Deconstructing Maan in ‘A Suitable Boy’
“Before I knew it, I was a full-time actor”
Neha Bhasin on “Kehnde Rehnde”
Funny in reel life, introspective and humorous in reality
Talking about feelings with
Finding Beauty in CHARACTERS, in CINEMA, in ENTERTAINMENT
Imagine marking the end of 2020 with…emptiness. It just isn’t possible because this year has given rise to so many big movements, whether the Black Lives Matter movement or the current Farmers’ Protests happening around the world. Each one has probably left us feeling empty in that so many of us want to do so much, but we are relegated primarily to doing activism from behind our screens. And what a powerful tool that can be too. We have seen artists use the medium of cinema and web series to make statements, bringing out songs that celebrate self love and body positivity, and there is just no way, we come out of this year feeling empty. Starting with our cover story, Sayani Gupta. She talks to us about building her life through the various characters she has played and learning through playing each role. Whether it is the recent Emmy-nominated Four More Shots Please or Margarita with a Straw or Axone, she clearly delves into each part carefully and leaves a statement for us to think about. Then there is Saqib Saleem, who is making a statement with the diversity in his portfolio. Or Ishaan Khatter, who is making a statement with the character of Maan in A Suitable Boy. Neha Bhasin is out there responding to everyone who is constantly talking, with “Kehnde Rehnde” and Nidhi Singh who is making her claim on quality content on the OTT platform. Then, the likes of Mukul Chadda, who set out to carve his own path in theatre and cinema. Hemant Kher plays Ashwin Mehta with aplomb in Scam 1992, and Asmita Sood and Sanchita Puri make their presence felt in the digital space. Samira Koppikar is making her own space in a male-dominated music composer industry and the likes of Donal Bisht, Paras Madaan, and Mansi Srivastava are owning the television space. I mean, there is just so much happening and so many people trying to make their mark locally and globally. How can we feel empty or depleted? There may be days that we feel off, or off-centre. We must rise at some point and realize there is still a lot to do within our own homes as we navigate through these uncertain times. Whether we get through these times with quality content on our television sets, our laptops, or following important conversations happening globally, we can fill that empty void that 2020 definitely left us with at some point this year. Until Next Time,
Shubharna Shu Mukerjee
16 Finding Beauty in CHARACTERS, in CINEMA, in ENTERTAINMENT COVER PAGE Sayani Gupta
“There is that feeling which keeps eating you up from inside when you are not doing what you want.”
SAYANI, I WA BACK TO YO AND TELEVISI WE SEE A LOT THE INDUSTR THEY JOIN A STINTS AS AN BUT WE’RE AL PEOPLE LIKE THROUGH FO EDUCATION. ABOUT THE I TRAINING TH EDUCATION ING THE ACT TODAY.
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Finding BEAUTY in Characters, in Cinema, in Entertainment
Sayani Gupta Exclusive Interview by Armin S.
ayani Gupta is definitely somebody I am in awe of. She consistently delivers amazing performances but she is also a part of some of the most impactful pieces of entertainment in recent times, be it her role in Margarita with a Straw, Article 15 or Four More Shots Please, Sayani makes a mark with the characters she portrays. What is more inspirational is how she takes from each character and grows. Aware and thankfully so, Sayani also delves into the need to progress and make ourselves better. I start from way back in her journey and training to making waves internationally with her role as Damini and we weave in a conversation of deconstructing imposed societal stereotypes of individuals in discussing her work.
ANT TO GO ALL THE WAY OUR TRAINING AT THE FILM ION INSTITUTE IN INDIA. T OF ACTORS WHO JOIN RY AT 17-18 YEARS OLD. AFTER HAVING A FEW N ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, LSO SEEING A LOT OF YOU, WHO HAVE GONE ORMAL TRAINING AND . TELL ME A LITTLE BIT IMPORTANCE OF THE HAT YOU HAD AND THE THAT YOU HAD, IN SHAPTOR THAT YOU BECAME
on I’ve had through my life, and the
kind of upbringing I’ve had and the kind of parents I’ve had – my mother especially – has always given a lot of importance to education. Whatever you do, you can’t do it with half information. And growing up, I’ve been brought up around a sort of academic environment. Most people in my family are professors. So even when it came to not just formal education, but other things, such as being a dancer – I’ve formally trained in Bharatnatyam. So I have done everything very meticulously all my life. And I have been doing theatre all my life, so I’ve always been a performer on stage. Acting was always one of the things I’ve wanted to do but it was a secret thing that I could not talk about openly. But my father kept giving me hints, sowing seeds almost, from very early on that I didn’t quite catch – I got it much later. And one of the biggest reasons for me to go to Delhi was because I wanted to go to the National School of Drama.
