Kriti Sanon on taking charge to be an unstoppable force

In an interview with Bazaar India, the coverstar speaks about honing her craft, finding courage in trying times, and taking criticism with a pinch of salt.

Harper's Bazaar India

It’s 8:30pm on a Friday. I receive a frantic call from Kriti Sanon’s manager, letting me know that she has a 20-minute break in-between ‘shots’, and she’d like to do the interview now. For context: I had been chasing Kriti’s team, rather incessantly, to work out a suitable time for this interview. And between film projects, appearances, and a lot more, Kriti’s days have been chock-full. For starters, she is currently shooting for her upcoming film, The Crew. The announcement of this project garnered a huge interest from cinephiles, as Kriti stars alongside cinema royalty Tabu and Kareena Kapoor Khan...and the film is co-produced by Ekta Kapoor and Rhea Kapoor. It sounds like the perfect female-first project, but Kriti clarifies that “it is a good mix of strong men and women”. “There’s Diljit (Dosanjh) as the male lead, and director Rajesh Krishnan, so it’s a full house,” she explains. 

As we begin talking, Kriti’s responses are measured, but succinct. But as our conversation progresses, the guards seem to drop, and her honesty and vulnerability peek through. Counted amongst the top female actors in the country today, Kriti’s quiet determination can be credited for her steady rise. A perfectionist by her own admission, the 32-year-old actor talks about all that she wants to accomplish in the near future, how she takes failures in her stride, and the ways she wants to utilise the power of social media for positive change.

Harper’s Bazaar: What is keeping you busy these days?

Kriti Sanon: I am currently shooting for The Crew, which is a very interesting project for me. I am working with two amazing female actors...we generally work with a lot of male actors, but to work with two leading ladies is a dream come true, and it’s a lot of fun.

HB: And Adipurush (2023) is also releasing soon...

KS: Yes, it’s releasing in June, and I am getting butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it, because we have waited so long for this moment. We are all [cast and crew] extremely excited about it, because it is the kind of story not too many people get to be a part of. I feel blessed to have gotten a chance to play this is a huge responsibility. This is a big project in terms of the storyline, the scale, and the characters—the Ramayana is an important part of our history and religion.

HB: Kriti, you dabbled in modelling before you signed your first film. Was being an actor always part of your plan?

KS: Not at all... In fact, my plan was very different from what I eventually ended up doing. I come from a family of academics, and I was extremely studious. I was pursuing B.Tech, but destiny had other plans for me. I began modelling as a hobby...I wanted to give it a shot, because people would always tell me that I had the height and face for it. I did a few TV commercials, and that was, in a way, my first acting stint—whatever little acting one is required to do for advertisements. I really enjoyed being in front of the camera, and working in those ads made me realise that acting is something I could be good at. Soon after, I moved to Mumbai and felt I was getting better with every audition. Auditioning for several roles also made me more confident...something I lacked before. And I just knew that I had to be an actor...I love everything about filmmaking.

credits: Satin gown with bow detailing, Atsu; Altesse Necklace, Cartier

HB: Which genre of films are you most drawn to?

KS: If you look at the last few films that I have done, it has been a mixed bag of sorts. But personally, I am drawn to love stories, and that’s the one genre I haven’t explored much yet. Some of my favourite films include The Notebook (2004), P.S. I Love You (2007), and Pretty Woman (1990). To be honest, I am dying to work in a romantic film, but I haven’t found a script that has struck a chord with me. I am looking for something challenging—in a way that I don’t know how to execute it.

HB: You love a good challenge...

KS: Absolutely! I have been offered roles in the past that I felt were easy for me to portray, but I took those because of other reasons. For instance, if it was an entertaining film, or if I was getting to work with a particular director or actor. But I love challenging scripts, where I don’t know how to get into the skin of the character. So I am always looking for something that really scares me, because I know that will be an exciting project.

HB: In one of your old interviews, you said that you are a very ambitious person. Has the world ever made you feel apologetic for wanting it all?

KS: Not at all! It depends on how one has been raised. I credit my parents for this particular trait, they always wanted me to excel in whatever I do. My mother is a professor, and she was the first woman in her family to work. In fact, she completed her Ph.D while she was pregnant with me. And being the firstborn, sometimes you have to shoulder the responsibility of setting an example. So I have always felt the need to be really good at whatever I do—I think it’s inbuilt. And I am a perfectionist, almost irritatingly so. I remember feeling extremely nervous during my first photoshoot, and I screwed up a little. I came home crying because it bothered me that I didn’t do well. But confidence can be built over time. I believe you learn more from your failures than you ever will from your successes—my mantra is to learn from my mistakes and move forward.

HB: Does criticism bother you? 

