Who is Banita Sandhu, AP Dhillon’s rumoured girlfriend who debuted with October | Bollywood


You are not alone if you wondered who is the mystery girl Banita Sandhu featuring in Canadian singer-rapper AP Dhillon’s latest music video With You. The speculation about their relationship were fueled after the video showed affectionate and endearing moments between the two, spending their vacation together. (Also read: AP Dhillon and rumoured GF Banita Sandhu arrive together for his docu premiere, fans hope ‘they’re really dating’)

Banita Sandhu debuted in Bollywood with Shoojit Sircar's October in 2018.
Banita Sandhu debuted in Bollywood with Shoojit Sircar’s October in 2018.

The October girl

Yet, look closer and one might remember her as the girl from Shoojit Sircar’s October. The director revealed how he first chanced upon Banita through a Vodafone ad. Shoojit then casted her in a four-minute Wrigley’s advert, which received over 40 million views. That was just the beginning of the journey, as Banita ended up bagging the lead role opposite Varun Dhawan. The director behind films like Vicky Donor and Piku admitted in an interview to Filmfare, “Everyone was in awe of Banita after the gum commercial that I directed. While shooting for the ad film, I clicked a picture of Banita and sent it to Juhi Chaturvedi (writer) saying ‘She has the potential to fit into the character that we are creating’.” When she received the offer for October, she was still studying at King’s College London.

On Bollywood

Ask her about Bollywood and she said how her understanding of the industry changed. “My connection with Bollywood when I was a child was through my mom. She is an avid Bollywood fan and that’s why my idea of Bollywood is her generation that includes Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and it never went on to Alia Bhatt. When it was told to me that Varun is part of the film, I actually did not know who he was and this in a way worked in my favour as I was not affected by his star power,” she said in an interview to Firstpost.

On connecting to India

The shoot for October required her to learn Hindi, and the actor recollects her experience of coming to Delhi. Banita was born and raised in Caerleon, Wales in a first-generation British-Indian household. In an interview with BBC, Banita noted how the shoot helped her reconnect with her roots. “We filmed for 37 days in Delhi and I learnt so much – not just about acting, but also my heritage. My grandparents came to Britain from the Punjab, northern India, shortly after World War Two. Both my parents were born here and my sister and I were raised in a middle-class existence in Caerleon.” she said.

In October, Banita played a Hotel Management Trainee who meets a horrible accident. It was not the mainstream, dance-and-song heavy role at all- and for most part of the critically acclaimed film, Banita’s Shiuli Iyer remains chained to one hospital bed. It was her eyes, and the essence of her caring screen presence that stayed with audiences. Her performance ultimately led her to a Best Female Debut nomination at the Filmfare Awards in 2019.

On Sardar Udham

Post October, Shoojit went to cast Banita again, opposite Vicky Kaushal in the 2021 film Sardar Udham. But this time, with a different challenge altogther. Her Reshma was deaf and mute, which meant Banita had to learn sign language and emote without any dialogue at all. Speaking to The Telegraph T2 about the experience, she said, “I had a great teacher named Neelam, who works in a special school for the deaf and mute in Pingalwara (in Punjab). I would visit that school every day and observe the kids there, either in class or have conversations with them. Some of them came to the shoot and got to meet Vicky and Shoojit sir and know what a film set looks like.” She followed this with a starring in Mother Teresa & Me, that was inspired by the life of Mother Teresa.

Covid controversy

Yet, during the pandemic, Banita created controversy with a post where she announced that she despite testing positive for COVID-19, she had refused treatment. An official had told PTI that Banita refused to to be treated in a government facility as “she felt the medical establishment lacked infrastructure”. In a clarification statement, she said, “I appreciate all the well wishes and concern; however, in spite of what has been published, I am grateful to say I continue to test negative for coronavirus. To clarify some of the misinformation: I flew to Kolkata on the 3rd of January to finish filming Kavita & Teresa. I had two negative COVID-19 PCR tests before leaving. I tested again on arrival and stayed in isolation at the CNCI hospital overnight until my results returned the next day, one a false positive and the other negative.”

Speaking about her career, Banita has told Hindustan Times, “I’ve always learnt on the job. Whether it be technical, like finding your light and hitting your mark, or creative, such as how to ground yourself and be present in a scene amidst the chaos of a set. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning as long as I’m working.” Banita will be next seen in the Hindi film Detective Sherdil, which is currently in post-production.


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