AHH, SO INITIALLY IT WAS NSD THAT WAS ON THE HORIZON. TELL ME ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED THERE.
That was again my father’s idea. So I actually moved to Delhi and I told my mother something else – that I am going to prepare for exams, so obviously Delhi would help, but she had no clue, poor thing. But secretly NSD is something I wanted to do. And even then, the idea was to train formally. And although I was doing theatre all my life, it never occurred for me to not do it and suddenly go to Bombay without any kind of training. The approach was always formal training. And I went to Delhi and while I was in college there, I chanced upon amazing opportunities where I worked with some amazing people. A lot of these people who I was working with, they were teaching at the NSD and they in fact told me not to go NSD because they were going through some curriculum changes and they said why
would you both for 3 years wh and performing with me and I k pursue NSD. Bu dancing and th sionally in Delh had to fend for really clear that am not going to on your own. An but I didn’t. S working in a co 1.5 years that g couldn’t do in m respect to peop I realized that I would watch film of this boredom “man I can be th There is that fe from inside wh want.
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“I have no right to judge people from outside, without knowing what it takes to live that life.” 18 BollywoodFilmFame.com
SO WHY FTI?
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her to go and formally study there hen you’re already doing theatre and acting. So that kind of stayed kept doing theatre but didn’t quite ut I just knew I wanted to continue heatre which I was doing profeshi and was doing really well. But I r myself and my mother made it t if you’re staying back in Delhi, I o send you any money so you’re nd she expected me to come back So I stayed back and I started orporate set up, which are those gave me the realization of what I my life – like an office job. And full ple who do it and are able to do it. I couldn’t do it - I got so bored. I ms and that was my only way out m and would constantly feel like here, I can do what they’re doing”. eeling which keeps eating you up hen you are not doing what you
D YOU GET OUT OF THAT NT?
at mate just asked me casually, I s FTI (Film and Television Institute and should I get one for you. And my plan, she literally filled up my ent it. And then obviously getting those stages of the selection onestly hoping I don’t get through ould mean that I had to give up on as a very tough decision for me at se it was a very high paying job so ing from a middle class family, I if I was making the right decision h paying job that’s secure. And my ice loved me and they thought I it. They thought I was much more of course, my mother was against k the leap.
o know if I was cut out for it or not y life I’ve been told, like by M.K. ays used to say “oh she’s such a and I didn’t really know what that dn’t know if it was enough to take d make it into a career. And so I r myself and train myself so that I that I am decent at what I do. And y interested in finding out about ilms were made. That for me, was ting to learn and also I did not n Bombay. I have one aunt who y but she has nothing to do with me, the only legitimate way of mbay and really with a clear
informed choice, was to go to FTI. And I think it was the best decision of my life. I have not made a more profound and powerful decision in my life. It really changed everything for me and I’m glad it worked out. God has been very, very kind thankfully.
LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT POST FTI AND DELVING INTO SOME OF THE PROJECTS YOU’VE DONE. WHAT’S IMPACTED ME THE MOST FROM YOUR WORK, ARTICLE 15 OBVIOUSLY, BUT POSHAM PA AND MARGARITA WITH A STRAW WERE FANTASTIC. MARGARITA WITH A STRAW WAS PATH-BREAKING AT THE TIME AND IS PATHBREAKING NOW. WHEN WE SEE CHARACTERS ON SCREEN, NOW WE’RE STARTING TO SEE SOME DIVERSITY. WE’RE STARTING TO SEE CHARACTERS THAT LOOK LIKE PEOPLE WE SEE IN OUR EVERYDAY LIVES – WE’RE NOT JUST LOOKING AT HEROES AND HEROINES THAT ALL FIT INTO ONE BIG BOX. SO THOSE ARE SOME OF THE MEMORABLE PROJECTS YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN THAT HAVE DEEPLY IMPACTED ME AS A VIEWER. WHICH ROLE OR ROLES HAVE DEEPLY IMPACTED YOU AS A HUMAN BEING?
