Press "Enter" to skip to content

Breathing easy

Actor Sapna Pabbi, who shot to fame with the Colors TV series 24, will soon be seen in Season 3 of Amazon Prime’s Inside Edge

UK-born Sapna Pabbi shot to overnight fame with the 2013 Colors TV series ‘24’ wherein she played the character of Anil Kapoor’s daughter. But her journey ever since hasn’t been short of a roller-coaster ride.

After making her Bollywood debut with Vikram Bhatt’s romantic horror drama Khamoshiyan, her acting career hits a major roadblock. About a couple of years later she shifted her attention to the Punjabi film industry where she made her debut with Mar Gaye Oye Loko. She also went on to star in the Amazon Prime series Breathe opposite Amit Sadh. Her second Punjabi release Ardaas Karaan has just hit the theatres and is receiving great traction in the overseas circuits. She is next set to star in the third season of Amazon Prime’s popular series Inside Edge.

In this interview, she talks about her journey from London to Mumbai, the obstruction she faced after Khamoshiyan, the challenges of acting across different mediums and her recent release Ardaas Karaan.

Excerpts:

Ardaas Karaan is your second Punjabi film after Mar Gaye Oye Loko. What can we expect from you this time?

I play a character called Sukhdeep who is married to Sehaj, the character played by Gippy Grewal. She is a woman who is trying to be independent as her husband is unable to support her. Now, the general perception is that the man must provide for the household. But there are times when a woman has to take that responsibility. So, I think it a very relatable story. The idea is to understand the dynamics of a husband-wife relationship. It’s not very drastic also. Also, I wouldn’t say that it has a lot of  drama. It’s very real.

You were born and brought up in the UK. What brought you to Mumbai?

Well, it happened by fluke. I grew up wanting to pursue acting but my father is very strict and did not approve of it. My father is like Amrish Puri from ‘DDLJ’. That’s how I can  describe him best. So perhaps we didn’t understand each other initially.

Instead he wanted me to focus on studies and secure a degree. By the time I graduated, I had left this dream. While I was at the university, I did some modeling but it was just for fun. Then one day someone whom I had worked with came to me with an offer for a TV show. I was 22 then. That’s when I asked my father for the second time, almost 11 years after he had refused the very first time. This time he told me that I was free to follow my heart as my graduation was complete and already had some work experience and savings.

What kind of challenges did you face with regard to your language/accent while working in the Mumbai industry?

In my household, back in the UK, I used to watch more Hindi films than Punjabi films. In fact, I watched very little Hollywood films.

I have seen everything — right from ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ and I can also sing you all those songs but I can’t even remember the Hollywood songs from the 90s if you ask me.  So, I had seen lots and lots of Hindi films but since I hadn’t spoken the language too often I was slightly underconfident when I came to Mumbai.

But now I am quite confident. I think I will have to give the credit to Abhinay Deo. He was not only very strict but also his level of expertise, caliber and quality was so high. And to have that in your very first outing is absolutely wonderful. I learnt so much there. Everything after that became so much easier. Had I not done ‘24’ and went straight to ‘Breathe’ I think I would have found it really tough.

What was the experience of working with actors like Gurpreet Ghuggi and Gippy Grewal on a Punjabi film?

When you are working with them, you never really feel intimidated.  It’s like a homely environment on the sets. No one made me realise that this was only my second Punjabi film. And I got to learn a lot.

I and Ghuggi paaji connect really well on jokes. My jokes are half Punjabi and half British and so they are mixed. As a result, nobody understands them. Somehow only Ghuggi paaji gets them and he is the only one who laughs at them. The first time I met Gippy it was on the sets of ‘Mar Gaye Oye Loko’ and he was so warm and welcoming. I think it’s in their nature.

You made your Bollywood debut with Khamoshiyaan alongside Ali Fazal and Gurmeet Chaudhary. The film got a lot of media attention for its bold scenes. What was the experience like?

Actually ‘Khamoshiyaan’ wasn’t meant to be my Bollywood debut. I actually shot a film before that called ‘Satra Ko Shaadi Hai’, produced by John Abraham and Shoojit Sircar, with Barun Sobti and Harshvardhan Rane. That was going to be my first film but sadly it didn’t come out and so I had to deal with the kind of image that Khamoshiyaan created for me for quite some time. It had become really difficult for me to prove that I can do more. I was wrongly judged just because I am a girl and did a certain film. It’s just a role and so I really wondered why everyone was not willing to move one. As a result, I got stuck in that situation which is really unfair because Ali Fazal didn’t face anything of such sort. This only happens to women and I think that needs to change. But, as far as ‘Khamoshiyaan’ is concerned, I wouldn’t say my experience on the film was bad.  I loved working with the Bhatts. I think they are the cleanest people in the industry and a lot of people don’t know that. It’s like working in a family-like atmosphere, like working with Gippy and team on ‘Ardaas Karaan’.

You have worked in movies, television, as well as the web. How different is one medium from the others? Also, tell us about your experience of working in commercials.

I think the difference lies is the perception of the platform. So, I don’t think there is actually a difference because when you are making a TV show or a web series or a movie the workload isn’t any different. It’s all the same.

Also, the crew, pre-production and post-production teams too work just as hard. Now, I have not worked in a TV serial so I can’t comment on that but I have friends there who also work just as hard. In fact, they work longer hours than we work. I remember Gurmeet Choudhary telling me that while shooting for television he would sleep on the set itself. So, I believe the effort, expertise and skills do not decrease. At the end of the day, it is not about the platform but purely the content and how you want to make it. Hence the content has to be good. That’s what I believe in.

I only did one commercial for Sunsilk before doing ‘24’. Initially I was supposed to work in a TV show called Ghar Aaja Pardesi but unfortunately things didn’t materialise. I remember I had packed my bags and was all ready to go when I was  offered ‘24’.

Now, working in commercials was good for my understanding. It’s like going to office. When you go to one office you learn how things work there. I wouldn’t say it was a launch pad for me. Yes, it does work out for some people like that but I think if I didn’t have ‘24’ in hand I don’t know how well things would have gone. But it’s certainly was an advantage having the ad campaigns along with something like a ‘24’.

Are you a part of the second season of Breathe? Also, tell us about your other upcoming projects. 

Right now, I am waiting for ‘Drive’ to release. It’s a heist kind of a film about street racers. It’s quite cool. I had so much fun working on the film. It’s a mixture of street racing films. I am not going to name the obvious ones made in Hollywood but something on the same lines.

Also, I have started shooting for the third season of ‘Inside Edge’. As far as ‘Breathe’ is concerned, my character is not around in the plot for the second season. But the team is doing really nice. Abhishek Bachchan has joined the cast. So, I am really looking forward to watching it.