KS: I don’t take everything that is being said about me too seriously. I have learned that no matter what you do, or how good you are, you can never please everyone—it is just not practical. I do take constructive criticism seriously...I understand when it is genuine. Having said that, there are days when I get affected by mean comments or something inaccurate that’s been written about me, but I try to look at the positive side of life and move on.

credits: Georgette one-shoulder dress, Atsu; Synapse Necklace and Pelage Ring, both Cartier

HB: In moments of doubt, what gives you courage?

KS: I rely on my family and close circle of friends, who I know will stand by me regardless of my successes and failures. They keep me grounded, and they keep me sane. Apart from that, sometimes it is nice to just hit pause, you know? Take a moment to look back at where you started from, and where you have reached...what you have gone through and all that you have achieved. It is crucial to give yourself a pat on the back.

HB: What would you say was the turning point in your career?

KS: I can’t think of one isolated incident, but there have been many milestones. Starting with my first film Heropanti (2014), which was a warm welcome into the industry. And then working in Dilwale (2015) alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, and Varun Dhawan—that was a big milestone for me. In a way, Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) was a turning point in my career. It made people realise that, "Oh, she can act"...and that I could play non-glamorous characters as well. Bareilly Ki Barfi got me the validation that I was craving for a while. And I really needed a role like that to dig deep into, in order to mould myself to portray a character like Bitti allowed me to showcase my range as an artist.

HB: Do you believe in the power of manifestation?

KS: I believe in energy. If you put out positive energy in the world, you will achieve everything you want. And it might take longer than you want, but it will happen. Similarly, if you are constantly being negative, like, ‘Oh, I can’t do this or I can't do that’, then you restrict yourself mentally, and you won’t be able to do it. So you need to blindly believe in yourself and be positive about the outcome.

HB: Do you have a vision board of the things you would like to achieve?

KS: You know, I see a lot of videos on YouTube where they explain how one can create a vision board, but I have never been able to create one for myself. But I do have a very cute journal, and every once in a while, I write down my goals in it—just the things I want to achieve. It’s nice to flip through it to remind myself of my goals.

HB: What is your relationship with social media?

KS: It is a way for me to connect with my fans, allowing them to be a part of my life. As actors, we work in three or maybe four films in a year, and that’s our only source of interaction with our fans. I enjoy sharing bits and pieces of my life with them to show them who I really am. 

Social media can be a really positive space—we certainly saw that during Covid. I remember how powerful social media was during the second allowed people to share information, helped people procure oxygen cylinders and hospital beds... So I try to use social media for something positive, to inspire people in my own way. 

For instance, around our birthdays, fans put in a lot of effort to make beautiful edits, and they send something handwritten...which is really sweet. But I remember, a couple of years ago, I wrote that if you really want to give me something on my birthday, then just make someone smile, or plant a tree, or feed stray, just do something noble, and that would make me happy. And, the next year, a lot of my fans actually did that, and that made me feel so good. In a way, celebrities have so much power, and there is so much we can do with it. So I try to show them a part of my life, use it to voice an opinion...just create a positive space, you know? I mostly try and use it for positivity.

credits: Sequinned gown with tulle gloves, Laith Maalouf at Vanda Fashion Agency; Pandana Necklace, Cartier

HB: What do you enjoy most about social media?

KS: I am obsessed with skincare videos. And the more I watch them, the more they show up on my feed—it’s the algorithm! This obsession has certainly increased my screen time, and I really want to cut it down.

HB: Speaking of which, you have beautiful skin. Tell us about your skincare routine. 

KS: I became obsessed with skincare during the lockdown...just like most of us. And I had also just turned 30, so I felt like I needed to take better care of my skin. I am a bit nerdy, so I have done a lot of research on the topic—like, I have watched hundreds of YouTube videos, learned about ingredients, etc, to the point where my mother was like, ‘Can you stop watching YouTube?!’. So I have a skincare cycle where I use a mix of hydrating and exfoliating ingredients like Vitamin C, retinol, and ceramides. And the two things I never skip are sunscreen in the morning and double cleansing at night. Skincare is very therapeutic for me. It feels good to take care of my skin, and I like listening to my skin and selecting products basis what it needs.

HB: Do we sense a skincare brand in the works?

KS: I can’t reveal much, but all I can tell you is that it’s there in my journal.

HB: Lastly, you have been in the industry for almost a decade now. How would you describe your journey so far, and where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

KS: It has been beautiful. I feel blessed to have evolved, not just as an actor, but also as a person. But there is a lot more that I want to achieve in the coming years. Starting with the directors I want to work with, the characters I want to portray... I want to produce films, tell a lot of stories, I want to creatively get involved in the filmmaking process... I also enjoy being an entrepreneur—I have a fitness start-up called The Tribe. So there is a lot to do, and hopefully, I will be able to accomplish all that I plan to. 

Photographs by Taras Taraporvala, Hair: Gabriel Georgiou at Anima Creative Management. Make-Up: Shraddha Naik. Videographer: Ratnakar Vallabh. Fashion Assistants: Asu Longkumer and Rachel Simte. Production: P Productions.