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Exclusive! Sarah-Jane Dias on contracting COVID: "I was not sure if I was having panic attacks or heart attack."

Sarah talks about getting infected with COVID-19 and how it affected her mental health during the shoot of Never Kiss Your Best Friend Season 2.

  • Akhila Damodaran

Last Updated: 07.49 AM, Apr 28, 2022

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Exclusive! Sarah-Jane Dias on contracting COVID: "I was not sure if I was having panic attacks or heart attack."
Sarah Jane Dias/Facebook

Popular actor Sarah-Jane Dias joins the cast of Never Kiss Your Best Friend for Season 2. She will be seen in a significant role in the story of Tanie and Sumer, played by Anya Singh and Nakuul Mehta, respectively. But shooting for the renewed season hasn't been easy for the entire cast and crew. The team faced several challenges due to harsh cold weather, actors getting infected with COVID-19 and many members not getting visas to London for the shoot. Sarah says it was a 'relief' to see how well the trailer of the rom-com has come out and says 'it was all worth it'.

In a candid chat with OTTplay, the Femina Miss India 2007 winner, musician, VJ and host spoke about her experience working on the show, dancing with the team in the middle of streets to Hrithik Roshan's 'Ek Pal Ka Jeena' song and preparing to get back on the sets after a month-long recovery from COVID-19. Excerpts:

How do you feel to be a part of Never Kiss Your Best Friend 2?

Honestly, it was amazing. I was very happy to be a part of it. I'm a big Nakuul fan. I read the script, and I realised that I hadn't done a rom-com in a really long time. So I thought it would be a nice change of things for me. I was really excited to be a part of it. The shoot was happening in London, and I love London. So I was happy.

So, you had already watched the first part of the series before it was offered to you?

No, I hadn't. I watched it after it was offered to me.

What were your first thoughts about the show?

I loved it. I thought it was very smartly written. It was super funny and really romantic and just simple. So I liked it. It was easy. It was easy to watch, you know, after all the thrillers and mystery, crime shows that are coming out now. You just want to watch something at the end of a long day, that's gonna make you feel good and feel happy and not like, stress you out more. That's what I like about season one and I think season two is going to be like that too.

The trailer is out. And it's getting really good responses. The series will be out on April 29 and as it's nearing its release, how do you feel?

So much has happened on the show, in terms of delays and difficulties. Even though there's been a lot of joy and a lot of happiness while shooting, it was still really challenging. Anya got COVID and I got COVID. When we came back to Mumbai, Nakuul got COVID. It was difficult for us. When we were shooting in London, the COVID cases went up. So there were lots of restrictions. And all of these things obviously affect your general morale and vibes. I think by the time we got done with the shoot, we were just so exhausted from everything else that had happened. And when we saw the trailer, we were suddenly relieved and joyous again. Watching the trailer and the music video, we were reminded of how much fun we had on the shoot. It just made it feel like we've done this right. We were all a bit worried in between because there was just so much going on outside shoot, that was out of our control. But when I saw the trailer, I was like, 'wow, it's so worth it'.

Could you also tell us a bit about your character and how does your character contribute to Tanie and Sumer's story?

So my character Lavanya is the boss of the company that Sumer and Tanie work for. And I contribute to the love quadrangle in a way and I also contribute to the storyline because, without Lavanya, there would be no show that needed to get made that brought Anya and Sumer together. So it's quite crucial. And then what happens to the relationship between Tanie and Lavanya, Sumer and Lavanya, the relationship between Sumer and Lavanya, these are all really interesting angles that all contribute to the plotline in a very interesting way. It's woven together really well. I really enjoyed playing her because you see two different sides of her completely. You see the side of her at work and then suddenly, when she starts to crush on Sumer, you see a completely different side of her. And I really enjoyed playing that.

And you earlier mentioned that you are a big fan of Nakuul. So how was it like working with him? And with whatever we've seen in the trailer, I must say the chemistry between the two of you is also looking amazing.

It's funny because like off-screen, we're good friends. And then the minute they say action, we suddenly look like lovers. It was really weird because we hadn't really worked on it. We did a little bit of workshop. We didn't do much. So, it's not like we worked consciously on that chemistry. It just happened and it's weird because off-screen, it's not like I have a crush on Nakuul something like that. I mean, he's a beautiful-looking man. But I'm attracted to him in that sense. I admire him. Somehow on screen, it just worked and I could feel it working. It was just amazing.

He said in an earlier interview that you were the 'sane voice' on the set who follows discipline when it comes to eating healthy food and everything and Anya is totally the opposite. It seemed like you had a really great experience. Could you share some fond memories from your shoot with the team?

