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Say Namaste to Alankrita Sahai

By Armin Sethi Saturday, Jan 04, 2020 07:45: AM

You may have noticed her first on Netflix or maybe a dance number, or like me, you may have noticed her in Namastey England alongside Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra. I had the opportunity to catch up with her and chat about getting into the entertainment industry after winning the 2014 Miss India Earth title and more. The conversation just flowed and by the end of it, I knew I would always wish the best for her,



What is it like living in Mumbai? What is your mind frame and/or mindset living there right now, sort of living out your dream? What is going through your head?


A: Basically, Mumbai is a city of dreams and I think this is the only place which is so chaotic, but at the end of the day, if I talk about irony or a paradox, it's the only place which makes me sleep, in terms of like I want to get back home to my bed and I know that tomorrow is actually going to be a day where I’m going to actually get up and do something that I love doing. This industry, or the corporate world or the entertainment world or the financial world, it's a hub for everything right now and it always has been.


But with the chaos, I actually find a lot of peace in it because you know, for you to just be in the city, you can be yourself. There are no hang ups. The weather and pollution kind of suck, but I think I love being in the city because it's given me so much, it's made me so much, it's made me a stronger and wiser person. I think if I was still living back home, or if I was still in the cocoon, this city kind of took me out of my shell, I turned into a butterfly I would say instead of becoming a moth. So I think that I have learnt so much being here and I don't think I would want to change that for anything. Yeah, it’s cool but it’s horrible when it comes to traffic but I wait it out, I don't drive then. (laughs)




I’ve been to India now maybe 2-3 times and I assure you, I would never get behind the wheel at all! I would never drive…


A: (laughs)

 




Alankrita, I would also like to ask you a little bit about the soccer team. You’re the owner of a soccer team yourself. Tell me a little bit about your experience and why you're involved and what it means for you, being where you are right now.


A: Well, as a kid I used to play a lot of football, but we back then in India…you know, girls didn't really have the opportunity to get out there and play a sport. It was like, so you want to play football and people are like “WHAT, you wanna play football like are you a boy?” You're judged right at the beginning of the entire scenario. And I’ve always been an athlete, I’ve been into sports, it's been my thing. I enjoy it because my mom is a national champion as well. So sports have kind of always been a part of my gene pool I would say. And so you know when I came across this opportunity, there was a football opportunity by Adidas in Mumbai and they were looking for women who are interested in it and for me, I watch football and they wanted to empower other women which is exactly what I was working towards.


My mom would always take me to different orphanages. We also adopted a girl when I was about 10 years old, my mom had adopted this girl named Shreya. So it has always been inculcated in me that women should support other women and not demean women because out there, it's so disrespectful when you see another woman bad talking about another woman in a way that's so derogatory. And so the basic form of the upliftment of a women is so important and we don't do that enough, so when I found out that we’re getting a football game on board for women in Mumbai and I know so many other girls in Mumbai who play football, I knew I wanted to be involved. 



So when we came by Adidas, it's a great name to be associated with and they wanted women. So I was like hands down, I want to do something because in a way it's like I'm helping women out while I’m helping myself out because it kind of brings me the satisfaction that I'm actually helping people out who really want to play the sport. We were actually going to provide them with the amenities and background where they can be happy with who they are and they are encouraged to be who they are and sports is like the best way to kind of actually get together with each other. I think it builds so much spirit, it builds so much companionship and teamwork. You know, it builds you as a human being to be very honest. And that's how it helped me as a kid. 



It truly does bring people together.


A: Exactly. When I see these girls come together from different centers of society, different religions, different age groups from 16-28 year old women are playing together and there is no bias! People are just together on the field and are loving each other for that and supporting each other for that and fighting with each other for that. But the end of the day when they come back together, they're just happy to be out there and to get the exposure, you know, being an actor or an individual or a business person, you just push them.


I think it's high time that in India we also push our women to actually go ahead and get the same facilities and amenities and exposure like they would get in cricket. So I got the opportunity and I just wanted to do it. There were times where I would skip my work to be there and the players would not want to be there without me. We had become a small family.  I’m pretty excited for the girls on our team. I’m very happy about it.


“Girls with Goals” is the name of the team, because women have so many goals in life and we don't have to stop at anything and “Girls with Goals” goes with the whole football thing as well. And it kind of means that women have goals and now they're gonna kick it out and make it happen. Breaking boundaries!




