Get to know October star Banita Sandhu

In director Shoojit Sircar’s October, which hit theatres last month, 20-year-old Welsh actor Banita Sandhu found her dream debut. Sandhu had starred in a Doublemint chewing gum advertisement helmed by the film-maker last year, and he loved her work so much, he cast her in the role. But landing a Bollywood lead has been more than just a professional coup for Sandhu; it’s personal too. As a child, growing up in the small town of Caerleon (Wales, UK), she shied away from her heritage and shunned her Indian background. “I grew up in a predominantly white society; all I wanted was to fit in. I feel more spiritually and emotionally fulfilled as a person now that I am embracing my roots,” says the English literature student from King’s College, London. We sat down with her in Mumbai and got her thoughts on…

The competition

“I think it’s great that there are so many fresh faces this year. It makes me feel less lonely, knowing there are other kids my age doing this.”

Being an outsider

“I’m not only from outside the industry, but from outside India too! But that’s okay, my identity is very liminal and fluid, and perfect for my profession, where I have to embrace different characters and change myself.”

Banita S

Photograph: Manasi Sawant; Styling: Divya Gursahani; Hair and make-up: Smita Sharma; On Sandhu: Embroidered crepe top, embroidered silk skirt; both Dries Van Noten; Location courtesy: Hello Guppy, Mumbai

Working with Sircar

“He is an actor’s director. When I was preparing for my role, he would send me films with references and constantly say, ‘Watch this, watch that. Read this, do that.’ He knows what he wants, and how to get it out of you.”

How she thinks she fared

“Obviously, everyone knows I can’t speak Hindi and that I started learning it for the film. I never thought I would be able to pull it off, but thanks to Shoojit sir, I was in safe hands. I couldn’t have asked for a better start than this.”

What’s next

“I want to graduate [laughs]!”

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