Britain-born Sapna Pabbi never planned a career in acting, but if you’ve seen her as Kiran Rathod in 24 (Indian TV series) or as Ria Ganguly in Amazon Original’s Breathe (web series), you know she’s a natural. Straddling along several projects ranging from web series, regional films to her big release Karan Johar’s Drive releasing later this year, she’s the girl who doesn’t shy away from taking creative risks.
On a rainy morning, we caught up with her at The Drunken Botanist in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub. Over loaded baos and steaming dimsums, we decoded the latest festive looks, and why ’90s fashion reigns her heart.
1. How did Bollywood happen?
It all started with 24 (Indian TV series, 2013). I was thrilled at the first-ever official remake of an American TV show, and auditioned for a small role. Surprisingly, they said, “We want you for the main lead. Are you going to be here for a year?” Then, Khamoshiyan (film, 2015) happened, followed by a string of web shows, and that’s it. Now I’m here!
2. Your projects boast of an equal number of movies and web series. What have been the big milestones through your career?
I am proud of all of them, with 24 being on the absolute top. The quality, the attention to detail—it was like an acting boot-camp for me. And then, The Trip (web series, 2016) came along. It was the first all-female series, and my co-actors are now officially my girl gang. Breathe (web series, 2018) in itself was a benchmark for India. It was about organ donation and I wanted to do it to break my perceived image.
3. Tell us about your favourite fictional characters in books and films.
My favourite one is Matilda, a book by Roald Dahl. Matilda (the protagonist) reads a lot and is gifted with special powers. In Bollywood, I really loved Aarti (played by Rekha) in Khoon Bhari Maang (film, 1988). I loved how she went from being a naïve widow to a woman seeking revenge.
4. You are a part of Amazon’s Inside Edge 2 and Karan Johar’s Drive. Tell us a bit about your role in the movie and web series?
Inside Edge 2 has been quite a journey and Season 3 is in pipeline too. I’ll give you a spoiler: I am a crucial part of the storyline! Drive has been a long time coming now. It has gone through many changes and is slotted for an end-September release.
5. You already have two Punjabi movies under your belt. Do you see yourself venturing into regional movies?
I am a Punjabi and it’s my second language. I read and write Gurmukhi as well. It was something I already knew. So why not do it? Everyone asks, “Why don’t you venture into the South?” Well, I do Punjabi movies for my dad, and have decided to hopefully do a minimum of one Punjabi film a year, if it’s possible for my schedule. It makes him happy!
6. Your dream genre or project?
I have two genres that I want to try—first, comedy. Everyday, I go home and look for some nice comedy to watch, and I’d love to be a part of one. Second genre I want to try is action. I am action-trained as I used to be a gymnast and I can’t wait to use that knowledge in a negative role.
7. What do you look for in a story/role?
The character graph. The role has to be interesting and should add to the story. I also look for pleasant teams to work with. The writer and the director should want you as much as you want them. Faith is a two-way street.
8. Web series or movies?
The platform doesn’t matter, the content does. I have worked on both and enjoy them equally. Web shows are more convenient to watch. But if the storyline isn’t good, it will not get viewers, despite the ease.
9. What’s your personal style?
I am a ’90s fashion lover. I adore denim and leather jackets, ripped jeans, cool tees, knee-high boots, bombers, and bandanas! I have always been an indie dresser. My style is mostly easy, effortless, and comfortable.
Location: The Drunken Botanist, Cyber Hub, New Delhi
Photographer: Aastha Manchanda
Hair and Makeup: Sheeny kaul
Styling: Spardha Malik
Junior Stylist: Juhi Taneja
Junior Writer: Dishari Basu