Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Banita Sandhu talks breaking Bollywood and why mental health matters

The actress is Hello! Fashion's October 2023 cover star...

Banita Sandhu x Hello! Fashion
Becky Donaldson
Becky DonaldsonFeature Director
Share this:

Although Banita Sandhu had dreamed of becoming an actress since she was a young child, her first big break came when she was cast for director Shoojit Sircar’s Hindi-language coming-of-age drama October, whilst studying at King’s College, London. 

Her performance was critically acclaimed and Banita was nominated for an esteemed Filmfare Award for 'Best Female Debut', with Vogue India naming her, ‘The Face to Watch Out For’.

Not showing any signs of slowing down, following October, Banita, who has recently been announced as appearing in the next season of Bridgerton, which airs next year, was cast for the 2019 Tamil movie Adithya Varma and Hindi film Sardar Udham.

Growing up in Caerleon, south Wales Banita was “obsessed” with watching TV and loved performing in school productions. “So I said to my parents that I wanted to be an actress and luckily they took me seriously and found me an agent, which I signed to when I was around 11 years old."

Banita Sandhu x Hello! Fashion
Banita Sandhu x Hello! Fashion
Hello! Fashion is the fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazine that brings you style tips and trends, beauty news, the latest high-street and high end buys plus in-depth fashion insider secrets and inspiring interviews. You’ll also enjoy receiving every issue delivered direct to your door – ahead of the magazine landing on the newsstand.

“It was mainly a children’s agency and lots of the kids were on Tracy Beaker or Casualty, so I was like, oh my God these are huge stars. And that was my dream…Tracy Beaker back then!” she laughs.

Although she wanted to be “the next Hannah Montana child star”, she tells us that things were very different back then. “No one really wanted an Indian girl, so I was lucky to get one audition every couple of years,” she says. However, in hindsight, she’s actually pleased that her career didn’t kick off until she was in her late teens.

Banita Sandhu x Hello! Fashion© Tom O'Neill
Shearling gilet, £2,040, Top, £140, Skirt, £230, Boots, £510, all Longchamp.

Luckily, she adds that things have changed. “It is so different now, it’s crazy. This week I’ve had four auditions. Obviously, it’s not perfect, we’ve still got a long way to go. But I really think it’s an exciting time to be an actress or a woman of colour in this industry, for sure.”

Completing a degree in English literature with film studies has allowed Banita to prepare for her roles with a level of acumen. “When it comes to the more creative stuff, I love doing workshops and really finding the beats of a character. And I love writing, so I’ll write down how I think that character grew up, or what their thoughts and feelings might be, and their relationships with the other characters. 

Banita Sandhu x Hello! Fashion© Tom O'Neill
Top, £205, Skirt, £230, Wellies, £175, Cap, £110, all Longchamp.

“Then, when we come to the scene, I feel I have all of that knowledge within me and I can really just be in the moment and enjoy the scene, rather than having to work out context and different moments on the spot.”

Banita has been open about her depression diagnosis and uses her own experience to help others by raising awareness. “I’m a big advocate for mental health and especially therapy. I was diagnosed with depression during my time at university and had to seek help. Luckily, I was able to work through it and, although it’s a condition I’ll always live with, I now have the tools to be able to recognise symptoms when they flare up and how to manage them.”

Jacket, £625, Jeans, £270, Wellies, £175, Bag, £425, all Longchamp.© Tom O'Neill
Jacket, £625, Jeans, £270, Wellies, £175, Bag, £425, all Longchamp.

Therapy has also helped her to understand the characters she plays. “You start to realise patterns and things that you do unconsciously that may stem from childhood or certain events that have happened in your life that make you act down in ways that other people wouldn’t understand."

“I feel through developing my relationship with myself, it has helped me develop a relationship with my characters and to be more empathetic with them. You have to be, because if you don’t understand where they’re coming from, then the audience won’t. Your job as an actor is to understand your character’s motivation and convey that to the audience, whether you agree with it or not.”

Banita’s work has seen her travel the globe…India, New York and Bulgaria; but it is London that she loves the most. “The minute I moved to London, I felt in my heart that this was the right place for me.”

The full interview with Banita Sandhu appears in the October issue of Hello! Fashion, out now…

Photography: Tom O’Neill 

Styling: Laura Weatherburn

Stylist’s Assistants: Chloe Gallacher & Eve Fitzpatrick 

Photographer’s Assistant: Arthur Millier 

Make-up: Emma Miles At Caren Using Charlotte Tilbury 

Hair: Davide Barbieri At Caren Using Sam Mcknight 

Nails: @lucie App With Jenni Draper 

More Hello! Fashion

See more