HT Brunch Cover Story: Sibling revelry of the Sanon sisters!
With Kriti Sanon’s younger sister Nupur set to follow in her footsteps, the Bareily ki Barfi actor has competition brewing at home. Is this the beginning of a new Bollywood rivalry?Updated: Sep 07, 2019 23:48 IST
“Place yourself however you feel comfortable. I will sit accordingly,” Kriti instructs Nupur as the photographer asks the sisters to pose on a couch inside Le Mill fashion store in Mumbai’s plush Colaba neighbourhood. This is the mood for the entire shoot. Kriti is a natural in front of the camera. With a strong career in modelling behind her, this shoot is a cakewalk. But for her younger sister Nupur, this is all kind of new. Since baby sis intends to follow Kriti to Bollywood, she looks up to her as her mentor and guide.
“She will not even check if her own hair is fine, but will make sure mine is perfect,” says Nupur. “Between the two of us, she is the better sister. She always puts my interests before hers. She is my second mom!”
Twinning and winning
Their love for each other is palpable and with their #twinning wardrobe, the shoot has strong overtones of a mushy Sooraj Barjatya kind of movie about a pair of perfect siblings who randomly break into Hum Saath-Saath Hain songs.
“But this is the first time we are consciously trying this twinning thing,” laughs Kriti. “When we were kids, our parents would sometimes buy similar clothes for us, and then my mom went through a phase of making clothes for us, which meant buying fabric in bulk and making shirts, skirts, dresses, and all kinds of things for us from the same cloth!”
As the younger one, Nupur complains she also wore a lot of Kriti’s hand-me-downs, which made for a kind of twinning. “We have so many childhood pictures where I am wearing the exact same clothes she wore, though, of course, the pictures were taken a few years apart! If you see those pictures, you’ll see that I don’t look happy about the situation at all.”
“My dad refused to sign my letter of approval when I signed up with a modelling agency...”—Kriti Sanon
“But she still takes clothes from my cupboard and never bothers to return them,” argues Kriti. “She’ll wear them almost every third day, so after a point our domestic help will start to stack them with her clothes and they will become hers.” Kriti eyerolls her five-year younger sister.
Sanon vs Sanon
Siblings always argue and fight. That’s normal. But do the Sanon sisters ever fight for real? Is there jealousy? Rivalry?
“She is an introvert while I am an ambivert,” recites Nupur. “She loves elaichi chai and I hate it! I swear by adrak chai, which she hates! But ya, we don’t fight over it. We just make different teas!”
“Oh, but we do fight,” counters Kriti, with a laugh. “Mostly over the trivial, but they are huge fights. Even today, we are taking separate cars back home because we don’t agree on the music to play in the car. I hate her playlist and she hates mine.”
“She is an introvert, I am an ambivert. She loves elaichi chai, I like adrak chai. We don’t fight over it; we just make different teas!” — Nupur Sanon
“We had a huge fight in the car while coming here,” giggles Nupur. “I forgot my phone and I took her AirPods. She wanted to listen to Love Me Like You Do and I was in the mood for Kabir Singh songs…. Another problem with her is she listens to all these English songs from almost five years ago. Like, I’m done and dead with this song now, and then she starts playing it on loop!”
“There is a generation gap. I don’t get updated. Now she has called for another car to go back home!” Kriti snaps. “And then her love for Punjabi songs… my god! Some are good, but some are really, really bad. She is part of the generation that dances to anything!”
But there is no jealousy between the two. When Kriti became famous, Nupur was the proud little sister. “I would get a lot of attention in school because of her and I loved every bit of it. My parents and my sister always made sure that the attention is always balanced,” Nupur says.
“Because for a middle-class family, Bollywood is not a secure profession. And indeed, it is not”—Kriti Sanon
But, of course, there were instances when Nupur would get a bit flustered. “There would be times when we’d go to a relative’s place after a long time and after the initial greetings, the attention would shift entirely to her,” says Nupur. “I understand that they didn’t mean any ill, they just wanted to know all about her Bollywood life, but at that moment I’d feel a tad bad. Like, okay, I am also here, you know! But I was not really jealous of her. I was just annoyed about the reaction to her star status.” Nupur pauses and looks at her sister: “I’m really proud of you…”
Same, same…but different
Kriti made her Bollywood debut in 2014 with Heropanti and is today six films old. Nupur, who joined her sister in Mumbai just about a year and half back, is taking baby steps into the same industry. But their journeys are already very different and so are the challenges.
With a college professor for a mother and a chartered accountant for a father, the Sanon sisters from Delhi had no Bollywood dreams. “Except as kids, when you stand in front of the mirror and pretend to be a movie star!” laughs Nupur as Kriti giggles.
