Sanghmitra Hitaishi: I am comfortable shooting intimate love-making scenes on the set run by women, otherwise I feel discomfort – Exclusive | Hindi Movie News – Times of India

Sanghmitra Hitaishi has been gradually making a mark in the industry. After impressing with her work in Lajwanti, Bombay Begums and BA Pass 2 among others, she recently showed her mettle in Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s Dahaad. She is currently on cloud nine after receiving accolades for her performance in the web series.
In an exclusive conversation with ETimes, Sanghmitra spoke candidly about her experience on Dahaad sets, how her intense intimate scenes were shot, facing judgements for being dusky-skinned and healing herself from the trauma.
Dahaad has been receiving a great response from the audience. How does it make you feel?
I really keep thinking as an actor, no matter how much people talk about the glamour around it, the promotions and the great clothes, it is a difficult profession. Not just the characters, but the struggle part of it. Because you’re figuring out who’s this character, how can I play her to the best of my abilities, how can I reach her truth and tell her story. I’m Miriam‘s biggest cheerleader so I have to make sure that her story and her emotions are shown.
It’s such an uncertain thing and we live in this bubble as actors, that when something great happens, you’re still processing it because you’ve had so many ups and downs and rejections in your life. You do a lot of other roles and you hope that it’ll become big and people see it. But then you do something like Dahaad and you’re like, ‘I just want to work with Reema Kagti and Excel Entertainment.’ That was a part of my bucket list.
When I was working on it, I did not think that it was going to become so big. I was worried, ‘Am I doing a good job? Are they getting what they want?’ I’m getting messages from my school friends, my colleagues in Mumbai, and also from non-film people. It just feels great. And I hope this opens doors to some amazing work in the future.
You said working with Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhar was on your bucket list. Why so?
It’s their clarity on the set, they’re masters of their craft. If you look at the track record, they have always hit the milestone. They tell stories that we all relate to. That’s the magic. Reema was so clear. We did not do any extra takes. If she got something, she got it and she moved on. She was very clear of what she wanted and was absolute. There are a lot of directors that don’t have that clarity on set and that confuses you as an actor. When someone has clarity, they don’t waste any time because there are 200 people on set working for that one scene.
And how was your experience with Vijay Varma, Gulshan Devaiah and Sonakshi Sinha?
With Sonakshi, I have a very few scenes. So, I did not spend a lot of time with her. We had two days of shoot together and she was fun. She was like the tomboy on set, making jokes and a very chill person.
Gulshan is probably the funniest co-actor I’ve worked with. He’s just so funny. He’s just so charming. And he’s just so graceful. He’s a very nice guy. And you see that in his character. He’s a genuinely good human being.

With Vijay, when we were preppin, we bonded well during the rehearsal. We chatted, we went for a coffee also, because we were going to have a lot of intimate love-making scenes since we were going to play lovers. We had our dress trial together on the same day. I don’t think he would agree to call himself a method actor, but there is a method which he follows. He was more distant. He was a little bit skeptical. He didn’t want to open his emotions to me. This is what his character was. Outside of the set, Vijay was incredible and very welcoming. These are brilliant actors and that’s why Vijay is where he is today. And I’m so glad he’s getting the success, the recognition, the appreciation that he so rightfully deserves.
Sometimes shooting for intimate scenes can get tricky. How was your experience and what went into the making?
So one of the crucial things is that this was a set run by women. With Bombay Begums also, it was similar. The producers, the directors, our costume designer, our makeup and hair, most of our ADs were female. So that itself changes everything. There’s so much more empathy. There’s so much more safety and understanding and emotional safety as well. There was an intimacy coordinator on set. And people were constantly asking me, the ADs, Ruchika and everyone, ‘Are you okay? How are you feeling?’
When it was done, most people were sent out. Only the very essential people were there during the shoot. I did not feel uncomfortable, not even 1 percent. And also as an actor, I’ve come to my body, my mind, my emotions, I am the medium. So I have already learned to be okay being in uncomfortable situations, but I was never uncomfortable. I also have become a little bit shameless so that I can perform emotionally and physically with complete honesty. And then when you have great co-actors, a great crew. Not once did I feel any sort of discomfort ever.
I have felt uncomfortable when I’ve done love-making scenes on some other projects, which were not mainly run by women or the director wasn’t a woman. It is difficult from a male perspective to understand what is happening. Like how women understand the discomfort a woman would feel, so they anticipate before itself, organise the crew and the setup like that. The vanity van comes closer to the set or there is a room that is given to you just next to the shooting area so that you don’t have to walk in a room through the studio, set dadas and light dadas. I love being on sets that are run by women. There’s so much more kindness and empathy on such sets.
Are you too critical about yourself?