So before Margarita, I had done a travel show with Saeed Mirza and Kundan Shah and Virendra Saini and these were people who were in a way responsible for the parallel movement in Indian cinema in the late 70s and 80s. They were seniors from FTI, another generation altogether of cinema that I have seen and loved. So in 2012, I did a travel show with them which was going around all of North India. We went to some 16 states and it was a travel docu-fiction kind of show. So I was playing the sound recordist. That whole process of travelling for five months and travelling around 200km everyday for five months and seeing the heartland was impactful. So we lived with rabadis in Gujurat, literally through and through 16 states. It was truly eye opening but also, in many ways, like once in a lifetime opportunity where you just witness people and your country. From the topography, to the air you breathe, to the climate, to the food, to the language, culture, music – everything – it was truly unbelievable. And it was challenging at times too – shooting in literally 40-50 degree heat – it was very tough. But the moment we went to Kashmir and Ladakh, everyone was like oh my god this is so beautiful. So that kind of impacted all of us. And that was a project for Doordarshan but it was definitely a project that has had a very
lasting impact on me and my psyche. I had traveled a lot before that also, but not that way so that’s definitely one of the moments that has impacted me as a human being.
INTERESTING. AND MARGARITA WITH A STRAW?
Margarita With a Straw was one of a lifetime kind of script and characters. Not everyday do you get cast as a homosexual, visually challenged individual. The script in itself was also so fantastic and the people involved – it was a very special project and I really worked super hard to get it. It was like a life and death kind of thing. And finally when it happened, it's something that has truly changed me and my perspective as a human being. The reason I say that is because it was the first time I was interacting with so many people through the research process. Individuals who were blind from birth, and I sort of started looking at disability in a completely different way. I was looking at it from a different prism altogether. And it made me realize how stupid we are, where we think that if someone has some kind of disability they’re missing out on something. We only think like that because we have no idea. Somebody who has never seen, doesn’t know what he/she is missing out on. And as a result, all your other senses become even more powerful and I could see it myself also. That whole process of shooting the film and meeting so many people, so many inspiring women and men – I started looking at life differently. I realized I have no right to judge people from outside, without knowing what it takes to live that life. And we come with so many assumptions and preconceived notions when we look at people, but they’re all a bunch of bullshit honestly because you have no idea when you’re judging from outside. And again with the homosexuality aspect – the people I met through that. One of the things I needed to do as part of my research in New York was go and spend time in gay bars. It was the first time I honestly sat in a gay bar and it made me liberated in so many ways because sometimes our ideas and thoughts are so caged. So those kinds of things are quite amazing. And I started feeling for the LGBTQI rights much more passionately and I understood it a little more in depth. And again my perspective changed, towards people and the lives they live. It made me more empathetic towards people and their realities and how difficult it is for people from the LGBTQI community in the world but also in our country. Especially in third world countries. And this was when it was still criminal. Section 377 happened only recently. When you’re a part of these kinds of films, you realize what cinema can do because Margarita went to so many places - I think some 155 festivals. There were only some we were
able to go to an after seeing the all kinds of com ethnicities. But were moved by had on people. parents after se hugging the c realize how nas
THEN, OF CO 15.
“It’s noone’s business how women should live their lives”
Article 15 becau feel very strong what has been h so much atrocit are born into a c you literally don Dalit woman, o woman – you There are so ma have been viola being able to d people trying bu was again a film Hathras case –i I think Anubhav director. He’s so balanced film emotional and I film felt very em was being said Solanki, who’s they were able balanced way propaganda-ish in a dignified w beautiful thin l balance very we the crew and ca so much fun o serious and the and beautifully nicest experienc
NICE! I WANT FOUR MORE ALTHOUGH I SOCIETY DEP IMPORTANT W THING LIKE T WE STILL TALK CHOICES IN TUNATE THAT THAT CONVE SAME TIME TH BEING MADE WOMEN ARE SO VITAL FOR ES TO SEE, FR
nd meet people who spoke to you e film and these people were from mmunities and nationalities and it's unbelievable how much they y the film and the kind of impact it People were coming out to their eeing the film, the parents were children and saying they didn’t sty they were to the kids.
