It’s the afternoon before Ananya Panday leaves for her first-ever cover shoot in Italy. Completely fresh-faced and dressed down in a sweater, she’s comfortably perched on a couch in her living room. “My biggest dream was to be in a Dharma Productions film. Do you know Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and I turned 20 the same year?” she says. In November last year, Panday wrapped up the shooting of Student Of The Year 2, produced by Karan Johar, and touted by many as a dream debut. She remembers being at the screening of SOTY, seven years ago, with the deep longing to become an actor, and life seems to have delivered.
Panday’s first film hits theatres on May 10, but she has already landed her next (Pati Patni Aur Woh directed by Mudassar Aziz) and is the face of Lakme’s lip care range. She is refreshingly aware of her privilege, truly real on social media, and filmy to the core. Her sentences are routinely punctuated with “come on, bro”, Kardashian references pop up normally, as does the mention of Instagram addiction. Panday is like every young girl her age, many of whom make up the 1.3 million people that follow her on Instagram. We played 48 questions with her to find out more.
ELLE: Do you have nicknames?
Ananya Panday: Everyone calls me Panda because of my surname. Or Pandayji [after Salman Khan’s character in Dabangg].
ELLE: Biggest fairytale moment?
AP: Le Bal des Débutantes! I treat that as my college experience because there is no other way I would have met so many people from across the world. I had never been dressed in a gown, so this was the first time—and in Jean Paul Gaultier nonetheless!
ELLE: What’s your favourite memory as a child?
AP: Going on holidays with Suhana [Khan] and Shanaya [Kapoor]. We’ve spent every summer break together.
ELLE: What makes you laugh?
AP: My friends. We have a weird accent that we talk in. Only we understand it, and it constantly makes us laugh. I also can’t stop laughing if I see someone fall.
ELLE: What do you love the most about yourself?
AP: My attitude towards life. I only chase after the important things. I was so obsessed with Student Of The Year, that I willed it into my life. Small things like Instagram comments, where people express dislike towards me or are mean don’t bother me at all. I love everybody. I feel like I can make people very comfortable. No one’s intimidated around me and I like that.
ELLE: Go-to outfit?
AP: Oversized sweatshirts and sneakers. I’m big on comfort. If I’m going out at night, then tight jeans with a bodysuit, and high heels, which I take off because I love dancing.
ELLE: Cher Horowitz from Clueless or Carrie Bradshaw from Sex And The City?
ELLE: What kind of music do you listen to?
AP: Bollywood and only Bollywood. I know the hook steps from every song in every film.
ELLE: A literary character you would date?
AP: Peter from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
ELLE: What is your latest obsession?
AP: Food! Cookies from Bastian, the goat cheese and spicy chicken pizza at Indigo, the mutton biryani at Soho House, Sancho’s for its Mexican food, the list goes on.
ELLE: Who is on your wish-list of directors to work with?
AP: Karan Johar, for his direction. Zoya Akhtar because everything she does is just perfect. I watch Luck By Chance every month! Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he is a magician. Devdas makes me cry.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Stefania Paparelli
STYLING: Malini Banerji
HAIR AND MAKE-UP: Deepa Verma
ASSISTED BY: Pujarini Ghosh (Styling), Sidharth Mehta (Intern)
HOSPITALITY COURTESY: Butera 28 Apartments
FLYING PARTNER: Alitalia
SPECIAL THANKS TO GIADA PLATANIA, SICINDUSTRIA, PARTNER OF ENTERPRISE EUROPE NETWORK
ASSISTED BY: Raza Abbasi and The Embassy of Italy in India