In conversation with the Talented Suhani Gandhi
Gee from Punjab2000 speaks to Suhani Gandhi. A upcoming UK actress & Successful model about her career to date & balancing it around her life as a full time University student.
Great to finally meet with you Suhani , You were born and bread in the UK? Yes, I was born in Maidstone and brought up in a small town called Bedford amidst the countryside.
Tell us a little about your self you as a person? Hobbies interests etc. It’s pretty hard to describe yourself. But I’m your average girl. I love reading and writing, traveling, meeting different people from all over the world, doing yoga, trying new things.
I understand your parents are both chartered accountant’s so why did you opt to study Law? Because maths and I would be the biggest mismatch in the world! I’ve always been a humanities person, and Law is pivotal to society so I thought it would be interesting to study.
When Did you first develop a passion for Modelling/ Acting was it as a child ? It did start very young. I remember when I was 10 years old my Dad had taken me for a local casting. At that time I didn’t know a single thing about the modelling world. I didn’t book that job, but that’s when my curiosity was triggered. I didn’t mention modelling again till I was 14 and that’s when I started approaching agencies and did a few shoots as a young teen. Around about that time I started training in acting/theatre and dance as well. It was something that I was always interested in. I’d started training in the classical Indian dance form Odissi from the age of 9. But growing up I was very creative and used to put on small dance shows, make films, compose songs, write short stories with my cousins. I just loved the whole process of collaborating and creating as a child, but I’d never thought I would have the conviction and courage to pursue it as a career.
As you entered the Miss India Worldwide competition was there a certain criteria/ did you need to have a particular look/height? My first audition in the UK for Miss India Europe UK had no criterion whatsoever, and women from all shapes, backgrounds and heights had participated. However the Miss India Worldwide pageant was definitely more competitive and mainstream.
How did your parents react? Were you given their full support? My parents have had my back unconditionally. Initially they were apprehensive, but I didn’t come to this decision overnight. It developed gradually and they saw that this is something that I’m very serious about so they were almost mentally prepared for it.
How have your parents encouraged you and also did you receive support from family/ friends The reactions were mixed. I think initially it’s difficult to see the big picture, and it’s quite a risky endeavor in every way. So I can completely understand why some people didn’t quite envision what my goals and intentions were. But as I started to develop my work, people were more accepting of the unorthodox decision I had made. But my parents have always encouraged me to take responsibility and follow my own path.
How do you manage to balance your Education, Life at university then your career and in between all that Family time? I do believe in doing one thing at a time. If you try and juggle too many things, it all gets very messy. So I had taken a gap year before University to focus on the film industry. The pageants that took place during the first year of University were unplanned but I was able to balance it as it was my freshers year. But I make sure that I’m disciplined and leave everything else behind, especially during the lead up to exams. And as for the film, I only take up acting projects during my vacations- otherwise I’d go mental!
Did you receive any criticism or negativity from extended family friends? Yes I did, which is natural. You can’t expect people to only support you- criticism is inevitable. Looking back, I can say with confidence that the negativity made me so much more stronger, independent and self-sufficient.
Tell us about your journey from U.K to Mumbai- away from parents new place, were you nervous? Nervous would be an understatement. I was just out of school and it was the first time I’d been completely left to my own devices. The first step is always the hardest. Now I can safely say that Mumbai is a second home for me, and I actually get withdrawal systems when I come back to the UK.
What opportunities did you come across – how did you manage to find you way and balance your emotions being away from Home, missing parents and the whole journey in it self being in an alien country? It was a struggle initially. I was only there for eight months. In that time I did a few print and catalogue shoots and theatre shows, as well as continued training in acting, Hindi and dance as I was adamant to keep improving my craft. I definitely had my shares of emotional ups and downs and moments of giving up. But they only last as long as you allow them to. It’s part of the process when you are doing something so out of your comfort zone.
What did you find most challenging about being in the heart of Mumbai embarking on a new journey new country? The people. It was a complete puzzle. When you enter a new country or culture, there are some unwritten rules and code of conduct that you need to adjust to. People would say one thing but they would really mean something else. Also, the language was tricky. But I worked on my Hindi and even a bit of Marathi and that definitely makes you feel more “local”.