OURSE, THERE IS ARTICLE
use it talks about something that I gly about – Dalit rights. Especially happening in the country. There is ty and it's unbelievable that if you certain caste, even today in 2020, n’t have human rights. And to be a one you’re Dalit, two you’re a literally have no human rights. any of these incidents where girls ated and brutalized and nobody is do anything for them. There are ut nothing is happening. Article 15 m and a story that was so similar to it’s not even fiction anymore. And v Sinha is such a conscientious o balanced – it’s difficult to make a about this because you get I think everyone involved with the motional about the topic and what d through the film. But Gaurav the writer, with Anubhav Sinha – e to say it in such a beautifully where it’s hard hitting but not h. It makes you uncomfortable but way if that makes sense. It’s a line that they’ve been able to ell. And the team was so fantastic, ast – it was just a dream. We had on set even though the film was environment on set was so lovely positive. So these films were the ces in very different ways.
T TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT SHOTS PLEASE. IT HAS A CERTAIN KIND OF PICTED IN IT, IT IS SO WHEN WE WATCH SOMETHAT WE REALIZE, WHY ARE KING ABOUT WOMEN’S 2020? AND IT IS UNFORT WE’RE STILL HAVING ERSATION. BUT, AT THE HERE IS SOME PROGRESS E. WHY IS THE WAY E DEPICTED IN THAT SHOW R US TODAY AS AUDIENCROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE?
I honestly said yes to the show because I loved what they were trying to achieve through the show. And I hadn’t quite seen a real depiction of women like me. Of course, I am not someone who goes out and parties and drinks everyday but women who have control over their lives and make their own decisions – even if they’re “flawed” decisions, it’s their own and they own up to it. It was a huge lack of representation of that kind of urban woman, professional woman in Indian mainstream space. That is exactly why I wanted to be part of the show. They had come to me earlier first for a smaller part which I said no to but I had told them at that point that I love the concept and I loved what they were trying to do and the script but I couldn’t do it or didn’t want to do a smaller part in a show where there were 4 protagonists. But then amazingly, to my surprise they came to me much later with Damini’s part. And her part was my absolute favourite when I first read the script. Also that monologue she has at the end of the first season where she’s talking about what it is to be a journalist and what we are becoming – and many other things through the season – was so important. I really loved her gumption and I loved her strength. She could so fearlessly say her opinion. And I thought it was something great for the Indian audience to see so that was the reason I did it.
“It's unbelievable that if you are born into a certain caste, even today in 2020, you literally don’t have human rights.”
WERE YOU EXPECTING THE KIND OF RESPONSE IT RECEIVED?
When the show came out, we never realized what the response would be. It was a huge hit, and none of us expected it. So it was very strange for all of us, wonderful, but strange. The kind of backlash it also received and the people from which it received the backlash was these men. And the things they were saying, like Indian women are not supposed to be like this, Hindu women are not supposed to be like this. And where it came from, made us realize how important the show is because it was important to make them uncomfortable. These are the women of our country and they want to live like this. It’s none of your business how women should live their lives, or the decisions they should make. Especially in a country as diverse as India, where there are all kinds of people. There are so many girls who’ve written us long letters saying how the show has impacted their life. They’ve told their mothers they’re not going to get married until they have a career, people have travelled to another city to pursue a career after seeing the show. It's unbelievable the kinds of things people are doing and that’s the kind of positive impact you hope a show leaves behind. Unfortunately, we are regressing everyday and it’s extremely worrisome and it's scary to say the least. And that’s why whatever you make, if it's work you believe in, you can make it part of your storytelling and the stories you tell will have a lot of
impact. I loved what Dan Levy said in Schitt’s Creek and that show, it started small and then turned into something much larger.
YES, IT SWEPT A BUNCH OF AWARDS RECENTLY!
