The fighter in Sapna fights in ‘Jatinga’ for women’s rights

By Neeru Saluja

Celebrity hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani is known to be bold, outspoken and unconventional. You may know her as MS Dhoni’s stylist, the fiery Big Boss contestant who confronted Salman Khan or an inked woman. But she has come to Sydney all the way from Mumbai to show her other side to us ”“ as an actor and a feminist who is fighting for women’s rights.

Sapna is currently in Sydney for the world premiere of the play ”˜Jatinga’ presented by Bakehouse, commissioned by award winning playwright Purva Naresh and directed by Suzanne Millar. With an aim to raise awareness of the issues of human trafficking, Jatinga is being shown at KXT ”“ King Cross Theatre from 9 till 24 June 2017.

We caught up with Sapna to know what keeps her constantly evolving and how she expresses herself through theatre, be it her award winning play ”˜Nirbhaya’ or ”˜Jatinga’.

Jatinga is a story from the slums brought to Sydney. We would love to hear about how you got involved with this play, as the writer and actor.

Back home in Mumbai I have set up a free hair academy for girls so they can learn a new skill to empower themselves in order to start life afresh. We called this ”˜Patshaala’ and the best hairdressers from Mumbai come together to train these girls, making this the best school of India. Working with these women and as a co-founder of ”˜Stop Acid Attacks campaign,’ I have been fighting for their rights. As I have been fighting these social issues for women, making this play made sense.

Two and half years ago, when director Suzanne conducted a workshop and asked all of us to sketch a character from a village scene that we can relate to, I chose an elderly woman as we all grew up with an elderly women in our life. Suzanne liked it so much that she chose the role and me! I had the honour of writing myself. I have been living with this old lady for a while.

Sapna you are a celebrity hair stylist, a social activist, an actress, a writer and much more. Are these all different dimensions of your personality or is this what defines you?

I believe the minute you put yourself in the sentence ”˜I am’ and fill in the blanks, you limit yourself. When you are actually nothing and don’t fill in the blank, you are open to possibilities of doing anything. I don’t believe in defining yourself as it then opens a person to many different avenues. Above all, I am not doing those things for money. This gives me the freedom to do what I want to do. With my hair academy, I have given wings to other stylists.

You are known to be hair stylist for actors John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra, Hrithik Roshan but you are particularly known as the stylist for cricketer MS Dhoni. Tell us something really interesting when you met for the first time?

Dhoni (Mahi) is my favourite and most inspirational celebrity and we both have been on this journey for the past eleven years. I remember the first day when I went to meet him at Taj Colaba – I was shocked to see his nasty orange hair! I was waiting in the lobby and he came down and there was a five minutes silence. He had never seen a girl so inked and I had never seen that orange hair, my first thought was I need to change this orange hair! He was silent when we met for the first time to confront this person who he would never relate to. When we met for the second time I was playing Kishore Kumar and he confessed that he judged me. I was playing his favourite singer and since then he talks non-stop to me for the past 11 years!

I have never shown him a mirror and he has never asked for one. Looks mean nothing for him. He is such a handsome man, but he is all about talent, which he believes in showing on the field. I work on the entire cricket team but have never experienced anyone like him. Bollywood you forget that will ever happen, and that’s why I enjoy working with such an inspirational person.

You were also part of reality TV show Big Boss 3 . What kind of challenges did you face and your controversy with Salman Khan?

It’s definitely not easy experiencing Big Boss because you are trapped in a house. I can go without television and internet. The challenge was to live with different kind of people in that house. I had to act normally, but for others it was an acting job. A lot of people put on a character, and that’s where the problem comes. I had no problems, except for the host (Salman Khan) who was a male chauvinist, me being a feminist!

You have always been outspoken and ahead of times! There would be many women out there who admire this quality of yours.

My grandmother was like that. I come from a family who always speak their mind. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. With the rise of social media, your voice is carried far. You can also bring about a change, with people paying attention to what you say.

And your play ”˜Jatinga’ is an extension of your belief?

I feel this play is very dear to me as the subject is close to my heart. It’s bringing a little flavour of India to Australia. The audience will be transported to a magical land called Mumbai, which will be boisterous, funny and loud. The play will be in English and when I get back home it will be in Hindi.

For more details on the play, go to



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