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Class actress Anjali Sivaraman: ‘I want to become an international actor’

Anjali debuted in films with Sachin Kundalkar’s Cobalt Blue before shooting to fame with the Netflix series Class, directed by Ashim Ahluwalia

Sameer Salunkhe Calcutta Published 20.03.23, 04:31 PM
Anjali Sivaraman in Class.

Anjali Sivaraman in Class. Netflix

Anjali Sivaraman has made her presence felt as Suhani Ahuja in the Netflix web series Class, which has been trending in about 20 countries. In a chat, the young actress talks about her acting choices, losing out on a dream debut in the South, and life before and after the success of Class.

What’s the best compliment you received for your performance in Class?


Anjali Sivaraman: It was from my mom. She said that when she was watching Suhani Ahuja, she didn’t feel like she was watching her daughter. That was a huge compliment for me because my mom is also an actor. I grew up watching her. And she was one of the main reasons for me to get into acting.

What does having a hit show on your resume do for a young actor like you?

Anjali Sivaraman: I started to see a few changes. Now when I do auditions, I get more positive feedback because people think that this is someone they can bank on. That’s a nice change. The kind of roles that are coming to me are much more intense and acting-heavy, which is a huge compliment on its own. Acting and career-wise, it’s been a huge positive change.

What did you like or dislike about Suhani Ahuja?

Anjali Sivaraman: I like that she is opinionated and goes after what she wants. What I didn’t like is probably that even though she has a strong mind, she is indecisive. But again, she is a kid.

Do you remember the first scene you filmed for Class?

Anjali Sivaraman: It’s the scene from the trailer where Dheeraj and Suhani are walking out of the elevator and heading toward the party. She says, ‘Paise se class nahin milta.

What was director Ashim Ahluwalia’s brief to you?

Anjali Sivaraman: The one thing that Ashim made sure I did was to take away all my facial reactions. I am a very expressive person. So, Ashim made sure that I wasn’t doing too much with my eyes or mouth. It was stripped down to minimal. Because that’s what brings out more emotions, rather than over-expressing. Ashim also told all of us to be as true to ourselves as possible to get more natural reactions.

What was life like before Class happened?

Anjali Sivaraman: In 2019, I started auditioning a little more seriously. I had just acted and sung in a commercial for Tinder. After the commercial went viral, I started getting calls from a lot of filmmakers for auditions.

I auditioned for a film in the South for a big filmmaker and got the part. It was like a dream come true for me as I grew up watching his films. I always dreamt of working with him. But because of a number of circumstances, I lost the part after I had signed it. I was really upset about it. But you cannot focus on these things too much when you are trying to become something. You’ll lose time, and time is of essence.

I had auditioned for one more project that was promising, so I contacted the casting director to check whether I could do another set of auditions. I auditioned and got the part. It was Anuja in (Sachin Kundalkar’s) Cobalt Blue, which was my first film. In March 2020, I auditioned for Class for the first time. I auditioned again in August and got the part. Then I started filming for Cobalt Blue.

Whenever a new actor with a striking personality is on the block, film makers start thinking about how they can utilise the actor in their projects. What kind of roles have you been offered after Class?

Anjali Sivaraman: Since the beginning of my career, I wanted to do performance-based roles that can show off my acting abilities. Eventually, I want to become an international actor. In Cobalt Blue (on Netflix), where I had a raw and gritty role, I had no make-up and had to cut my hair very short. I had to change my body language to a boyish body language. I wanted to do roles where I can bring a character to life. I am going down the same path even now but the characters that are being offered to me are more layered and intense, which is nice.

You want to go international. How did that aspiration begin and how are you going about it?

Anjali Sivaraman: I grew up watching international movies, especially Hollywood. That drew me to the world of acting. I always wanted to be in one of the movies that I watched. Then, I started auditioning for international movies as well. I frequently got good feedback, so I am hoping that the momentum that I have gained through Class will help propel that dream faster.

Which actors, filmmakers or films influenced these aspirations?

Anjali Sivaraman: Funnily enough, one of the first movies I watched was Aliens (1986). I always loved horror films. I always wanted to act in those horror films which had VFX so real that it gave you chills to the bones. I was truly inspired by the actors in Titanic (1997). I started looking up to Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio from the time I was a kid. In fact, I named my first teddy bear Jack after DiCaprio’s character in the film.

There are two aspects to an actor’s life — acting and being an actor. Which one do you find more challenging and why?

Anjali Sivaraman: I think at this particular point, being an actor is more challenging because of everything that comes with it. I am passionate about acting, so it becomes easy after a point because you’re doing something you absolutely love.

But being an actor and having to navigate through networking and social media are things that don’t come naturally to me. That’s challenging as I am trying to figure out a whole new industry.

Do you use social media merely as a professional tool or is it a reflection of your personality?

Anjali Sivaraman: All I do on social media is watch videos of hair care, skin care and puppies. And, occasionally, how content creators and actors are doing their lives. But my own social media account is probably more professional than a reflection of my personality.

What do you do when you’re not facing the camera?

Anjali Sivaraman: It’s important to maintain a work-life balance. I can’t be an actor if I am not sound in my mind. So, I do things that make me happy. I exercise and go on holiday as much as I can. I go on diving trips. I love diving. It is everything to me. I started doing it only in 2019 but it is actually my therapy. It’s also great because you travel to new places, meet new people, and gain new experiences. All of this can help you in acting because it gives you insights into so many things that you can use when you’re creating a character. I also try to do auditions regularly because the more you practise the better you get.

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