Interview: Actress SAYANI GUPTA on her background, films, acting with Shah Rukh Khan in FAN, JAGGA JASOOS, Upcoming films & more

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Bengali Actress SAYANI GUPTA Stars with SHAH RUKH KHAN in FAN (2016) Hindi Bollywood Movie

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Bengali Actress SAYANI GUPTA Stars with SHAH RUKH KHAN in FAN (2016) Hindi Bollywood MovieKolkata, India, April 28 (Washington Bangla Radio) - Actress Sayani Gupta has recently made many headlines for her role in ‘Fan’ where she has shared screenspace  with none other than the superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Sayani’s talent of acting  was already noticed in the critically acclaimed film ‘Margarita With a Straw’  where she played a blind girl Khanum. With the role of Sunaina, the assistant of Aryaan Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan) in ‘Fan’, Sayani has stepped into the big banner of Yash Raj Films. She will also be seen in two upcoming big budget movies, ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ and ‘Jagga Jasoos’.

The pretty actress of  Bengali descent was recently back in her hometown Kolkata for a few days where she engaged in a candid chat with Washington Bangla Radio correspondent Jyoti Prakash Mandal and talked about her roots in Kolkata, her ambitions, working with Shah Rukh Khan, Siddharth Malhotra , Katrina Kaif and a lot of other things. Excerpts:

WBRi: This is your first Interview with us. Please tell us about your background.

Sayani: I am born and brought up in Kolkata. I have completed my school from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which is in Salt Lake (Kolkata). During my school days I went through extensive training in dancing and specialised in Bharat Natyam. I have trained under  Guru Thankamani Kutti in Kalamandalam. I was also involved in theatre. I was also associated with Bohurupi, one of the elite theatre groups in Kolkata. I also got into Nandikar, another titan in Kolkata as well as in the Indian theatre circuit.  My stint with Nandikar did not progress much as my mom was very much against acting. However my Dad was very supportive about all these as he himself was a singer, lyricist and announcer for All India Radio. After completing my school I went to Delhi and got admitted in the Lady Shree Ram College with  Honours in History. While staying in Delhi I started doing theatres again. Apart from many amateur theatre groups in Delhi, I have also worked with personalities like MK Raina. This is during this stint with theatres that the bug of acting got deep into me. Later I thought of joining National School of Drama but many of my seniors in theatre groups told me that it is not wise to spend three long years in NSD while I have already got so much experience in acting.

After my college I got into a marketing and sales job. Then I left my job and joined FTII ( Film and Television Institute of India ) Pune where I studied filmmaking. I have also done specialisation on acting from there. After that I started working in the film Industry.

WBRi: It’s a very tough struggle for aspiring actors who want to join Bollywood, especially those who are not from a family of film fraternity or have no godfathers. You too fall in the same category and yet you have made it so far. How did you make it possible?

Sayani: Yes it’s a really tough struggle for new comers in Bollywood but getting into FTII helped me a lot to get into the film Industry. Once I got into FTII , I met many people from the industry and built a network which helped me to go ahead in the industry. Luck has also favoured me a bit. I did not hope to get an offer of acting immediately in Bollywood and was rather planning to start assisting directors. But luckily I got an offer to appear for an ad within one week and bagged a role in my first film ‘Second marriage dot com’. The director of the film offered me the lead role  after seeing me in a short film titled, ‘The Proposal’. ‘Second marriage dot com ‘ was a very low budget movie and frankly speaking I never expected it to release. But it was a good opportunity to sharpen my acting skills. Later I did a small role in Q’s ‘Tasher Desh’. I also played a role in ‘Tathagat’ directed by Manav Kaul. I was actually assisting Manav while he asked me to play the role too. Then I got to do a travel show with Sayeed Mirza. Actually I got all my roles by appearing in auditions. One thing I made sure as soon as I reached Mumbai is that everyone should know that I exist. So I attended each and every audition that was going on around. Literally I was going for auditions every day. There were days when I attended 8-9 auditions back to back. I never backed down and kept telling myself that I deserve to be there.

WBRi: We have heard that you actually wanted to become a director? Is it true?

