Her last film, the critically acclaimed Article 15, portrayed her in a role like none other. Actor Sayani Gupta never lost focus of what she wants and such roles gave her strength to take charge of her profession, she concurs. She is a multi-talented, confident and her acting is instinctive! She impressed the audience by playing diverse characters like Champa in Parched, Hina Siddiqui in Joly LLB 2, Damini in Four More Shots Please! and Gaura in Article 15. Here in this interview with TLJ, Sayani was completely in her element. She talked about her future projects- Posham Pa, Four More Shots Season 2 and much more. Her journey is nothing short of a fairytale, albeit without a knight in the shining armor. Well, this Cinderella needs no rescuing!
Who is Sayani Gupta in real life?
I am an instinctive and inquisitive person. I like to keep everything simple. I make extra effort to make small decisions in life like what to eat from the menu. But for the bigger decisions in my life, I listen to my gut. I take most of my decisions very instinctively. Also, I have not planned things at all. I like to surround myself with people who are positive. And I naturally drift to nature. I believe God’s best creation is nature and man’s best creation is art. Both nature and art make me really happy. I am the kind of person who needs constant stimulation.
2019 was a fantastic year for you with ‘Four more shots’ and ‘Article 15’. Tell us something about the projects? How did you end up getting these roles and what made you choose them?
Thankfully for both of them, I did not have to audition. They wanted to cast me and it was great opportunity. Four more shots came to me earlier for another part which I did not want to do. And, then on January 1st 2018, I got a call from Nandita, the main producer and show runner, she asked me to play Damini’s part. It was my favourite part on the script. I was happy and excited to play Damini. Anubhav Sir has approached me for other film but I didn’t have the dates, so it didn’t work out. This time also I didn’t have dates; I was supposed to do a Bengali film that didn’t happen. He sent me the script and after reading it, I was actually overwhelmed. When I read my character (Gaura’s) part, I felt it was beautifully written. The movie had such a brilliant cast to collaborate with. All the actors were incredible.
What are the sacrifices that go behind the glamour?
You have no personal life left. There is no time left for yourself, your family and friends. I haven’t met my family and friends for a very long time. I don’t get time to chill and relax. I like to work a lot. These are the choices I have made for myself. Sometimes, when you really want to be somewhere like some family celebration and you cannot be there, it makes you sad. On third of this month, it was my niece’s first ceremony ‘Annaprashan’. I would love to go for two hours or so. But I cannot (due to work)! Those kinds of sacrifices go behind. You tend to miss a lot on family time and cannot take holidays too when you wish to.
What would you count as your biggest achievement so far?
I am not the kind of person who would count achievements. I am happy with the fact that I am living an actor’s life. I can go to work every day and be really excited about the kind of work I do. It is such a blessing. The fact that I get to play such diverse roles and work with such amazing actors and directors is a blessing for me. I am playing such dramatically opposite characters. That, in itself, is very fulfilling. I am very happy for whatever is happening in my life.
Would you like to share your process of preparing for the role of a visually impaired girl in the film ‘Margarita with a straw’?
Margarita was a very difficult part to prepare. It is not too much fun to talk about the preparations. Actors do many things and undergo lot of processes. The auditioning was a month long process and I was made to audition a lot! It was a very difficult process. As an actor, I could really explore new possibilities of how to approach that part. I spent a lot of time wearing blindfold. I was doing day to day activities with my blindfold on. I used to do daily chores in it. Then, I started going out with my blindfold on and stick. We also did a two week workshop with Adil Hussian (Indian actor) and Shonali Bose (Indian director and producer). I spent a lot of time with just the script and small details. I went in classes with students who were visually impaired. I learnt braille. That part was fun. I spent a lot of time in blind hostel in Andheri. They were self sufficient and it was incredible to learn from them. I also spent time with a girl in Gurgaon who was a head of HR in IBM and was blind from birth. Her husband was also blind and was working as a CEO in some MNC. So, interacting with these people gave me an insight into their world and universe.
On the lighter side, what are the perks of being in the industry?
You get to travel a lot. You get to explore new places and wear different kind of clothes. The best part is you constantly get to discover new dimensions, which is very challenging.
Do you believe the audience has become more critical over the years?
I believe everybody has an opinion now. Also, they have a place to express their opinion which is social media. But apart from that, I think that is also the platform from where we can know what they are commenting and expecting from us. But I also think audience always had an opinion. Everyone is now very tech savvy and everybody wants to express what they feel.
At the end of the day you know what you are doing and the kind of work you put in. I don’t take everything so seriously though.
Who are the other directors you’d like to work with?
I want to work with every good director in the world. Preferably, in every language too. I want to work in Chinese, Hollywood, Hungarian and Iranian films. I want to be everywhere. When it comes to our country, then definitely Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti. They create incredible stuff together. I want to work with Anurag Basu and Anubhav Sinha again. Also, I want to work with Shoojit Sircar. His story telling is incredible and indistinctive. Vishal Bhardwaj, Meghna Gulzar, Mira Nair are amazing too.
