When Diana Penty’s Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran released in cinema halls across the country, she was not only recognised for a role far from her usual glamorous avatar, but also for showcasing how important women are in the Indian Army. Thus, when the time came to execute our first celebrity cover, in this India special issue, we knew she’d be the perfect fit. In a candid conversation, she discusses how travel sets her free—whether she is shopping in NYC, jumping off a plane in Cape Town, or pursuing her passion for photography.

 

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done on a trip?
Jumped off a plane! I was shooting for Cocktail in Cape Town and decided that if I were to skydive, this would be the city. To me, Cape Town is one of the most picturesque cities in the world, and what better way to view it than from above? It was surreal.

One place that has been on your bucket list for a while now?
It’s my dream to visit Norway someday. From what I’ve heard, it is the most beautiful place on Earth. From dramatic mountains and beautiful glaciers, to the deep coastal fjords, I feel like I have a connection with the place without even having been there. Also, Norway is a good place to experience the Northern Lights—another one of my dreams.

If you could leave everything behind and settle down in one of your shoot locations, where would it be?
I love New York City. What a place! The vibe is unparalleled. I worked and lived there for about a year, but it felt like I had lived there all my life. New York has a way of making you feel like you belong.

Describe to us what Pokhran looks like outside the cinematic landscape of Parmanu?
Pokhran is a small city in Jaisalmer, located in the Thar Desert. It is dry, arid, and severe. We shot and stayed in the Pokhran Fort, which is at a short distance from the city. Needless to say, the fort was spectacular.

What were the challenges of shooting in Pokhran? 
The heat to begin with. We had to shoot in 45 degree Celsius and above. It’s not
easy being in costume, under lights, doing retakes in conditions like that. Also, sandstorms are very common in Rajasthan. Almost every afternoon, we were hit by a sandstorm and had to abort shoot for a couple of hours until the dust settled. It was quite an experience, and every bit worth the effort. But what I really took away from the shoot in Pokhran was the realisation that back in 1998, our soldiers worked in these same harsh conditions day in and day out, without any of the comforts that we enjoyed. I cannot explain the amount of respect and gratitude I feel towards them.

Who is your favourite travel companion?
My camera! I’m not professionally trained, but I love experimenting with my DSLR in the manual mode. Travel has always inspired me, and that’s one of the reasons I bought a camera. Dramatic landscapes, beautiful faces, wildlife in its natural habitat—I want to capture it all. And it has become a passion. I keep thinking that if I weren’t an actor, I would probably be a travel photographer.

Your favourite shopping destinations in the world?
The boutiques in Soho, NYC; Carnaby Street and Covent Garden in London; and Bondi Road in Sydney are my favourites. I love walking through quaint little neighbourhoods and shopping at independent boutiques, where I find some of the most unique clothing and accessories that I know no one else will have.

What would you say to young people about travelling in India?
India is probably the most diverse country in the world: geographically, culturally, and linguistically. It’s like a mini world within itself, with so much to see and experience… why look beyond?

Watch the Q&A we did with her at the location: