legend, but nothing more. So when I was getting to know her, I didn’t have any preconceived notions, I didn’t know about her achievements, I got to know her as a person, and that’s all that mattered to me. That clean slate worked in our favour; the mind tends to be judgmental otherwise,” Ananya says, adding, “Now, I’m discovering that she was a world number one... I had no clue. She also never said anything about her achievements.”
Cover credits: Photos: Sheldon Santos; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Creative Realisation: Nayare Ali; Styling: Anushree Sardesai; Assisted By: Ila Parakh; Make-Up: Loveleen Ramchandani; Hair For Ananya: Misheeta Sanghvi; Hair For Sania: Seema Phadtare
This is an excerpt from an interview from HELLO! India’s November 2023 issue. To read the full interview, check out the latest issue right here.