There is just something about Banita Sandhu that makes it difficult to peel your eyes away when she’s on screen. Born to second generation British-Indian parents, acting was on the agenda since age 11. Self admittedly, Sandhu is a goal setter. Her debut, Shoojit Sarcar’s Hindi film October (2018), released even before she graduated. Most recently, her portrayal of a mute Punjabi girl in Sardar Udham (2020) won several hearts, making it clear that she is after strongly written, narrative driven roles.
You get the sense that the 25-year-old uses her platform as a means of self expression—picking roles that drive conversation, being vocal about her mental health issues and sharing precious moments from her life with fans. One look at Sandhu’s Instagram and you can tell that she is an aesthete with a keen sense of style.
What’s next in the pipeline for the young actor? A leading role playing Kavita Mukherjee in Kavita & Teresa, with all of the film’s profits going to charity. On a rare, sunny afternoon in London, we sat down with Sandhu to talk about, well, everything.
Her childhood… I grew up in a small town called Caerleon in Wales with my family. Growing up in the countryside, my memories were very pastoral—like William Blake’s wet dream really! *chuckles*remember playing outside [with my friends] all the time, not having any phones and just living in the moment. There was no better place to grow up, honestly.
Her love for London… It’s home, my family and friends are here. It is such a multicultural city! Having grown up in Wales, when I finally came to London I made so many Indian friends which really helped me embrace my culture and be proud of my roots.
Her passion… I was obsessed with watching movies and TV when I was a kid. My dad would tell me off for being a couch potato. He once said, “How are you going to make a career for yourself if you just sit around watching films?” As a feisty 11 year old I turned around and told him, “I’m going to become an actress and show you!” After that I sat my parents down and told them I wanted to be an actress. Luckily they took me seriously, found me an agent and I’ve been working ever since!
I moved to London at 18 years old for university. That was the deal with my parents: “Be an actress, do whatever you like, but you have to get a degree first.” So, I went to King’s College, London, got my degree and my first film [October] released before I graduated.
Her source of happiness… I’m most happy when I’m on set. It’s where I feel I’m thriving, I’m blessed to do what I love for a living.
Mental health… One purpose in my life that I never asked for but am grateful I went through it, is my mental health journey. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18. I didn’t really understand it and that I had an illness. It took three grueling and tough years to recover but what I learned about myself and the purpose it has given me in day to day life is one of the best things that could have happened to me in hindsight.
Natural diamond jewellery… Obviously natural diamonds are a great investment financially! Besides that, diamond jewellery holds a lot of sentimental value for me. Every piece I own reminds me of my childhood, family [or another special moment in time]. I was raised to understand that if you want something you have to work for it. Every expensive diamond piece I own now, I have bought myself—it reminds me of how driven I am and where I want to go in life.
The diamond rings she’s wearing… I had to steal these from my mum! *hearty chuckle* I’m away from home a lot with work, travelling and life in general. Having a few pieces of her jewellery on me reminds me of home and that she’s always close to me.
Her most memorable jewellery purchase… One big goal in my career is that I wanted to sign an American TV show. I managed it within a year of setting that goal for myself. I was really proud and so, celebrated by getting myself a pair of Chanel natural diamond earrings.
Her iconic ‘B’ diamond pendant… My entire family has these initial necklaces—my masi, my mum and my sister. We never wear them together [of course], I definitely wear mine more than my sister. It’s a beautiful reminder of how close knit our family is.
Her favourite jewellery brands… I love to work with brands that champion women from different backgrounds. Bvlgari is one that does this. I was blessed to be part of a campaign for them last year, alongside huge contemporaries—quite a career milestone for me.
How she styles her diamonds… Jewellery can make or break a look. Striking a balance while accessorising and picking the right pieces can really tie a look together perfectly. For example, I was going to an event recently—the dress I had on was pretty simple but I paired it with Bvlgari’s Serpenti necklace and it just felt complete.
Dream holiday destination I’m dying to tour South America!
Top 3 films of all time Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Pinjar and The Godfather
Three things I can’t live without My phone, AirPods and lip balm
Go-to outfit I love a fun blazer! It’s so easy to dress up and down.
Three artists on top of my playlist Lana Del Rey, ZHU, Frank Ocean
Dream diamond jewellery purchase I love the entire Bulgari diamond Serpenti collection!
Next on my bucket list I want to star in an action movie!
Favourite food Chocolate coated strawberries.
My understanding of luxury is… The freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want.
One thing people don’t know about me I was Head Girl in school!
What makes me smile, always? Memes!
The best thing about what I do The escapism of being on set, in our own little bubble, away from the rest of the world.
I pride myself most on… Learning and growing from my failures.
My biggest pet peeve Bad table manners.
If I weren’t an actor I would be… A painter, on a tropical island away from the rest of humanity.
My last text was… Asking my friend if he had landed!
My craziest adventure was… Going to India for the first time, alone, when I was 18 years old.
My secret celebrity crush is… Maluma
My favourite thing about diamonds is… They go with everything!
Natural diamond jewellery makes me feel… Glamorous!
Favourite destination in India Manali holds a really special place in my heart.
One thing I love most about my Indian heritage The strong feeling of family and community.
Team Credits Photographer and videographer: Roy Brandys | Stylist: Divya Gursahani | Hair & make-up: Larisa Moldovan | Production: By The Gram | On-ground production: Sandr