Actor-writer Samaira Sandhu is two films old in Telugu and Tamil film industry. Last year, she authored a book titled Heaven in a Hell wherein she narrated a fictional tale of an ambitious, young woman who lost her dreams to drug addiction and her journey thereafter at a de-addiction centre.
In Chandigarh, her hometown, she was honoured by a private company on the eve of Baisakhi. She is presently writing another book, which, like her first one, is also about a woman. “I am a feminist and I can relate to women and the trials and tribulations they go through. That, probably, is the reason why my protagonists are women,” she says, while talking about her book.
Even as the conversation progresses towards the film industry in the South, Samaira is quick to gauge its course and dives in head-first: “You want to know about the casting couch, considering Sri Reddy’s protest, which saw her stripping before the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce?” she asks. An engineer, with an MBA degree, Samaira is a smarter than your average Punjabi actress who is struggling to find her niche in the industry and she treads with caution. “When you are young, ambitious, and fiercely motivated, people try to exploit your vulnerability; that doesn’t just happen in film industry, but in every profession. I have turned down many offers, fearing the compensation I’d have to make for it, but that’s how it works,” she says.
Having acted in films, Dhayam (Tamil) and Damayanthi (Telugu), two Punjabi music albums, and some six Hindi music videos, Samaira pulls out dog-eared notes of personal experiences from her book of life, and the struggle she underwent during her acting career. From getting called to a hotel room for a “meeting” to being told that “we’d like to be ‘close’ to our stars”, she lists out a few instances that taught her to be careful. “I had people, especially middlemen who tell you they can get you to sign up with a big banner, trying to convince that most top actresses have become successful because they slept around and did favours for a few people. So, they get no credit for their talent whatsoever! Then there were others who said that we would like to be close to you; talk of being ‘professional’ and then there were some who invited me for a meeting at their hotel room… I sensed there was something wrong. I followed my intuition and dropped meaty roles for this reason. This has happened several times,” she shares.
Samaira, who is also acting in the music web series called Bolo Maa where she will be shooting for six songs, has worked with Jaspinder Narula and Pammi Bai. She still hasn’t acted in a Punjabi film. “I haven’t got the right role, to be honest. I’d like to work in films like Simerjit Singh’s Angrej and Punjab 1984; that’s my kind of cinema. For now, I am happy films in Tollywood and Tamil film industry. It has more scope, since six movies are released every Friday and in four different languages. Also, cinema in South is more technically advanced than Punjabi cinema,” she says.
Samaira is also working behind the camera in the direction of a Hindi project, starring Sharman Joshi, to learn the technical aspects of a movie.