Kriti Sanon is Bollywood’s Little Miss Sunshine. A sunny and cheerful actress blessed with tall, drop-dead gorgeous looks, oodles of amazing and natural talent, an equal measure of ambition and optimism, and an easy affability that has been winning over critics and the audience. Her latest film Luka Chuppi with Kartik Aaryan, a romantic comedy that released on March 1, is a super-hit that’s still attracting viewers in its fourth week and inching towards the Rs. 100 crore mark. This in a month that had several other releases including biggies like the Amitabh Bachchan-Taapsee Pannu revenge drama Badla and now Akshay Kumar’s war film Kesari that’s taken the box office by storm. I’m happy for Kriti. And decided to meet the actress with the 1,000 Watt electric smile whose appeal and talent has overnight made her one of Bollywood’s most bankable stars.
Her debut took place opposite Tiger Shroff in 2014. For which Kriti was nominated by every major Bollywood award in the Best Female Debut category and incredibly won four, including the Filmfare, IIFA, Star Guild and BIG Star. A year later, I saw her in Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale and Kriti stayed with me. Then came Raabta in 2017, her third film and I was eagerly waiting for her next one to arrive. And then came Bareilly Ki Barfi two months later, that turned Kriti’s career around, this film was a turning pont in the actor’s career. Luka Chuppi now has audiences reaffirming their appreciation for her performances.
The book on her is that Kriti is “damn good” and “bang on” and “fantastic” and “spontaneous” and “refreshing” and “pretty” and “endearing” and “completely natural”. I thought so too when I met her. Kriti is all of that and more. She was elegantly attired in a silk dress with noodle straps and kept the boho-chic vibe intact with Kolhapuris (surprisingly Bata?) over oxidised accessories. She walked into my office alone. Without any fuss and security. And did her makeup herself. I wondered whether the appreciation of her matinee idol looks was more important than praise for her acting. Kriti told me, “I’m all for compliments about my looks as long as the critics also add comments about my performance. Even if you don’t like me, tell me that, tell me what you found lacking in my performance. Actors look for feedback. Some reviewers tend to write paragraphs on the actors and dismiss the actresses.”
There’s a squeaky clean sincerity about Kriti that’s hard to ignore. For instance, she’s working hard on Ashutosh Gowarikar’s historical period drama Panipat in which she plays Parvati Bai, the wife of Maratha army commander Sadashiv Rau Bhau, who famously fought the Battle of Panipat in 1761 against invading Afghan forces alongside her husband. Kriti’s been training in sword-fighting for this. Was she inspired or intimidated by similar valorous roles played by Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani and Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika? Kriti said, “Inspired definitely. When you see women doing all of that you feel good about it. The fact is that such roles are now being written for women in Bollywood. Where we are playing strong characters. But I’m not thinking I have to do better than Deepika and Kangana. I have to do it my way and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
I like the fact that despite stardom and her new onscreen connect with audiences, Kriti is still anchored to her simple upbringing. Her mother, a professor of physics at Delhi University, continues to be her inspiration. “She told me, ‘Follow your heart, follow your dream, if you feel like doing it – go ahead.’ That’s the reason I am here,” Kriti revealed. Her father, a chartered accountant, is another solid and comforting factor in the actress’ life. She said, “He handles my finances, I have a joint account with him, all my money goes into that, which is a good thing because I am terrible at finance. I have no idea what money is coming in. I do my job and that’s about it. I’m better at spending money!”
Her mother also told Kriti to study as much as she wanted, because education never goes to waste, and that bit of advice made Kriti complete public school in Delhi and then pursue a BTech engineering degree in Noida. I asked whether she could, like, repair any electronic gadget that had broken down at home. Kriti giggled and said, “No, I have only theoretical knowledge, no practical training. That you get when you join a firm. I didn’t take up any job. And I’ve forgotten what I learned. Engineering prepares you to work under pressure. There are exams every three to four months. Sometimes two exams in a day. You have to learn a lot in little time. That made me stronger mentally. I can work to 100 per cent of my potential under pressure. And my grasping power is better. I did so much mugging during my BTech years that I don’t need to memorise my dialogues. I remember my co-stars’ dialogues as well!”
Her work has taken Kriti further than most actresses who are her contemporaries. Which is extraordinary for someone not of a Bollywood family. She did four films in four years and now, suddenly in 2019, she’s got five films in one year. Count them: after Luka Chuppi, there’s Kalank, Arjun Patiala, Housefull 4 and Panipat. Is that an indication that she’s Bollywood next big thing? Kriti said, “I don’t know about that. It’s a question that puts a lot of pressure on me. It feels good to have five films in one year. When I did four films in four years, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do more work, but when you’re starting off, it takes time for you to start. You have to make people know your name. Especially if you don’t come from a filmi background. Arjun Kapoor told me, ‘Why are you becoming the female Aamir Khan? I want you to do more work.’ And that’s what I’m doing. This is an exciting year. Five releases... I don’t think I can compete with that again.”