Did you attend any auditions? Was there anytime you were not selected for the role – if so – how did it make you feel? Did you remain focused or did it perhaps knock your confidence I attended a lot of auditions; from TV to serials to films. I’d gotten shortlisted for a few of them and booked the odd modelling job- but it wasn’t a booming start. The work trickled in later on when I’d become more experienced and prepared.
What was the selection process for the Miss UK India? Usual pageant stuff; send in pictures and details, phone interview and then a full-fledged audition in front of an audience and judges.
Your parents must have been so proud? Yes they were very surprised as everything from the application to the audition happened in the span of one week- very last minute. So it was completely unexpected. How does it feel to accomplish so much at such young age? Honestly it doesn’t feel that way. As soon as you overcome one milestone, you see another staircase to climb. It’s a never-ending cycle- there will be accomplishments and pitfalls along the way. But neither of them should get to your head. That’s the only way you can stay grounded.
Did this opportunities attract more doors to open for you? Winning a pageant doesn’t suddenly mean that you are flooded with offers, but it does mean that people take you more seriously- which definitely helps in this industry.
Tell us about the women empowerment project all shot in Rajhastan? How did that come about? I’ve realised the best things have come to me when I’m least expecting it. I had a stopover in India for a week after the Miss India Worldwide pageant in Dubai. A lady who I had previously worked with on a shoot had recommended me for the project. I had a screen test and a few meetings with the director followed with a short workshop, and a week later I was flown off to Rajhastan. I played the role of a young widow who gets marginalised by society, but she moves forward and creates a change in the mindsets. I was completely in love with the character who I played, who was both soft and strong
. Did you find it difficult learning the language, what sort of duration was the filming–it took a month for the filming. It was very tough because the film evolved around the character I was playing so I was shooting every day with very heavy scenes. We would shoot in 45 degrees Celsius heat, sometimes for 30 hours at a stretch. I had very long, chunky dialogues to learn in a short span of time so there was a lot of pressure. One of the locations was a village. It was the most enriching and beautiful experience to interact with the villagers who lived such simple and content lives.
How did you manage to balance your studying as well as exploring the world of Acting Modelling? Prioritise. That’s the only way. I’ve had to sacrifice on a few other things, such as my social life and sleep. But there’s no other way round it.
Being a British Asian young women did you find any particular obstacle’s or challenges out in Mumbai- Being a British Asian is often difficult in some ways because you don’t fully fit in to either of the industries or countries. But it can also work as an advantage because you create your own niche.
Something that many of us are familiar within this Industry is the Casting couch – was this something you came across if so how did you deal with it? It’s such an over-saturated industry and people can become desperate for work so they may get taken advantage of. But depending on your values and priorities, you have to stand your ground which is exactly what I did. This is why I made sure that I have other careers and skills that I can pursue. Never make it a do or die situation. Stay professional to your career and avoid people who offer so-called “shortcuts”.
Tell us about the charity work your involved in? I always believe that charity work is something that should be kept under the radar unless doing it to raise awareness. Having said that, I am affiliated with a charity called Adarna Seva Samiti and we will soon be making documentaries on some issues very close to my heart.
Is their any future projects you have lined up? Right now it’s just a case of getting through exams. But I’m in talks for a Punjabi film and South film for the summer holidays. Let’s see how things work out. It’s an unpredictable world.
What advise would you give to anyone looking to venture out within this particular Industry – all those aspiring Actors/Actress’s Models etc. Start small, start somewhere. Take the imperfect step forward- don’t wait to get “spotted” or for the “big break”. Also be certain that you want to enter the industry because you are passionate about the performing and creative side- NOT for the glamour, fame or money.
It’s been an absolute delight sharing your momentum journey with us, Please send our love to your Parents and thank them for encouraging and inspiring you to pursue and live your dreams. They are great role models and a great example for all parents to support and inspire their children – GEE KAUR