An actor, a model, and a Youth Advocate for Education—a role entrusted by India’s leading child’s right organisation, Save The Children, the 25-year-old Sanjana Sanghi dons many hats. In an exclusive chat with Travel + Leisure India and South Asia, she talks about her love for travelling and why she enjoys exploring places through a local’s perspective. By Bayar Jain
T+L India: You started out as a child actor in Rockstar. How has the journey been so far?
Sanjana Sanghi: The journey has been full of surprises and of dreams coming true. It’s been full of challenges, of learnings, and of discovering myself as an artist. It’s also been about having a deep sense of gratitude, every step of the way. I grew as an actor through my school and college days. I did dabble in theatre before getting into Bollywood. However, I have also been quite focused on academics, it did not take a back seat during my creative pursuits. . So being able to follow and fulfil both my passions for academics and cinema has been a fulfilling experience, and I am grateful that I get to live this life.
T+L India: How did you foray into the creative field?
Sanjana Sanghi: I took up training as a contemporary Jazz and Kathak dancer when I was six years old. That’s what paved the way later for theatre and performing arts. However, my journey as an actor started off with a stroke of luck, when the casting director for Rockstar was looking for a child artiste to play the role of a young Mandy (Nargis Fakhri’s character in Rockstar) in Delhi schools.. My theatre teacher in school got me to give the audition along with thousands of other girls. I had never before acted in front of the camera. Fortunately, I found myself on the sets of Rockstar in Dharamshala three days later. I fell in love with acting then and there and realised that it is going to be a huge part of my life.
T+L India: How does travel influence your work?
Sanjana Sanghi: I had never stepped out of Asia till I was 18 years of age. As a child, my travels involved road trips to the mountains from Delhi—which is where I’ve grown up, and to parts of Rajasthan, and other parts of India. These were usually impromptu trips with my parents, always centring around food and exploring different cultures. In college, I got to travel quite a bit due to my stints in in ad commercials and films, as well as the inter-college debates that I took participate in. As an actor, I get to film in parts of the world that I never thought I would see. For example, I got to visit Armenia, where I shot for Om, my upcoming action film with Aditya Roy Kapoor. I have also been to Paris and Jamshedpur in Dil Bechara. I get inspired by the people I meet, I also look out for new foods, cultures, and textiles wherever I go. My travels energise me and I look forward to them.
T+L India: You recently visited New York. How long were you there and what lured you to the Big Apple?
Sanjana Sanghi: It was work that took me to New York. That’s what I’m beginning to enjoy the most—the fact that work takes me to all sorts of places, and being able to make the most of my time there by engaging with the food or culture of the city. New York is the greatest haven for both. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the best of Broadway, stand-up comedy, jazz clubs, and impromptu music gigs during my time there. I even explored food from all parts of the world at the West Village in Manhattan, where you have a China Town, Korea Town, Little Italy and more. It’s such a joy to be able to work and do these things together.
New York is also like home to me because my brother lives and works there. I know I’ll be frequenting it often. This was my fourth visit there. Creative individuals in New York are inspiring and being able to spend time with them and understand the city through their perspective has been a liberating experience for me.
T+L India: Which places did you explore in New York?
Sanjana Sanghi: Ironically, I have never experienced the touristy parts of New York. For example, I have not gone up to the World Trade Centre or seen the Statue of Liberty. I have done things that a regular New Yorker does in the city like watching my favourite stand-up comic at the Beacon Theatre, which is an iconic theatre in Lower East side of Manhattan, watching my all-time favourite musician John Mayer at Madison Square Garden—the greatest performance arena in the world, and going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is possibly my favourite place on Earth for an evening of jazz music. They had put up new pieces of artwork there for a special four-week exhibit. I was lucky to get to see them in the opening weekend.
Some of the other places I went to were the underground hip-hop gigs that happen in the Lower East side of Manhattan. I visited restaurants and usual haunts of the NYU students in the East village of Manhattan, discovered different speakeasy bars tucked away in different corners of the city, and went to art exhibits all over in SoHo. The vintage shops in New York are some of my favourites.
T+L India: What kind of traveller are you?
Sanjana Sanghi: I am an impromptu traveller. I decide to go to a place for a certain number of days and then don’t microplan within that. I’m lucky enough to have friends in different parts of the world. Now through work, I get to meet people and see different places through their eyes. I enjoy discovering hitherto undiscovered places.
T+L India: What have been your most memorable travels?
Sanjana Sanghi: The list keeps increasing! Up till now, my trips to Japan and Bhutan have been most memorable. They happened in an unforeseen way. I was sent to represent India in Japan while I was in college for 10 days. My journey began at a summit in Tokyo, but I also got to live with a Japanese family for five days in the countryside. I went fishing by the river and got to experience Japanese food and culture in a way that would have been impossible to get access to as a tourist. I didn’t even speak my host’s language neither did they speak mine, yet we bonded so well that it was hard to leave in the end. It taught me that the human connection go beyond just language; we connect through food, emotions, and experiences. We’re still in touch today through letters and postcards.
My trip to Bhutan, which was from school, was to Pangbisa, a village tucked away in the Himalayas in the northern part of the country. I had gone for an education empowerment project l. I got to spend time with Bhutanese children, speak to Bhutanese teachers, and understand why it’s the happiest country in the world.
Both these trips have been eye-opening and learning experience.
T+L India: Your most memorable vacation?
Sanjana Sanghi: The only full-fledged vacation that I have taken has been to the Maldives. I know it’s highly spoken about as a travel destination, but when I went there as a traveller, I understood why it is so popular.. The sunset and the water truly helped me switch off and release stress in a way that I haven’t before.
T+L India: Do you have a bucket list of destination?
Sanjana Sanghi: I haven’t yet done much of Europe, so anything and everything in that continent is on my bucket list. I want to go to Spain and Italy immediately! I hope something takes me there soon enough.