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Amyra Dastur: Sanju baba is one of the nicest and most honest people you’ll ever meet

Amyra Dastur is visibly excited about her latest release, Prassthanam. In conversation with Titas Chowdhury, she talks about the joy of working with stalwarts like Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff and Manisha Koirala, being part of a hard-core commercial film and her upcoming projects

In an interview a while ago, you had said that it is tough being an outsider and you had to undergo 30 film auditions before you finally landed Issaq. Almost 10 films later, does all the hard work seem worth it?

It definitely does. It has reached a point where after every new film, I can see a change in people’s attitude towards me. People open up to me more now. They are calling me in for more auditions and more brand endorsements. It’s a beautiful process because, at the end of day, I am somebody who came from the outside. Things are getting better and better. All the struggle and hard work seem worth it. I feel good about it. (Smiles)

What is the benchmark of success for you?

The benchmark of success for me is to be constantly working and that’s exactly what’s happening. At the end of the day, I need to be constantly working and as long as the quality of work is good, I’m happy.  

Let us talk about JudgeMentall Hai Kya

Wasn’t it a trippy film?

It was! What drew you to the film and how did you think you would stand out?

The first thing that I heard about the film was that Kangana (Ranaut) ma’am was doing it. I love her. I’ve said this in my interviews before that she’s somebody whom I’ve always been inspired by and whose career graph is something I want to achieve. I auditioned and then I met Prakash (Kovelamudi), our director. He narrated the entire story to me and I fell in love with the idea. In India, we don’t talk about mental illness and we look at it as taboo; we don’t respect people suffering from any mental disorder. These are the kinds of films that I want to do through which we can open the eyes of our society in a certain way. Ultimately when you watch the film, you realise that it’s not the person who is suffering who is bad but the people who judge him or her.

You’ve done films irrespective of whether you were the female lead or the parallel lead. How important is screen time for you? 

I think that the whole concept of star culture is going down. It’s about scripts, characters and making an impact. You can create an impact by playing a character. A film like JudgeMentall Hai Kya had a Rajkummar and a Kangana, but people came up to me and told me that I was also good in it. That’s something that makes a big difference. To be noticed next to two power-packed, amazing performers is a matter of pride. As long as a part is good and impactful, it doesn’t matter if it’s a second lead or the main lead.

The poster of Prassthanam featuring you introduced you as the truth-seeker. How did your character fit into the narrative?

My character’s name is Shivi. She’s an NRI studying at a university in America. She has come to India to do a lot of research and write a thesis about politics in India. During the process, she comes across a family. Ali’s (Fazal) family is an important part of the political fabric in Lucknow. Shivi meets him. We’ve got Sanju baba (Sanjay Dutt) playing his father and Jackie (Shroff) sir playing his right-hand man. When she sees this world that she hasn’t seen before, she realises that there’s a lot of shady business and corruption going on and eventually she sees people dying around her. She’s trying to find out why the situation is so bad and who’s behind all the killing and the violence. To her, India is her life and it’s beautiful. I’m really excited about the film.

We recently spoke to Ali and he told us that Prassthanam has the feel of old masala films.

This is my first proper commercial, massy film with all the drama and masala in the right place.

Did you have to change your approach while shooting for this one?

This film is taking all the elements a notch higher. All of us have performed the way that we perform in any other film. None of us has done any over-the-top, loud acting. The same goes for baba, Jackie sir and Manisha (Koirala) ma’am. They have chosen real actors in the sense that Manishaji is not a loud actor; she’s a brilliant subtle actor. Every character comes with their share of subtleties; it’s just that the story and the situations that these characters face are loud. Like any masala Bollywood movie, we have a romantic song, an item number, a Sufi gaana… That’s what the film is all about.

Tell us about working with Sanjay Dutt. He looks intimidating but he isn’t.

He isn’t intimidating at all. I’m sure you’ve heard that he is one of the nicest and most honest people you’ll ever meet. Even if you don’t want to hear the honest things, he’ll just say it. Even Jackie sir is so sweet. He speaks to everyone in the same way. Everyone is his bhidu. (Laughs) It was amazing working with them. I would keep staring at Manisha ma’am on the set because she’s just so beautiful and her skin glows. She’s a one-take actress. We would be so happy when she would come on set. We would go, ‘Chalo, we will all go home early because ma’am is going to finish everything in one take.’   

Did you sit down with such tall actors and discuss work?

No yaar, I was just too shy. Even when Sanju sir would crack jokes on me, I would just sit there and smile because I didn’t know what to say. But it got better with the promotions and with all of us chilling together and chatting. They would keep making me laugh and I would keep forgetting what to say. But just to sit and watch them act was amazing. Since my childhood, I’ve been watching Sanju sir’s Khalnayak and Jackie sir and Manisha ma’am’s films. The fact that they were with me and I was doing a movie with them was so overwhelming.

Today there are a lot of things that come along with being an actor. You’ve to get your airport and gym looks right and your social media game has to be extremely strong. How are you dealing with these things?

I don’t see social media as pressure because to be honest, I’m obsessed with Instagram. I don’t let other people touch my Instagram. Now I have allowed my PR to start my page but my profile is my profile. So you see, I’m quite possessive about it. For me, social media platforms like Instagram is genuine and only connection that lets me see what my fans think of me and what they really have to say about me. So I’m not ready to give up on that one communication tool that I have.

I’m happy that I’ve a stylist for my airport looks and she’s fabulous. She comes to my house with racks of clothes and we try out about 60 different clothes and then set the looks.

I also have my gym looks covered because I’ve always been a fitness person. There are more pieces of gym clothes and athleisure in my wardrobe than regular clothes. Gym looks are sorted because collecting such clothes, working out and staying fit are like hobbies to me. I feel good working out. (Smiles)

The nature of showbiz is unpredictable.

(Cuts in) There are highs and there are lows. There are great days and then there are horrible days.

So how is Amyra on a sad Friday vis-a-vis a happy one? 

When I am angry, I start crying. If something upsets me, I won’t talk for the rest of the day. I’m not a very confrontational person. I don’t like being in a situation where I have to argue with someone. I just back off, go in some corner, cry and then come back. When things get very overwhelming for me, I cry. A happy Friday is one when I’m shooting for and promoting my films. Working keeps me the happiest.

What is next for you?

There is Made In China. I’m excited as well as nervous about the film. I’ve got a couple of brands and there is this really big project that we’re going to announce soon.


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