Fantastic! It is so awesome to hear someone say that and talk about it so openly! It's fantastic!


A: My mom is actually behind all of this. She actually pushed me to be this strong. My dad is a very cool dad as well but my mom, she's actually the one that pushes me because she has faced so much with her own family. She always told me that it's so important to respect women and be there for each other no matter what happens. Why would you bad mouth another woman? If you don't like her, don't talk about her. You don't have to degrade her and make yourself sound bad. I know we are women and we, as humans, can't control our tongue but when it becomes derogatory or defamatory, we need to stop doing that. 



We were talking about how great your parents have been in terms of role models. And obviously you are somebody who seems to be quite spiritual. I understand that you follow the Sikh faith. What has it been like to have supportive parents who are of Sikh faith where we don't really see a lot of people from the Sikh faith coming into the entertainment industry. We're still going through the cycle of the doctor, lawyer, engineer sort of pathway. What is it like to have such supportive parents?


A: You know. Well I was actually training to be or studying to be an IAS officer and my grandfather was a bureaucrat and acting just happened to be after Miss India, It wasn't like my goal or my plan or something that I was desperately seeking out in the universe. I always wanted to be an ambassador for the country and do the work for the country. Also my grandparents were serving the nation in some form or the other. One was an Army officer and one was a bureaucrat. So I kind of grew up hearing so many stories and actually like wanting to be, I as a kid wanted to be in the FBI as an undercover agent! (laughs), I also wanted to be in the Army as an IAS but life didn't really plan that for me and I ended up being an ambassador for India as a beauty queen and so my mom told me that you know you manifested it. But in a very very different way. You wanted to be an ambassador but maybe you were not very clear with your idea that you put out in the universe and life kind of gave you what it had planned for you. And it was because of my friends that Miss India happened, my parents didn't even know that I was going for the audition.


So when I got into the final selection, the Top 15 is when I told my parents and they were surprised but they were very supportive. Because you know, at the end of the day, a Miss India is not like a bad thing you know. Your child is trying to do something in a city like Bombay. I gravitated towards the industry but my parents were also a bit hesitant because everyone has these preconceived notions and connotations and they're scared of the stories they've heard and the things they see on the news.


They've been through all of those phases with me and they have seen me grow as a person and my dad is very very very supportive of me now, but before he wasn't because “daddy’s girl”, as a father, you are scared for your daughter. Mom was a little pro because she knew I was in the dramatic arts. I was the head girl of my school, I was in sports, so extra curricular for me was my thing. The stage was my thing because I had been a classical dancer for 10 years. So my mom kind of figured that maybe, this is the right thing for me to do because you know being educated and having a degree and going ahead and doing something that you might not like tomorrow is not worth it.





I want to talk a little bit about the work you have done. Obviously Love Per Square Foot and of course Namaste England as well. How does someone like you get into the head space of these characters?


A: You know, to be honest, in Love Per Square Foot, like when my director told me that this is your character, it's not who you are but there are women out there in the world who are like that. And it's so funny, at that time I was going through a single situation in my life when there were two men chasing me and I was like who do I choose and all. I watched a lot of Meryl Streep and wanted to understand the sexy-cool, yet bitchy-bossy, yet very subtle and manipulative character. My character in Love Per Square Foot seems stupid, but she’s very manipulative, but she’s nice and she’s also an attention seeker. So for me to get into that head space, we had to do a lot of workshops. And I don't know if it is weird if I say this but for me to get into a character, which is very day-to-day modern girl is very easy. I actually observe people so much and inculcate so many of their nuances, their habits, the way they eat, the way they talk, how their accent is. So when I played Rashi, I was able to also look at a personal friend’s situation and use it for my character.


Namaste was easier in terms of the fact that she looks like a bitch in the beginning but is actually a nice girl who unravels herself and it's hard because she has already been hurt in finding true love. So I think women today, when they know how men are, they actually try to cover up how they are emotionally and we all try to act very strong and have our guards up and walls up. But at the end, every girl is just looking to be loved and to be in love. So I read a lot of books, I love quotes, I’m a complete quote person so I think that kind of always helps. 




So what’s next for you now?


A: 
Now I’m doing two more films where my characters are absolutely different. In one film, I’m playing a villager from Punjab and in the other film, I’m playing a girl who is a naive, innocent, superstitious broad who is very different from all her friends. She is getting married to this guy that she is in love with and she's a sweet girl so she's completely different from the girls I’ve played before. 

 

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