“I was always into academics and was good. I’m a trained dancer. But acting or dramatics never interested me,” says Kriti. “I began modelling for pocket money. This led to ad films, which gave me opportunities to work with renowned Bollywood directors, and I fell in love with the camera. So much so, that I decided to give movies a shot. But it was a gradual process, not one moment of epiphany.”
“When you are a star kid, people already know you whether you have done a movie at all or not. But when you don’t have a film background, that ‘connect’ with the audience needs a little more time” —Kriti Sanon
Kriti holds a B Tech degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering. “My dad refused to sign the letter of approval when I signed up with the modelling agency, but my mom was always supportive,” adds Kriti. “She is the first woman in her conservative family to have a career, and she did her PhD after she got married, so our mother was always categorical that her girls should be able to follow their dreams, whatever they are. That really helped.”
But there was nothing flighty about Kriti’s career decision. She had to clear the GMAT with a good score before her parents let her attempt a career in Bollywood, “Because for a middle-class family, Bollywood is not a secure profession. And indeed, it is not,” says Kriti.
For Nupur, a B.Com Honours graduate, a different dream led to Bollywood, though she too had to clear her GMAT first! “I’m a trained singer and I wanted to make a career in singing,” she says. “I was also doing a course in digital marketing at that point.”
Nupur’s YouTube covers of songs like Nawazishein, Channa Mereya and Hawayein have got much love on social media. In fact, when she first got a call for an audition, she thought it was for a singing job! But soon she realised it was an acting audition. “The character was that of a singer and they had spotted me from my YouTube videos,” says Nupur.
“She wears my clothes so often, the help at home starts stacking them with her clothes, thinking they belong to her!” —Kriti Sanon
When she told Kriti about the sudden development, neither of the sisters took the call seriously. Still, Kriti insisted that Nupur meets the people. She bagged the part, but the film was eventually shelved.
“It was sad, but I’m also glad that it did not happen,” says Nupur. “Because at that time I was not prepared and I was not even sure if I wanted to act!” But this offer led Nupur to enrol in acting workshops where she slowly developed a love for the craft.
Kriti was a rank outsider when she came into the industry. “My dad had to be in Mumbai for eight months, so I had a home. But I had no idea how to go about things. I suddenly had no friends. I knew no one in the industry or elsewhere. Thankfully, I was signed with a modelling agency that cast for Bollywood, so I would know who was casting for what.”
“Kriti will not check whether her hair is okay, but will ensure mine is. She’s so nurturing, we call her Chhoti Mummy!” —Nupur Sanon,
All Kriti did at that period of time was prep for GMAT, go for auditions, and model. “There were offers from big production houses, but the roles weren’t interesting. Still, when you have not signed anything else, to let that offer go is often a difficult decision. Because you don’t know if you will ever get a better offer,” she says. “I was utterly dejected at times. But my modelling agency believed in me when I lost confidence in myself. They told me that a debut film is the most crucial one for a career, especially if you are an outsider.”
“There’s a generation gap [between us]. I hate her playlist and she hates mine. She belongs to the generation that can dance to anything!” —Kriti Sanon,
Most star kids complain about the burden of expectations and the constant limelight. On the flip side, Kriti points out, outsiders struggle for media attention. “You want to have the eyeballs on you when you are starting out. You need the spotlight. There is less pressure on outsiders to succeed, but there is pressure of a different kind: you hope you are noticed, hope people see your face and remember it, hope you connect with the audience,” she explains. “When you are a star kid, people already know you whether you have done a movie at all or not. But when you don’t have a film background, that ‘connect’ with the audience needs a little more time. And you don’t get to sign a second film before the release of your first.”
Fortunately, Kriti soon bagged a Telugu film called 1–Nenokkadine (2014). “After one schedule of that film, I auditioned for Heropanti. The test shot was with Tiger Shroff. It was a proper scene. After that I was asked to go to Sajid Nadiadwala sir’s office, where I was signed up. It all happened so fast that I couldn’t even believe it! It took quite some time for the news to sink in,” she says. Heropanti got her the eyeballs, and with her realistic portrayal of the affable Bitti in Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), Kriti won the love of the film critics.
“The process for me is almost the same as any newcomer. Yes, a few people might know my name, but I go for auditions and face rejections...” —Nupur Sanon
For Nupur, however, the situation is very different. She is neither an outsider nor a proper insider. Kriti doesn’t yet enjoy the kind of star power to get her little sister films, but at the same time, Nupur faces the burden of expectations that comes with being actress Kriti’s sister. Both young women are aware of this. “The process for me is almost the same as any newcomer. Yes, a few people might know my name, but I go for auditions and face rejections, and the perception is that things are being handed to me on a platter!” says Nupur.
“She has the pressure of having a family member in the industry, but none of the advantages. Of course, I can guide her, but I am not some producer who can make a film for her,” says Kriti. “I am still finding my own foothold in the industry!”
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From HT Brunch, September 8, 2019
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