My dream director is Wong- Kar- Wai from Hongkong. I would love to work with him.
What keeps you going as an artiste?
I believe, we actors, are the most blessed. You are working with different kinds of people; you are working in different environment every day. You are travelling to new places and you get to play different characters every single day. There are days when I literally went from one set to another and played three different characters. It is so much fun and an incredible experience. As an artiste, the most exciting part is to explore new ideas and be a medium of expression. Just wait for the magic to happen.
Challenges seem to attract you on screen; does it happen off screen too?
I believe life in itself is very challenging. Living an actor’s life in Bombay is challenging though. Time management is the most challenging thing for me. Because it is very tough with the kind of schedule I have, to manage time and to do different stuff.
A lot of celebrities have begun talking about their anxieties and fears. Have you ever addressed these problems?
Honestly, I get anxious a lot. We work on very stressful situations. And there is lack of time, so everyone is rushing you. Hair and makeup is going on simultaneously. It is high pressure situation under you work and the only thing you can do is constantly calm yourself down. I get very anxious sometimes. When I am playing an emotional character, I stay in that mood. It happens in many professions. So, you need to keep taking breaks and refresh your energy. Take days off, which I have not been able to do. Also what most distresses me, if I can be near nature, art and babies too.
What was your breakthrough moment?
My breakthrough film was Margarita with a Straw because it helped me put on the map. It was a really great film and after this film people associated me with good projects. My role was slightly difficult, so people thought that I am a descent actor. I was quite lucky to get that break.
Who did you turn to for advice during the initial days of career?
No one actually! I like to make my own decisions. I want to go through experiences with my own gut feeling and I like to do things on my own terms. Sometimes I ask Kalki for advice and some more close friends who are with me since my school time. But that is only when I am really confused about something, which is very rare.
How much has your family supported you?
To begin with, my mother does not want me to do acting. But now, she is quite supportive. Also, she is very non-interfering. I am just by myself. I like to keep it that way.
Can you recall an instance where you felt the vacuum the most being in this industry?
Yes, but not in the last two years. In 2017, from February to November, there was a lot of feature film projects coming my way but I did not like any of it. It was very weird and I did not know what was happening. I was like why is nothing working out. I didn’t want to do anything bad, so I took few months off and went away. I did around 17 short films that year. I cried after shooting for ‘Margarita’ because it was after a long time between Parched and Margarita with a straw when I finally got something that I wanted. I am very choosy about the work I do, so you need to be in that time frame where you like script and everything. Initially, what kept me going was theatre because you are constantly challenging yourself, performing on stage and constantly holding onto your craft. But what keeps you going is the self-motivation, the hunger for ‘that moment’. And, when it comes you just need to grab it with both the hands.
Which films did you see recently that made you go, ‘Oh, this is really interesting’?
It never happens like when I see a film and think I should be in it but there are films that I say not to and later think I should have done it. I think ‘Made in Heaven’ was amazing. The kind of projects Zoya Akhtar directs are incredible. Then there are a lot of international films that I love. But, I think you can work with the same director for another good project.
Do you see yourself acting forever or do you have other dreams?
I want to act forever but I also want to direct, produce, bring people together, work internationally too. But acting will always be there.
For your upcoming project with Zee5 ‘Posham Pa’, you underwent many look tests. Would you like to talk about this upcoming thriller and your role in it?
Posham Pa’ is a crime thriller. It is about three women, a mother and her two daughters, who are criminals. It is basically their journey from the childhood to their 30s and what happens to them. It is really exciting to be a part of the film. My character is a schizophrenic serial killer. It is based on real story.
Are you open to love?
I think everyone is open to love. We are human beings, I believe even animals are open to love. Everyone needs to be loved.
Biggest fairytale moment?
Yet to come
Tell us all the New Year resolutions that you’ve broken this year.
I don’t keep resolutions
What is your favourite memory as a child?
There are a lot of moments. My dance classes, moments spent with my Grandparents, Christmas with my Grand uncle.
What do you love most about yourself ?
I am very adaptive and I do not take things seriously. I search for humour in every situation.
Who are the actors you cannot wait to work with?
Shah Rukh Khan
Your makeup routine?
I don’t put makeup when I am not working. I like to be simple. I just use the ointment that my dermatologist suggests. When I am doing makeup, I like to hydrate my skin, put sunscreen and highlighter before I start my makeup. I use simple base and keep it fresh. I am very particular about my eye brows and lining my lip. I do not like to wear makeup, if I do not need to.
Favorite scent ?
Estee Lauder and Bvlgari
Who is on your speed dial?
My manager, my mother and my best friends
Bengali food and Sushi
Who is your spirit animal ?
Favourite place in the world?
The first thing you bought with your own paycheck ?
Must be clothes
Favourite cartoon character?
Tom and Jerry
What TV shows do you binge watch?
Big Little Lies, Narcos
Please tell us about your future projects?
‘Four more shots’ (Season 2), Inside Edge (Season 2), three more films and next year ‘Posham Pa’ is releasing too.