Sayani Gupta, an outsider enters Bollywood with an unconventional film MARGARITA WITH A STRAW and leaves everybody awestruck with her performance. She later earns her acting stripes with films like FAN and JOLLY LLB 2. Unlike other stars that might become famous thanks to their pedigree of famous family, Sayani proved that it’s not difficult to get noticed if you are actually talented. While she has proved her acting mettle, but the pretty doe-eyed beauty is also a no-nonsense person who knows her mind and craft very well.
In an exclusive conversation the FTII graduate who will be next seen as 14-year-old in JAGGA JASOOS gets candid like never before as she talks about her passion for performing arts, nepotism in Bollywood and why she doesn’t have time for things that have no soul.
Here are the excerpts:
Congratulations for Jolly LLB 2. Tell us about the best feedback that you received for your role?
The response has been really good. The character I played in Jolly LLB 2 was very special. Honestly, I was very nervous about my part in the film, but whoever has seen the film told me that it has moved them to tears. After watching the film Arshad Warsi posted about my character “I still can’t get you out of my mind.” I am happy that I could play the part as honestly as possible and that’s what I am happy about.
How was the experience of playing a teenager in JAGGA JASOOS?
It has been a wild experience but it’s very nice also the way Anurag Basu directs there is not much of homework to do, it’s very spontaneous. It was tough for an actor like me, who like researching and follow a kind of method. But in this film I got to explore a new kind of method like what would you do when you have few seconds to show what you got. Basu is a quite a genius director and I just followed his instructions. Even the costumes helped me in playing my part. Even as a person I am not very complex, am still childlike so it was very normal. I really had fun doing this film and totally enjoyed it.
So far you have worked with all big stars like Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, and now Ranbir. Was it a deliberate choice or mere coincidence?
Well, except for JOLLY everything that I got was through auditions. When I was auditioning for FAN I didn’t really know Shah Rukh Khan is going to be there in it. I only got to know about it once I got selected and I was over the moon. I was apprehensive about JOLLY but director Subhash convinced me about it. I would do a film only when I genuinely want to tell that story, feel excited about the character or interested in working with the director. So who is my co-star that doesn’t really matter to me. Actually if the director thinks that I am fit for the part I would take up the project and not on the basis of who is my co-star.
How was it working with Ranbir Kapoor?
When I got a call for JAGGA JASOOS I was in Kolkata with my mom and cousins and was literally jumping when I got to know that I would be working with Ranbir in this film because I am huge fan of his acting. He is an incredible performer. It’s a great joy when you work with an actor like him.
Tell us about your days in FTII? What all you studied there?
I specialized in Acting. It was very difficult to convince my mother and I tried my best but she wasn’t convinced at all. I just went ahead and took admission and decided for myself to do it, because I was pretty sure that I wanted to study films. So FTII was the only legitimate way as I didn’t know anyone in Mumbai or have a connection with the film industry whatsoever. I wanted to know if I am cut out for acting and FTII provided me with the right kind of exposure and this decision was the best decision of my life. I was always in performing arts, like dance, theatre, so it was always there and FTII gave me the best platform to hone my skills. I am super lucky that I went there at right time. It gave me space to grow; to form an opinion. FTII was an incredible experience of my life.
'Would like to imbibe from Salman being unabashedly himself'
5 qualities that make you have an edge over others?
I don’t think I have any edge over others (laughs) everyone has their own unique qualities, weakness and strength and it’s really not a competition. I only aspire to become better than what I have been yesterday and evolve. I can tell you about my weakness that I get bored very fast and my strength is that I don’t take myself seriously at all. I am very ambitious but I am not in a hurry. I am very level headed. I believe that whatever is meant for you it will come to you at the right time.
The best part about being in this profession?
One you get to travel for free, you get to play different parts and get camouflaged in different individual every time. Everything that you feel, there is a place to relieve it and actually use it for your craft. It’s also quite schizophrenic as sometimes when I am crying in real life I quickly go to the mirror and see how my face is contorting. I think like this is how I look when I am crying or even when I am happy (laughs). So it’s like constantly observing yourself. My brain functions as an actor so that makes my acting as normal as possible. In this field you also get to work with talented people and its very enriching. It’s not like a regular job that you have to go to one office every day. You get to go on different sets every time so it’s fun and exciting.
One film which inspired you to become an actor?
I always wanted to be an actor. I remember when I was 4-5 years old I would sit on my chair and imagine my speeches for awards. I know that’s bizarre (laughs). I grew up around films but not Bollywood at all. I grew on Bengali and World Cinema, Theatre and Music as my dad was a musician and a theatre actor. So I always wanted to be in performing arts. But still I would say that Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit inspired me a lot.
Your dream role?
I definitely want to work with director Wong Kar Wai. I want to be one of the greatest actress of my time that is the only dream I have, and hopefully that will happen someday.
According to you what is more important in a film? It’s director, script or the actor?
The script and the director because lot of time a script may not read great but a touch of a specific director can make it amazing. So both is important.
One thing that you would like to imbibe from each of the three Khans (Aamir, Salman, Shah Rukh Khan)
From Aamir -he has an incredible sense of how to make a script work. From Salman - being yourself there is no dikhawa, he is unabashedly himself I think that is quite cool. And from SRK- I think everything from his humility to his intense capability of hard work, and his sense of humour.
One actress with whom you would like to swap your life with?
No one. I am very happy as Sayani.
Do you feel that films have the potential to bring in social change?
Absolutely in a country like India where people from every walk of life know about films and watches all kind of cinema, films are very potent tool and can definitely bring about a change or start a dialogue about anything important.
'Human beings are nepotistic in nature'
Do you think nepotism is prevalent in Bollywood?
Yeah definitely. Human beings are nepotistic in nature. It is absolutely true in Bollywood. Everyone wants to work with people they are familiar with. It’s not true that you can make it in Bollywood only when you have a God Father it’s just that it takes more time. It’s true that even if you are extremely talented actor you might have to wait for many years like Nawaz to get your due or talent to get noticed. But still it’s not like actors like these get offered all the best roles. But at least there is enough work for everyone now and I am not that kind of person who sits and brood about what is wrong with the world. I believe in taking charge of things for myself and making things work for me. I have always lived my life like that.
If not an actor then what you would have been?
May be a dancer or a director or may be a cinematographer.
One thing that you will refrain from doing onscreen?
Sell fairness products, or sell aerated drinks or something which is misogynistic, unkind or derogatory to anybody. I wouldn’t do something that is politically incorrect.
How much comfortable you are doing bold scenes or lip-locks on screen?
I am an actor so I will do everything in my capability to make my character convincing or if it is the need of the film. I wouldn’t sign up for anything that I am uncomfortable with.
Any Bollywood director that you feel can give tough competition to his Hollywood counterparts?
Well, everyone has their own way of storytelling and I don’t believe in competition as such but still if I have to take one name then it would be Chaitanya Tamhane who made the incredible film COURT. He can certainly make a world class film.
From the current lot of actors which actor inspires you the most?
A lot of people inspire you at different point of time. Actually it’s not the individual that inspires you it’s their body of work that inspires you. Shah Rukh Khan inspires me a lot for the kind of self-made star he is.