I am very critical about myself, although I’m learning to not be like that. Because that can be a disadvantage. You might be doing something good, but because you have this habit of questioning everything. I am an overthinker and that’s when something organic and natural could be coming, you could block it. So I’m learning to let it go and I’m learning to trust.
I was one of the last persons to be cast in Dahaad, and Miriam’s character was still developing when we already were in prep. So we were still figuring out what Miriam could be, whether a Marathi girl or Rajasthani. They shot for a month and then the pandemic happened. Production stopped for almost 11 months. So then when we restarted, we all had to do workshops again, because we had gotten out of our characters while battling through Covid.
Most of the workshops happened online. So I was sad about not being able to do readings and rehearsals with my co-actors. I am very sensitive. I felt like I was not getting that. I was struggling with that. When we finally were in Goa or in Mumbai when we were shooting, I felt like this was the first time I was in that physical space with my other co-actors. I am also someone who is learning. So watching Vijay perform was a learning experience. I am constantly learning from my co-actors and I am grateful that I get to work with such good actors.
Earlier, you have spoken about being judged for your dusky skin tone. Is it still happening or that phase is over now?
A few things have happened. First my own perception about myself has changed. When people used to think that I am dark-skinned and say I’m not beautiful enough or that I can’t do some characters, I used to believe it because I was seeking validation and I believed they were right, but now I don’t believe it. This is who I am and this is how 90 percent of Indians look like. So this colonial hangover that we have that the British left us, this mindset, I have to change it within me first.

Things are changing but even now sometimes they don’t know what to do with me. They say she looks like this, she has curly hair, she has dusky skin, so where should we put her. Initially, you don’t know much about casting, but this ‘gori girl’ is an upmarket face. So they are saying that a dusky woman could never be the owner or a CEO of a big multinational company. They are saying that in Delhi and Bombay rich areas, there are no fair girls. My agent, of course, gets most messages for me. So now when I sometimes get those casting requirements for an upmarket face, I write to them, ‘Please define an upmarket face?’ Life has moved on, the world has moved on and you are still stuck in the old generation looking for a fair-skinned girl.
When we girls grow up in India, people around us tell us don’t drink tea, you will get black and who will marry you. This ‘you will get black’ is a trauma when you grow up and still sometimes those voices come in my mind even though I have healed myself so much.
When I started going to Berlin for festivals and travelled outside of India, I couldn’t believe it when people told me that you’re looking beautiful. Because not many people used to tell me that when I was growing up. I didn’t know how to take that compliment. I wouldn’t even say thank you. I would say ‘Oh just because I am wearing a black dress that’s why I am beautiful or because I did my hair like this.’
I had a friend who told me why can’t you accept this compliment? Why are you struggling with accepting the fact that someone is calling you beautiful? And then I realised when you have been underrated so much since childhood, I had to consciously tell myself they mean it when they say. I realised when I started travelling outside, I represent my country, my tribe. People from my tribe look like me and I shouldn’t be apologetic for being dusky-skinned.
I’ve pulled myself so much out of it. But yes, I remember one casting director who is dusky herself, she did big casting so I won’t give her name. She was playing my mother as an actor in a short film. We were sitting on set and in between takes, she told me, ‘You know Sanghmitra, your auditions are always so nice and you’re such a good actor but you know the problem is that you will not make it big because you’re dusky.’
I remember feeling very sad about it. I was a bit younger at that time. But if today she would have told me that, I would have sat and had a conversation with her and I would have told her “No ma’am, you’re not right, that’s not correct. That may have happened 10 years ago but it doesn’t happen like that anymore.” Or maybe I’m just being optimistic and hopeful that if our country becomes like that, we cast people that look like us.
You must be getting misunderstood by a lot of people…
I always have. If I ever write a book, I will write it ‘The confessions of the misunderstood’ because I’m often misunderstood. I have been a mistake even in school and college. I went to boarding school and I was an introvert. I was someone who liked reading a lot. So I was constantly found in the library. I have had difficulty fitting into groups and in India if you’re not fitting into groups then you have a problem. If your younger sister is getting married before you and she found someone, then you have a problem. If you’re not doing what is expected of you then something is wrong with you. Maybe, because you’re an original person who thinks for herself. I’ve always been mixed up and I used to be a very angry, rebellious young person. I was like before you reject me, I’ll reject you. I was like that but then as I grew, because it came from this insecurity of wanting to be accepted, I’m understanding people and human behaviour.