Yes, exactly. I was really rooting for it. I was so excited when they won 13 Emmys! I could imagine the hardships and lack of funds and things like that, and still to be able to push the envelope in so many ways. And to have a world class show and such a diverse, smart, politically correct show. And to be able to make it so aesthetically and make it so well. But what is most important to me, what Dan Levy said is the way they show the homosexual relation between the lovers is so important. Dan said in one of his interviews, I don’t want to have a negative environment or negative world in the show. I want to show the world that I want to live in. No matter how crazy the people in Schitt’s Creek are, they’re never judgmental. And that’s the beauty of it. Nobody passes any untoward remarks to this couple and they’re so loving. And in the finale you have this beautiful fairytale wedding, that’s the world you want to see – you should be able to love whoever you want. I think these are the shows you need today more and more. A show that instills positivity and hope.
ISHAAN KHATTER DECONSTRUCTING MAAN IN ‘A SUITABLE BOY’
Anyone who knows Mira Nair knows what a treat A Suitable Boy is to watch. With A Suitable Boy’s premiere on the Acorn TV streaming service starting December 7th, I knew I wanted to sit down and chat with Ishaan Khatter, who plays the role of Maan in A Suitable Boy. Maan, who is not the suitable boy the series is named for, but Maan, who is quite the suitable boy to deconstruct as a character. I set out to do just that as Maan fascinates both Ishaan and me alike. INTERVIEW BY ARMIN S.
CONGRATULATIONS ON A SUITABLE BOY. MAAN TURNED OUT TO BE ONE OF MY FAVOURITE CHARACTERS IN THE SERIES. I WANT TO DECONSTRUCT MAAN WITH YOU BECAUSE I THINK HE’S SUCH A FABULOUS CHARACTER. THE FIRST THING I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT IS THAT MAAN IS ONE OF THOSE CHARACTERS, IF I KNEW HIM IN REAL LIFE, I DON'T KNOW IF I COULD EVER PUT HIM IN A BOX. I WOULD HAVE SO MANY DESCRIPTIONS FOR HIM. DID YOU EVER JUDGE HIM AT ANY POINT BECAUSE HE'S KIND OF ALL OVER THE PLACE. DID YOU EVER JUDGE HIM?
through the process of filming that I ever judged him. I didn't have the time to think too much about it because I was coming in from another movie (Khaali Peeli) and I had two days to make that transition which was really nerve wracking for me. I think it worked out really well because I was thrown into the deep and they had already been filming for a few weeks. We were sort of in the thick of it. And it worked really well because I swam. I had to swim. So, it was good. I didn't think too much. I didn't think enough to judge him.
MY FAVOURITE SCENE IS A SCENE THAT HAS RAM KAPOOR WHO PLAYS YOUR FATHER IN THE SERIES. YOU HAVE JUST SEEN TABU, YOU COME BACK AND YOU ASK HIM FOR AN ALLOWANCE AND HE SAYS “YOU KNOW, I EXPECTED BETTER FROM YOU”, YOU SAY THAT “ONE DAY I’LL MAKE YOU PROUD’. YOU WALK AWAY, HE'S WATCHING YOU AND YOU'RE HUMMING. THAT PARTICULAR SCENE REALLY SUMS UP YOUR CHARACTER. I THINK IT'S A BRILLIANTLY DONE SCENE. I THINK IT'S DIRECTED REALLY WELL.
“I don't think I ever could judge Maan.”
That’s actually interesting. I was never asked that question before. To answer it honestly, I would say no. That’s not me and that's not the equation that I built with the character. It's weird because I found myself addressing Maan in third person. So if we ever have a playback of a take, I find myself asking “so do you want it this way when he does this or when he does that”? It did feel like a separate entity from myself. But when I was in it, and I was doing it, I don't think I separated him from myself. I never looked at it that way, I don't think I ever could judge Maan. It's just not how I was perceiving the guy. But yeah, when I read it at first, I definitely did recognize that he's reckless and he has these qualities about him that can be misunderstood or misrepresented and a lot could go wrong if this isn't portrayed right. I was able to understand all of that when I was reading it. That's the period where you are able to maintain a detachment from the character. I don’t think
Thank you. It's really interesting that you mention that scene because when we were playing it out, we did a couple of takes and played it the way we did, as it came naturally to us. And Mira di sort of whispered into my ear. She said “I want you to charm him”. She said nothing else but that completely changed the tone of the scene. It just became that much more fun. It also helped you realize why the father is so frustrated with his son.
