From making her debut with Rajshri productions, to taking off on a world tour to be part of an International musical in between her career to coming back on screen with varied and challenging roles including the forthcoming Mai produced by Anushka Sharma’s banner, SANDEEPA DHAR has always made unconventional choices. She’s hot, she knows her moves and she lives life with no regrets…SINDURI VUPPALA sits down for a warm conversation with the go-getter.
The Screen and The Stage
You made your debut with Rajshri Productions’ Isi Life Mein. How do you look back at your journey and choices?
Every newcomer dreams of getting launched under a big banner and I could not have asked for a better beginning than my start with Rajshri. Most of the technical stuff I know, I have learnt from Suraj ji and Raj Babu. Very few people can claim to have been launched by Suraj Barjatya and I am eternally gratefully to be one of those lucky people. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, from Salman Khan, to Sajid Nadiadwala, to Tiger Shroff, and I feel like my journey has just begun. I am exploring myself as an actor and I am glad I am in India when the digital boom is happening. My journey has been extremely enriching, I have learnt a lot, had my share of ups and downs and grown in my field. They say failure is the best teacher. Whatever has passed till now has been very fruitful and I am looking forward to my journey ahead.
This is where the narrative of women in media will change, and I am so glad to be a part of it.
You have had a busy pandemic with the consecutive releases of Mum Bhai, Bisaat, and Chattis aur Maina, which were all successful amongst the audience. What was your experience working on these projects?
Yes, I have had a very busy year. I think we were just at the peak of the pandemic when I went to Dubai to start shooting for Mum Bhai. I got to do something very different with Mum Bhai – it’s set in the 90’s, and my character was a chartered accountant, now a cop’s wife and a very intelligent woman. In Bisaat, I played the role of a psychologist while in Chattis aur Maina, my character is a nachania who is very empowered.
I have had the opportunity to play some strong female characters in women-centric series – my character headlines both Bisaat and Chattis aur Maina. They are all strong women, who speak their mind and are not dependent on the man to fend for them. This is where the narrative of women in media will change, and I am so glad to be a part of it. I had the opportunity to work with platforms like Hotstar, Mx, Zee5 and Alt Balaji and with creatives like Ekta Kapoor and Vikram Bhatt, who come with so much experience. I had the chance to learn Marathi for Mum Bhai and Kathak and belly dancing for Chattis aur Maina. I feel like the world is an oyster, and I can keep on exploring.
Your character in Bisaat was very complex and layered. You also claimed that the entire shoot process was emotionally exhausting. How do you pick your roles? What attracts you to a script?
Bisaat was emotionally exhausting, yes, because the character’s journey was very complex. As an actor, I wanted to experience everything and I put myself in her shoes, which turned out to be emotionally taxing. There are multiple factors involved when you pick a role. The first thing would be the script, not just in terms of my character and their role but in its entirety. I feel like that’s the most important factor for me. Then factors like who is directing it, who is the producer, what is the platform – they all come in. I also look at my character and what value is the role adding to the script. I think that if you are hooked within the first three pages of the script, then it’s a good one.
You are on the cast for Mai, under Anushka Sharma’s banner. Tell us about your role and the project…
Mai is a Netflix series, produced by Anushka Sharma’s banner Clean Slate Films. I am looking forward to the series since it has been one of the most creatively satisfying projects I have done as an actor. Atul Mongia and Anshai Lal are the directors. I have had a wonderful time shooting for it; the script has been amazing, and my character is different but someone people will enjoy watching. I have not done anything like this before, so I am nervous but very excited at the same time.
Good writing is basic and is what attracts me to projects for sure.
You are well-known for your dancing prowess, having toured the globe and completed over 100 shows as Maria in the musical West Side Story.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to be part of an international musical, that too as the lead. The stage is an actor’s medium, it really helps you grow as a performer and as an artist. I have been able to learn so much about different cultures and lifestyles, perform in various countries and meet so many kinds of audiences. It’s been the journey of a lifetime.
How different is the theatrical stage from the reel screen?
The stage is very different from the screen. You can’t have retakes done; any mistakes must be improvised on the spot. It is also physically strenuous; two shows in a day are four hours on stage dancing and singing and acting. You have to be on your toes. The audience’s reaction is also very different. With a film, your audience reacts much later, when it’s released, but on stage it’s instant. I feel like it’s a different high being onstage. Cinema has its own charm, and it has grown so much, I feel like it has no boundaries anymore.
I feel like the stage has prepared me even better for the screen. I am glad I left for Australia when I did. Many told me it was foolish of me to leave. I am glad I made the choice I made back then because I knew I could always come back and do films but I would not have been able to experience a Broadway show like this at any other time.
You are currently at your fittest best. How do you stay fit?
I’ve been into fitness ever since I can remember, doing dance and sports from a very young age. It has always been a part of my lifestyle. I don’t go to the gym, but I do MMA, yoga, play badminton and table tennis, any kind of sports really. I also do a lot of functional training and of course, dance. The focus is on strengthening my core and I find using my body weight against myself is the best for me. Of course, eating right is 90% of your fitness and that has always been the most important thing for me – eating a balanced diet, not cutting out food groups…that’s very important.
Be it Tiger Shroff or Disha Patani or Shraddha Kapoor, everyone is at their fittest best. Do you ever feel peer pressure in the industry regarding fitness?
