Film still of Arranged Marriage, courtesy of Formula Features.
Montreal-raised Megha Sandhu starred in her first film, Arranged Marriage (2022). It’s a dark satire with elements of thriller and horror about a South Asian girl ambushed by her parents with an arranged marriage while secretly hiding a white boyfriend. The actress, who has also worked on the television series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, spoke to Elixuer about how she first caught the performance bug and about the value of South Asian representation.
How did you get started as an actress? Was it something you’d always wanted to do?
It was always something I wanted to do. Ever since I was a child, really. My grandma used to visit us from India, and every time she’d come visit us, I would perform for her non-stop. I always felt this need to express myself in an artistic way. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I participated in my school drama club [and played Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird] where I realized that this was something I really enjoyed. But I grew up in a South Asian household where education was — and still is — of paramount importance.
My parents wanted me to go into medical school, become a doctor, follow in my mother’s footsteps. Similar to [my character] Kami’s story, there’s this constant tension to please my parents, but then to also do what I want to do. After [completing] my bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience, I handed it to my parents, and I was like, “Okay, I want to pursue [acting] full time.”
Can you elaborate more on what drew you to this specific project, Arranged Marriage?
I had never really read a script like that before. Now, more and more South Asian stories are being told — and thank God for that — but up until [now], there’s always been either a feel-good ethnic or cautionary ethnic where it paints South Asians as the “evil people.” I’d never really come across a script like this before where it was so truthful, yet also so funny. In speaking with Anoop [Rangi], my director, I slowly began to understand it’s neither of those genres. It’s his own unique perception, and that was the initial thing when I read the script.
But then, [there was] also my relatability to Kami’s character. Although I’ve never been through arranged marriage myself, I do know a lot of other South Asian women [for whom] that is their reality. For me, it was this constant tension that drew me to Kami because, in my personal life, I’m dealing with this [question of] should I respect my parents’ wishes and pursue the academic route? Or should I actually do what makes me happy, which is acting?
How was the experience of starring in your first movie?
Oh, my God! It was so much fun. It’s interesting. I think when an actor begins their journey, there’s less pressure because you’ve spent less time in the industry and there’s no “Oh, I need to please them and do all this” and press and agents and media and all these things. You’re fresh. You’re ready to go.
It was such a blessing to work on a film like this, with such great people, and tell a South Asian story from such a unique perspective. For me, it was loads of fun. I never was once thinking about, “Oh, how are people going to perceive this?” I was so invested in Kami’s character and her journey.
You mentioned you have a bachelor’s degree in behavioural neuroscience. Do you find that part of education informs your acting process in any way?
It’s interesting I get this question a lot. Yes and no. The arts are such a complete domain in itself. I really do respect actors and artists for the simple reason that it is a field. It is something that should be studied and respected. I can’t say that I just walked into this, and it’s so easy because it is a field in itself that deserves respect for the amount of commitment and hard work that actors and artists put into it.
But my background was very rigorous, so I think the work ethic that I acquired in my bachelor’s degree definitely helped. People have this perception sometimes that acting is easy or that you just walk in, and it’s very glamorous, but it’s actually very hard work. And so, I think that helped.
And, for sure, I studied human behavior, so acting is quite similar in that sense. I think the best actors often understand themselves and understand other human beings and why people do the things that they do. What are our motivations? But I’m not perfect. I’m still learning about myself, constantly, and about the world around me. But, yeah, I think it ultimately did help.
What are you looking forward to next?
Honestly, just working and putting in as much of my time that I can into roles that I get. This industry is very unpredictable at times. I’m quite fortunate in that sense to be working right now. What’s the statistic? I think like 3% of all actors are working at one point in time, so it’s very rare to be working, and I’m just grateful for that. So, looking to continue to expand my art and continue to learn, and then also to grow and meet new people on the different projects that will be taking place for me. I can’t say what they are, but it’s an exciting time.
I have to mention it’s an exciting time, particularly, for South Asian artists because now there’s a trend that’s occurring, and we’re getting to represent our stories on TV and film. That’s what I’m most excited for: to tell our stories in the most authentic way possible, and to be a role model for other brown women because I, growing up, did not have that, and I know how important it is.
Rose Ho | Assistant Editor