Read: Review - SRK's FAN (Hindi, 2016)

Bengali Actress SAYANI GUPTA Stars with SHAH RUKH KHAN in FAN (2016) Hindi Bollywood MovieSayani:  Yes I really want to direct films in future but I am enjoying my act in front of the camera . I will definitely come behind the camera but sometimes later.

WBRi: It has been heard that you  almost missed  the audition of FAN. Tell us about that.

Sayani: Actually when I came to Mumbai, I was initially using my Pune phone number and put it in everywhere. But few days later I shifted to a new number which was unknown to the YRF casting team. Suddenly I got a message in my facebook inbox from Shanoo Sharma who is the  casting director of YRF. I generally do not care about messages in FB as there are lots of unwanted messages there, often from unknown people. But by chance the message from YRF caught my attention. I went to their office and went through four or five rounds of auditions and I got selected. But at the time of selection I did not know  for which film I was being selected  and who are my co-stars. I only knew that I am going to play the manager of an onscreen superstar.

WBRi:  What was your first reaction when you came to know that you are going to act with Shah Rukh Khan?

Sayani: One day Shanoo called me up when I was at Kalki Koechilin’s house. She broke the news that I would play the role of Shah Rukh Khan‘s manager. The first thing that came into my mind was that how can I manage the dates as I was already shooting for ‘Jagga Jassos’ which has a very long schedule. Kalki suggested me to say yes to every project as all of them were bound to get pushed at a later date. And her words came out to be true.

WBRi:  How was the experience of working with Shah Rukh Khan?

Sayani:  It was an amazing experience. He is an amazing person. Inspite of being such a big star, he is so humble and so down to the earth. He  is undoubtedly the most loving and caring person one can find in Bollywood. Shah Rukh is someone who gives cues to his co- actors when he is not in front of the camera. He was the first to tell me ‘Let’s rehearse our lines’. He is always so involved in everything and will never let you feel how big a star he is.

He speaks and acts very spontaneously and from the bottom of his heart. SRK also has a very positive aura and whoever meets him will feel it. He is really one of the favourite children of god.  He is really the chosen one. I learned a lot from him and enjoyed every moment working with him.

WBRi:  Has your perception about Shah Rukh Khan changed after meeting him?

Sayani: Like everyone I too was  deeply in love with Shah Rukh Khan. Before meeting him in person, I had expected that like many other actors Shah Rukh’s on screen image of a sweet guy may not be his off screen persona and it may differ a lot. But once I met him I realised that he is a very genuine person. After meeting him my love for the person Shah Rukh Khan has increased many times.

WBRi:  What is your take away from FAN?

Sayani: When a newcomer is acting in such a big banner movie and that too with none other than Shah Rukh Khan the biggest take away for her is the exposure. My role in the film may not be like that of ‘Margarita With a  Straw’ or ‘Parched’ but it will be seen by millions of people around the world something which do not happen to the likes of films that I have done before.  Also the experience I gathered and the wonderful moments I spent during the shoot are things to be treasured forever. Another big thing for me is stepping into the YRF banner, something every actor dreams of.

WBRi: You had signed ‘Jagga Jassos’, also a big budget movie, even before ‘Fan’? How did you grab the role of ‘Jagga Jassos’?

Sayani: One of my friend’s brother used to assist Anurag Basu He had referred me to him for working on a televison series based on stories by Rabindranath Tagore. When I went to meet Anurag Basu he told me to audition for a role in ‘Jagga Jassos’.  Anurag Basu does not have a casting director, He does the camera work and casting himself. So I gave the audition. After a while I came to Kolkata. It was a lazy afternoon in my home in Kolkata and I was having a sound sleep after having a hearty lunch. I wake up to find that I have missed a lot of calls from Anurag Basu. When I called him back he said that I have been selected and I have to shoot from the very next day. So I Immediately rushed to the airport and took a plane to Mumbai.

Bengali Actress SAYANI GUPTA Stars with SHAH RUKH KHAN in FAN (2016) Hindi Bollywood MovieWBRi:  What role do you play in ‘Jagga Jassos’?