Because much like everyone else in his life, he also gets swept away by him. However, there is so much more that he wants to address that he just can't. It's because of his ways, because of how this kid is. I would describe him as a kaleidoscopic character. Maan has so many shades. It makes him very unpredictable and I think one of the characteristics of that scene is that it was played a little unpredictably. That was the fun of it too. Because you see a very sincere Mahesh Kapoor trying to get through to his son and trying to touch base with him and make him understand what he has done and why it has such a strong impact on him personally. And you see Maan trying to squeeze a yawn in there (laughs), all while entertaining his father and in the same breath he asks him for an advance on his allowance. It's a very interestingly directed scene. You are right about that. I had great fun doing it. I think the father-son relationship was one of the most wonderful parts of Maan’s story. Thank you for liking that scene. Ram Sir is amazing and Mira di is amazing. I was lucky to be in it.
YOU TALK ABOUT UNPREDICTABILITY AND IT IS INTERESTING BECAUSE IN THAT SAME THOUGHT PROCESS, I THINK ABOUT THE HOLI SCENE AND HOW FLAMBOYANT MAAN IS AND THEN TABU COMES ALONG AND HE IS VERY UNDERSTATED WHEN HE SEES TABU AND HE'S VERY CALM, COOL AND COLLECTED WHEN HE SEES HER. YOU SEE A LOT ON HIS FACE BUT HE DELIVERS, YOU DELIVER (YOU KNOW, I’M THINKING OF THEM AS A SEPARATE ENTITY). WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE SCENE OR YOUR FAVOURITE RELATIONSHIP THAT MAAN HAD IN THE SERIES? I KNOW IT'S ALWAYS HARD.
It's hard, It's really hard. I mean it was a really big deal for me to be able to work with Tabu. She’s iconic and fantastic and wonderful and I think that relationship is amazing and so brilliantly portrayed because there was so much that each of the characters were bringing to each other and their reasons for being infatuated by each other or falling in love or being passionate about the relationship with each other was very different. They were coming from very different places. It was sort of a forbidden romance and yet, it felt like it fit. Despite all that, I would say that one of my favourites, if not my favourite relationship in the show was that of Maan and Firoz. That was really probably the most soulful one. They are soulmates and undefinable. Just a very sort of unique relationship and so beautiful. Because, they don't really need labels to consummate their relationship. They're just like soulmates and they're best friends! A lot of people have gotten back to me with questions about that. It was also meant to be portrayed in a very thin balance, in a very intricate way. A lot of people have questions about whether they are lovers or whether it's a platonic relationship. Was it meant to be that way? Or was it just meant to be a tease? I think that's a beautiful relationship because Mira di allowed us to play that thin balance and we knew what we meant to each other and I think that was really
interesting to play. That’s probably one of my favourites.
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT MAAN HAS TAUGHT YO PERSON?
Yeah. I think so. I think there's quite a bit. It was definitely a phas learning and personal growth as well. You know, shooting tha months to follow. But I think really if I had to put a finger on gained a lot of perspective, but I would say just to have a lid on control your actions and not be all that spontaneous and because he does get himself in a lot of trouble. But in all seriou I think, I think that there's a quality to Maan that is very ch there's a lot of abandon and he loves very purely. And I think think I could relate to that part of him. So yeah, but then also, to see a lot of the flaws because we didn't shy away from the played them the way that Mira di wanted it to look and feel. H flawed character and he doesn't really have a lot of control ov instincts and that lands him in a lot of trouble. So I think I was ab certain things about human nature through that.
WHAT WAS THE MOST RELEVANT PART OF THE SERIE THE BOOK, IF YOU'VE READ IT, TO YOU AS, AS A PE WHAT WORKED FOR YOU COMPLETELY AS A WHOL
So I still haven't read the entire novel. I had a copy of it w reference for my character specifically for inspiration and refere read eight episodes initially, which were then condensed into think my biggest takeaway from it was how it's sort of like a sa It has 114 characters and it just covers so much of you know, w as a people. And as people in general and our culture as Indi had so many little stories and little tracks running in it that loo from all these different perspectives. And it was so interest because rarely do you have a piece of work that in such little ti to give you a glimpse into so many lives, and this was one suc So there was the larger sociopolitical story of India coming o sort of coming into its own as a country in a stage of infancy alm four years after independence, like you mentioned. But at the s there was this more intimate story of this young girl coming int as a young girl in this country, which is still finding its feet. So, just defining years of her life. So there was that story and then Maan’s story, which again was so different because he is non-conformist and does everything that is not expected of Maan is just following his truth, he's not doing it for any other re piss anyone off. He's just following his truth. He has the stren convictions. So it was just a really interesting lesson of individ who we are in human nature. But for me, I just have a special Maan’s story specifically because he goes through so many downs and he gets slammed for a lot of the choices that he mak does what he does so unabashedly. He loves unabashedly. those choices. And I think by the end of it, he's probably wiser
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in Reel Life,
INTROSPECTIVE in Reality
SALEE Exclusive Interview by Armin S.