One of my fondest memories is I think from one of the earlier shoot schedules. We wrapped up the shoot one day and went to one of the local restaurants and had the most amazing time. We were in such high spirits that we all got into a cab - Anya, Nikuul, Karan and I and we were in central London, coming back to our hotel, which is about an hour away. For one whole hour, Anya was DJing the most amazing Punjabi music and the Uber driver just let us do this. He just let us play the music really loud and we were singing and dancing and acting like we were in a disco. It was like a scene out of a movie. When we reached the hotel, we threw the cab doors open and we came out dancing. The cab driver put his headlights on and someone was dancing in front of the headlights and doing all these steps from Hrithik Roshan's Ek Pal Ka Jeena song. It was the most fun. I woke up so happy the next day because it was just such an amazing night.

As you were mentioning earlier there were lots of challenges, of course with the weather and COVID as well. You also got infected with COVID. Was that the during the shoot or before or after?

It was in between the shoot. As we contracted COVID, we had to stop shooting.

When you do get infected with COVID, it drains out every ounce of energy in your body and affects you both physically and mentally. So how did you prepare yourself to get back on the sets?

Unfortunately, it took me a month to recover from COVID. I tested negative six days after my infection. But it took me a month to recover because it actually caused me to have panic attacks. At one point, I was actually in the hospital because I didn't know if I was having heart attacks, or panic attacks. So we really didn't know what was going on. It was quite bad and because my panic attacks were happening in the night, I did not sleep for nine nights properly in a row. It sent my entire body for a toss. So it really took me a month from the time I got infected until I was finally mentally stable enough to get back to work again. In order to prepare to get back to work again, I just did the usual thing that I do - healthy sleep, routine, sleep hygiene, healthy diet, working out, eating on time, meditating, yoga, and all those kinds of things. I am just fortunate that I do not have long-term post COVID symptoms.

Your bio on your website reads: "I can be anything you need me to be but I forgot to be me". Seems like you have had quite a journey so far, from your modelling to anchoring and now acting days.

It's interesting that you saw that. You just brought a big smile to my face. So that line is actually a quote from my song that I wrote, produced and directed for a music video. It's from a song that I wrote called 'Forgot to be me', which was the first and only single that I've ever released about six years ago. And it is exactly like what it says, 'I can be anything you want me to be, but I forgot to be me'. It's talking about a relationship that I was in, where, as a lot of us do, I too basically just forgot who I was, and I became who I thought that person needed me to be. I think it's a very common thing that happens to a lot of people. The song got a lot of really good feedback and a lot of people resonated with the lyrics. In life, in general, I think it's very important to constantly do things that remind you of who you are, no matter where you are in the world, what you're doing, what your job is, especially for actors, no matter what role you're playing. It's very important to keep doing things that remind you of who you are. The scariest thing in the world for me is to give to your job or give to your family or your spouse or partner or children, at the cost of yourself. It should never be like that. I'm not saying don't make sacrifices. But it's very important to stay true to yourself.

You have done quite a few films and you're now doing more of OTT. So how has that transition been like from big screen to small screen and do you see any difference? When it comes to the OTT series, many artists also say that it gives you more time to explore your character as well.

Hundred per cent. Also, I don't see it as a small screen. One of my really close friends has like a 90-inch TV. It's not small at all. Who is going to the cinema anymore unless it's for watching a sci-fi movie or something? COVID has changed everything. So if I am watching a romantic-comedy, I want to be at home on a couch with my quilt and some popcorn. I don't know if I want to be in a cinema hall with AC and cold and 100 other people. That's another reason why I think that Never Kiss Your Best Friend is gonna be so good. It's something that you can cozy up in bed, light a candle, watch on your phone, and go to sleep with like feel-good vibes. It's amazing. That's why I love the show. It makes me smile.

But yes, to answer your question, I don't look at it as a big screen and a small screen. I think, with no disrespect to you, it's a very dated concept. I think we now consume various content on different kinds of screens. And mostly those screens are digital. They're not cinema screens anymore. So I think that it is obvious for anybody who is still in my profession to start doing OTT. And if you didn't, then I feel you get left behind. This is my personal opinion.

Any other upcoming projects that you're working on?

I have done a very exciting Netflix project, which I, unfortunately, can't tell you about. But it's a really big project and I'm really excited. I can't wait for it to come out. I can't even tell you who's producing or directing or anything because if I tell you that, then you will guess which project it is. So just it's a Netflix project, but I'm very excited.

Is it a film or a series?

It's a series. It's also in the romance space. It has drama and romance. I can hear you thinking, so I'm not going to give you any more clues (laughs).

Never Kiss Your Best Friend Season 2 will be out on ZEE5 on April 29, 2022. Apart from Sarah-Jane Dias, Anya Singh and Nakuul Mehta, it also stars Karan Wahi, Jaaved Jaffri, and Nikki Walia, among others.

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