I also realised the more I started accepting myself, I’ve seen the difference. The more I accepted myself, the more I liked myself for who I was with my flaws with my shortcomings. I accepted myself for being the human being that I am and I realised that people started accepting me for the human being I was. And it was okay if they didn’t accept me. Maybe we are not aligned to be together, to be collaborative. So I decided consciously a few years ago I’m going to show up as my truthful self. If we become friends, work together, great. If we don’t then we were never meant to be friends, to work together. I cannot be inauthentic and I cannot change myself to fit your idea because it’s so unfair of me to do that to myself. You get only one life. I don’t believe in reincarnation. So I’m here today. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Who knows where to go after death. No one comes back and tells us what happened to us. So I can only be certain about this life. It is also very liberating. Life is already so difficult, so why am I going to make it more difficult? I will be myself and then you know that makes life very easy basically.
What is that one thing that you used to believe earlier and but you don’t believe it now?
I used to believe that I would have to fit into groups to get more work. I would change myself to fit into a certain idea so that the producers or the directors think that they can cast me. I would dress up a little different, I would do my hair a little different just to fit into a certain standard. Now I don’t believe in it anymore. There is only one me and that is my biggest USP. I believe that I am the perfect casting, the way I am and of course any work. I believe in not changing myself. I believe in growing myself but not changing myself because when growth happens there is already an organic development. I wish I could go back and tell my 20-year-old self that I was just getting out of college, don’t try to fit in, just be yourself, that will be her biggest USP.
When you meet someone and you see that they are awkward or when someone is rude to me or when someone misbehaves with me, I feel like you are not happy with yourself and you are feeling insecure. I will make the other person feel good. Whenever I meet people who make me feel better or who are such nice company to be around, like Gulshan – he is such a nice human being to be around. He is constantly making people feel comfortable. I am sure he has his own demons within but he is not bitter. So I like that.
What qualities are you looking for in your life partner?
We should be friends. There should be authenticity, kindness, reliability and honesty between us. I believe I am the kind of person you can talk about anything with. In a relationship, I am looking not for a lover but a friend. Because I believe that friendship between two people is the highest emotion than love. With a friend I can criticise and I can be okay that this will not break my relationship with you. I can call out the bullshit of a friend but with a lover if I get scared, if I say the truth we will break up. When I am in a relationship, we will be very good friends. So many times you might not feel safe around your date, your parents, your siblings but we feel so safe around our friends. I feel like every relationship should, in the core, be a friendship.

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