Sayani: I was initially playing the role of the narrator but Anurag Basu is someone who constantly modifies the script. I am not sure how my role will shape up finally. But I am sure it will be more than the role of a narrator. Let’s see.

WBRi: What role do you play in ‘Baar Baar Dekho’?

Sayani: I cannot reveal my role in ‘Baar Baar Dekho’. But I can say that it is a good and funny role and the audience will like it.

WBRi: Do you fear getting overshadowed when you work with big stars?

Sayani: Not at all. They do their roles and I do mine. I believe that if I can do my role convincingly enough the audience will remember me.

WBRi:  What do you see in a script to say yes to it?

Sayani: I generally ask for hard copies as I am not much comfortable reading scripts in computer. If I finish the script without a break that means I am interested enough in it. I should be engaged by that script and also I should feel excited as a performer when it comes to my part of the script. If I feel another person can do the role I generally back out as I should feel that I am the only one who can do it. If these happen I definitely say yes to the project.

WBRi:  You have played roles which are poles apart. It ranges from the young queen in Q’s ‘Tasher Desh’, to the blind girl in ‘Margarita with a Straw’ to these roles in ‘Fan’ and ‘Jagga Jasoos’. Are you experimental by  nature?

Sayani: I do not really know if I can be called experimental or not, but I can tell that I do what I feel I should do. That is valid not only for my professional life but also for my personal life.  Yes as an actor I always try to explore different horizons. I always try to break out from my comfort zone. It also helps me to make a self assessment.

WBRi: It is often said that no one can have true friends in the film industry. Is it true for you too?

Sayani:  I believe that one gets people in life just as he or she herself is. About myself, I have got some really good friends in the industry like Kalki Koechlin, Hussain Dalal, Vinay Pathak. Touch wood, I am very fortunate with  my friends.

WBRi:  Your friends like Kalki and Vinay Pathak are quite seasoned than you in the industry. Do they act as your mentor also?

Bengali Actress SAYANI GUPTA Stars with SHAH RUKH KHAN in FAN (2016) Hindi Bollywood MovieSayani: Yes, always. I go to them with every kind of enquiry, whether it is about choosing a film or the amount of money I should ask.  I discuss and seek their opinions every time.

WBRi: How are you seeing yourself in the next five years?

Sayani:  I would definitely want to become a star. Even a year back I used to tell people that I do not care about becoming star and rather want to be known as a good actor. But gradually I realised that if you want to work the way you want to you should become a star first. You can  dictate  terms only when you become a star. Other wise others will dictate terms on you. So I want to be a big star within the next five years. Some one had told me a very true sentence. Either you are the ruler of the industry or you are an employee of the industry. There is nothing in between. I want to be someone  who will be in the mind of a writer when he is scripting a role. I want to reach  that stage.

WBRi: What is the greatest compliment you have received till date?

Sayani: The greatest compliment perhaps came from Amir Khan. When I first met him he told me that after watching ‘Margarita with a Straw’ I had asked Shonali Bose (director of the film) that from where she has sourced the blind girl, i.e. my character in the film. Then my director told him that I am an actor not a blind girl.

Another big compliment came when I was at a film festival in Los Angeles. After the screeing of ‘Margarita with a Straw’, an elderly gentleman  came to me and complimented me for my act in the film. He introduced himself as editor of the film ‘Scent of a Woman’ by Al Pacino. The role of Frank Salde by Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman’ was actually a reference film for my role. The editor said to me,  “I think you have outdone Al”. I was on the verge of fainting on hearing this.

WBRi:  Who are the biggest critics of yours?

Sayani: My mom is by biggest critic. She never  says good to any of my work. Then comes my friends, especially my childhood friends Vineet and my best friend Paro. They give me honest feedbacks and point  out where I have gone wrong. That’s why I love my friends so much.

WBRi: You are from Bengali origin and have been in the film industry for around four years. Why a Bengali movie has not happened ?

Sayani: Honestly speaking I never got an offer from the Bengali film industry. I don’t think directors and producers here are interested in casting me. But I am totally open to do Bengali movies if a good offer comes to me.