You’re right, the industry is getting fitter every day, but I don’t feel the peer pressure. I’ve been a fit person since the very beginning; it’s not something recent for me. Fitness is something that I value. Even if I weren’t an actor I would still be into fitness because I believe that one needs to take care of their body and not take it for granted. For me, fitness is a very personal concern. It is for myself; I don’t compete with anybody else. I need to be fit because I like being fit. I want to take care of my body and want to live a good healthy life in the future and hence I’m going to take care of it right now because what I eat now and what I do with my body now is what is going to reflect how my body is going to look 20 years or 30 years from now. I think it’s great that everyone has gotten into fitness and eating right. It’s very inspiring.
For me, fitness is a very personal concern.
From dance to kickboxing to weightlifting to yoga, you are known to be a fitness freak. How do you balance your workouts?
I like to mix my workouts because I get bored really quickly. If it’s something I do regularly, like dance, I do it every day. Kickboxing and yoga are twice a week each and I alternate them. Then the third day of course is dance. So, I kind of split the week. I also don’t want to overstrain my body, which can lead to a lot of injuries. One activity for one hour every day is how I plan my fitness. I split my workout, whether it’s MMA or yoga, throughout the week so it stays exciting.
Top 5 fitness rules?
- Workout six days a week: Take the last day to rest it out.
- Fitness begins in the kitchen: Eat right, eat healthily, eat clean.
- Don’t overwork or overtrain: This will lead to muscle injury and your body needs rest to recover.
- Discipline your body: Don’t overindulge on cheat days and discipline your body to eat a certain amount which is what is needed. Don’t overeat or undereat.
- Sleep right: Sleep for eight hours, minimum six hours and sleep at the right time. Sleeping at odd hours does not help the functioning of the body.
What’s your biggest indulgence when it comes to food?
That would be the junk that I eat. I love to eat my pizzas and burgers and fries. It’s very unhealthy, I know, but I only do it once in a while and that’s my indulgence.
People always want to know what one move works best for the whole body. Is there any such ‘one move’?
I would say Surya Namaskar. It’s the best exercise that one can do for the entire body and there are so many different variations for different results. At one point I used to do 108 Surya Namaskars in one go. It takes about 40 to 45 minutes to finish it and it’s a great workout. Definitely recommend that one.
The fittest celebrity according to you: Tiger Shroff
My fitness inspiration: Tiger Shroff
Your biggest fitness lesson? A good 15 minutes of warm up and 15 minutes of cool down post workout is necessary.
When you don’t feel like working out you instead…. I dance, and that kind of makes up for it.
On your cheat day you… eat a lot of food that I probably wouldn’t eat otherwise. I fast intermittently, so on my cheat days I eat even after five in the evening. Lots of fries, burgers and the occasional glass of wine.
On Beauty & Skincare
You have flawless skin. What is your daily regimen like?
I have a morning regime and a night regime. For my morning regime, I first cleanse, but I stay away from soap-based cleansers. Then I tone, followed by moisturisation, and lastly, of course, is sunscreen, which is very important. Bombay has a lot of humidity so you want to avoid products with too much oil, it can lead to clogged pores and acne. I find serums to be much lighter. At night, I double cleanse since I have a lot of makeup on due to my profession. I start with an oil-based makeup remover and then use mycelium water or a cleanser. Then I moisturise, tone, apply serum, and lastly use a heavier moisturizer since I have dry skin and need the extra hydration.
Use as many ghar ke nuske and homemade packs. Use fruits, besan, egg whites, lemon; it works brilliantly
What are your top five skin rules?
The golden rule is less is more. Don’t use too many products, it just clogs your pores and leads to acne. Secondly, use products based on the climate you are in. Each city has different weather conditions; Bombay has extreme humidity so one should use more water-based products while Delhi winters are very dry and need more oil-based products. Change your products depending on the climate. Another skin rule would be to learn what your skin type is. Just because a product works for a friend does not mean it will work for you. She might have a very different skin type so use products according to your skin type. Of course, do not touch your face with your hands. Our hands go through a lot of dust, and we subconsciously touch our face and that transfers and is one of the biggest reasons for acne. The last rule would be what my mom has taught me. Use as many ghar ke nuske and homemade packs. Use fruits, besan, egg whites, lemon; it works brilliantly.
What’s inside your make-up bag?
If I am not shooting then I don’t use foundation so you will find like a tint, maybe a Benefit tint. Mascara – love to use good mascara, I like to curl my lashes because I find that makes a huge difference. A good lip balm, a good lip tint. Anastasia Brow Pomade because filling in your brows is a must. These are the things you’ll find in my makeup bag. I don’t use much, it’s simple things.
What’s your biggest indulgence when it comes to beauty products and cosmetics?
I spend a lot on skincare. There are a lot of amazing brands. I am a huge fan of South Korean and Japanese skincare brands, and I feel like they work brilliantly because they’re not that chemically strong and tend to use natural ingredients. They also work on hydration because that is the basic principle of South Korean beauty regimens. There’s SK-II, Suki Manako – these are amazing brands. I do spend a lot on skincare.
First thing I do when I wake up?
I drink a glass of warm water with honey, turmeric, and lemon. I drink half a litre of that as soon as I wake up.
Beauty mantra you swear by.
Good sleep and drinking lots of water.
On a bad hair day… I’ll put my hair into a cone into a high pony, or maybe just wear a cap.
One actress who aces her makeup.
Kareena Kapoor. I love what she does. She keeps it very chic and minimum.
Before going to bed I… pray and apply lots of lip balm.