There is nothing bigger than the power of collective action. It can save hundreds of lives: actor Sanjana Sanghi

Actor and humanitarian Sanjana Sanghi talks to HerStory about her journey as an actor, and the work she is doing for children and mental health amidst the pandemic.
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Sanjana Sanghi’s first movie Dil Bechara Hai, opposite late actor Sushant Singh Rajput, catapulted her to instant fame, but that’s not all she wants to be known for. 

The young actor, who appeared in supporting roles in Hindi Medium and Fukrey Returns, is now focused on working towards helping disadvantaged children and creating awareness about mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sanjana has joined hands with Save The Children to support COVID-impacted children and families belonging to the vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in remote parts of India. Through their Protect A Million mission, they aim to reach one million underprivileged children and families across the nation. 

She has also launched ‘Here to Hear, an initiative to provide mental health support amidst the pandemic. 

She tells HerStory, “There was never a rule book handed to any of us, on how to cope with a catastrophic pandemic like this one. In the absence of that rule book, amidst such a grave crisis riddled with loss of life and uncertainty, we can easily find ourselves consumed with worrying thoughts, fears, anxieties, and confusion. De-stigmatising seeking the support of mental health experts and emphasising the importance of doing so is extremely crucial to tackle these tough circumstances.”

Academics to acting 

Doing humanitarian work isn’t new for the actor. Sanjana says she started working, especially with children, during her college days. 

“I am from Delhi, and come from a typical middle-class family. Academics was always an important aspect of my life. But apart from that I regularly took part in debates and other extra-curricular activities. Social work has also been a large part of my life," the 24-year old actor says. 

Her acting journey started as a 13-year old in Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, where she played a small part. “I never thought acting was possible. I have been away from that world. But working on a film set made me realise that it was something that came naturally for me. It got me into a lot of performances.” 

But after Rockstar, she focused on her studies and theatre. A graduate of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, Sanjana was a gold medalist at university. She got placed in a company and was set to join, but Dil Bechara happened. 

And there was no looking back. 

Focusing on children’s problems

Dil Bechara Hai did well on OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar, but Sanjana feels this isn’t the best time for someone to pursue acting as a career. 

 “Acting and entertainment isn’t the kind of job you can completely shift virtually. Readings and editing can be done online, but acting needs a lot of interpersonal work and energy. But I have received overwhelming support and love. I have got some really good scripts from people that I look up to during the pandemic.” 

Sanjana has almost finished completed filming her next movie, Kapil Verma's action drama Om: The Battle Within as Aditya Roy Kapur's love interest.

It was while she was shooting and looking at scripts that the second wave of the pandemic hit India. This got Sanjana to double her efforts on the humanitarian and social work side. 

“I have been part of the National Social Work Scheme where they make it compulsory for second-year college students to do a certain amount of social work. I worked for an NGO Aarohan that worked on education initiatives for underprivileged children. I was a teacher volunteer there. I knew there still is a lot to be done,” Sanjana says. 

She feels there is a need to take proactive steps to solve the various problems that are engulfing cities today. Having worked with children, she could easily relate to the issues and what could be done. “I personally have a mission to help over a million children.”

Sanjana Sanghi

 Spotlighting mental wellbeing

Sanjana explains the pandemic has brought mental health and wellness to the forefront, which is what led her to launch Here to Hear. 

“I personally know people who have been severely impacted by the second wave. There are my friends who don’t have jobs, have lost family members. It is a mentally harrowing time for people,” she says. 

Here to Hear has tied up with top psychologists and Qualified Listeners in partnership with an online counselling platform. This allows people to get access to free sessions with psychologists and therapists. The goal is to “allow more people access to quality mental care in these trying times”. 

Speaking of her biggest takeaway is – the power of collective action – she says, “There is nothing bigger than the power of collective action. When people come together in the way we have in the last two months, we can save hundreds of lives.” 

She adds that she hopes that people continue to be empathetic even after the pandemic, and that there is no “compassion fatigue”. 

“We are incredibly fortunate today with social media that has several initiatives where people can easily volunteer and contribute. It is very accessible. If you have the desire to do something, nothing is stopping you,” Sanjana says. 

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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