She began 2019 with a romcom (Luka Chuppi) and then followed it up with an action comedy (Arjun Patiala) and comedy (Housefull4). And now, Kriti Sanon is all set for her next outing — the historical war drama, Panipat, in which she plays the role of Parvatibai, the wife of Maratha warrior Sadashivrao Bhau. In an interview ahead of the film’s release, the actress talks to BT about director Ashutosh Gowarikar’s penchant for perfection, her memories of shooting with yesteryear diva Zeenat Aman and her bond with Akshay Kumar. Excerpts...
Do you get fascinated by the world of period cinema? What was your first reaction when you were approached for the role of Parvatibai in Panipat?

My all-time favourite period films are Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Jodhaa Akbar (2008) and Bajirao Mastani (2015). The genre does fascinate me. I am not good with history and so, when I was approached for this film, I wasn’t well aware about the war of Panipat. The thing with history is that, we all read it, but we don’t remember it. When you see it on the big screen, it gets inscribed in your mind, as the visual medium is way too powerful. When I heard the narration, I was mesmerised as I didn’t know what the Marathas had gone through in this journey. I didn’t know much about Parvatibai either. So, after the narration, I tried researching about my character, but there wasn’t much information available on her. I realised that my history book for this project was going to be Ashutosh Gowarikar. I am a director's actor.

This is the first time Arjun Kapoor and you are doing a film together, and given that it is such an intense film, did you get time to get to know each other during the course of its making?
Arjun and I were supposed to do many films together, but they didn’t happen. I can’t name them, but two-three movies came to us, and either they didn’t happen at all or I did the film with someone else, or he did the film with someone else. Arjun and I have met at parties and bumped into each other at events. He is someone with a dry sense of humour. He is funny and I enjoy his company. He is very well-brought-up, and respects the people around him. It made me feel that we could be very good friends. Even though this was our first film together, we were very comfortable with each other . We loved our outfits and he was competing with me in the jewellery department. I would count my jewellery pieces and compare it with how much he was wearing. He is someone who can crack you up in whatever mood you are in.

You are working with Ashutosh for the first time. What sets him apart from the other directors that you have worked with?

It is his knowledge about the subject that he is working on, and the way he shapes up his characters. His female characters, even in a period film, are so aspirational. He is extremely calm as a director. It needs a calm man to handle the set of a period film, which is buzzing with a huge number of people. He never screams at his cast and crew. He is never in a hurry and says, ‘Jaldi karo karo, jaldi ready ho jao, late ho raha hai.’ I remember, after taking a lot of time to get ready for a scene, I arrived on the set as Parvatibai. He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t think this saree is going with this scene’. He asked the team to show him other options. Then he picked one and asked me to change. That took another 45 minutes. For him, everything needs to be perfect, he is never in a rush. I personally feel that you perform well when everyone is calm on the set. He is open to suggestions. He told me, You love comedy and you like to introduce fun elements in your characters, so do it wherever you can’. In the first half of the film, Parvatibai will put a smile on your face because I added a few such nuances.

The film also stars yesteryear diva Zeenat Aman. Did you get to share screen space with her?

Zeenat ma’am plays Sakina Begum, and I have a lot of scenes with her. She is very graceful. I remember this one big scene, which is crucial to the film. It is a conversation between the two of us and very dialogue-heavy. I was excited, thrilled and nervous at the same time. We did the reading session in the vanity van, right before going on the set. She kept asking Ashu sir if she was doing it right. It was just the way a newcomer would ask a director. She had the same passion and hunger the new actors have. On a lighter note, my parents were very upset with me, because they were in town and I completely forgot to tell them that I was shooting with Zeenat Aman. She chatted with me about her son, told me that she had seen my work and appreciated it. I could relate to her when she told me that during her times, not too many actresses were tall. She is very tall. I am slightly taller than her. I was very excited to see a tall woman in front of me (laughs!).

You met Priyanka Chopra recently and the picture went viral as it was captioned ‘When Parvatibai meets Kashibai’. What did Priyanka say about your portrayal as Parvatibai since she played Kashibai in Bajirao Mastani?

I didn’t ask her if she’s seen the trailer of my film. We bonded well and got busy talking about the Parvatibai-Kashibai connect. So, Sadashivrao Bhau is Bajirao's nephew, and Kashibai is Bajirao’s wife. I am Sadashivrao’s wife, hence, Kashibai would be my taisa. She told me that she enjoyed watching my video where I am dancing to the Coca Cola track (Luka Chuppi), while I was dressed in my period attire from Panipat inside my vanity van. She told me that it reminded her of the Bajirao Mastani days, when she would step out of her character and have fun on the sets (dressed as Kashibai) and Sanjay sir (Leela Bhansali, director) would get upset seeing that.


There’s a lot of buzz about your forthcoming film Bachchan Pandey. You are reuniting with Akshay Kumar for the film...

I am very excited about the project. Farhad (Samji, director) said in an interview, ‘Main chaati thok ke bolta hoon ki unka (Kriti's) role bahut achcha hai and parallel hero se bhi bada hai’. I read his statement and it put a smile on my face, because I know the role and the way he has written it. I shared a great comfort level while working with Akshay sir during our last venture together. There, it was an ensemble cast and there was not much scope to explore our chemistry as a couple, this film might give us a lot more space for that.

Akshay was seen opposite your sister Nupur in her debut music video. Is he helping her get a foothold in Bollywood? Did you have any role to play in the process?

He is definitely a friend, and such a humble person. It is a huge coincidence that my sister did a music video (Filhall) with him. Actually, she was in talks with the makers of the music video for something else when they suggested the idea of doing this music video. Nupur didn't even know who her co-star would be. On the day she was called to sign on, they revealed that Akshay would be a part of it. Frankly, I am not someone who is born and brought up in the industry that I can pick up the phone and ask anyone to cast my sister. She will have to do it on her own merit just the way I did.