EM I remember watching Saqib Saleem in Comedy Couple and immediately reaching out for an interview because I was so impressed with the comic timing and the fact that they were funny while intentionally trying to be unintentionally funny. The film completely fulfilled my palette and when I got to thinking about it, Saqib really always has tried to cater to different palettes, whether it be Bombay Talkies, Rangbaaz, the recent Crackdown, or Comedy Couple. I spoke to Saqib about his journey from Mere Dad Ki Maruti, growing as an actor, the evolution of his being, and more. It was wonderful to hear him be so honest about his own realizations and I saw there with a huge smile on my face as I listened to him really speak his mind.
SAQIB, I STILL REMEMBER WATCHING MERE DAD KI MARUTI. I REMEMBER WATCHING A FEW OF YOUR OTHER FILMS THAT CAME OUT AND YOUR CAREER GRAPH OBVIOUSLY SHOWS A DEPICTION OF VERSATILITY, BUT I THINK IT'S REALLY COME TO LIGHT IN THE PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS WHERE CRACKDOWN HAS COME OUT AND COMEDY COUPLE HAS COME OUT AND ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT HOW VERSATILE SAQIB IS. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS AN ACTOR AND THE WAY IN WHICH YOU LOOK AT THE CHARACTERS, BECAUSE EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT SCRIPTS. HOW DO YOU CHOOSE SCRIPTS? DO YOU EVER LOOK AT A CHARACTER FIRST? DO YOU LOOK AT HOW, WHAT YOU CAN BRING TO THE CHARACTER AND HOW THAT CHARACTER MAY SORT OF FULFILL YOU AS AN ACTOR?
So I'll give you an example of the last film I did, Comedy Couple. So when the film was offered to me, I remember reading the script of it and I loved my character. I thought that I really related to the boy because maybe I've been like that in my life at some point or maybe I've seen people around me who are habitual liars, who say these small lies to get out of situations. I’ve seen that in and around me. It was very fascinating for me. I really enjoyed that. Him being an artist, being a stand-up comic, he actually doesn't take a stand easily. He really doesn't want to get into what he believes in. He's like, I'm just a stand up comic, dude. I'm just here to make people laugh. And then I'm just going to go back home. And there are so many people like that out there, right? There is a world that exists on Twitter, where everybody has an opinion on everything. But there's also a world that exists where people really don't want to force their opinions on anybody. They just want to live a happy life and they expect you to do the same with them. And, and when I read the film, I enjoyed the film, but I enjoyed my character far more. And I'm like, okay, I can play around with this character. I can make him really, really real. I can make him fun.
WELL, RIGHT, HE IS FLAWED AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES HIM LIKEABLE.
Exactly, I can make him flawed. I was trying to find flaws in it because I feel like the
depiction of the leading man in Hindi films has changed over the years right? Now we don't need larger than life heroes. We like flawed people. We like people with insecurity, we like people who are under confident. So, I think when this character came to me, I realized that he was a flawed man and it will be very interesting to play somebody who's so fla wed yet had to be endearing and yet had to be likable in how he plays this character. So I think that was the fun aspect for me. Deep Sharma in Comedy Couple - I was always treading that fine line in trying to be cute about doing my things rather than make people dislike me. So I think that's what I really enjoyed doing. And, you know, you have to find the emotional beat of every character. There is every time you play a character, like, I know so many people who invest and which is a very good process to discover an actor or to discover a character is that you write a backstory. You get into things even as minuscule as what is this character's favorite color? Is this character a Friends fan, or a Gossip Girl fan or Riverdale fan? Matlab (meaning), you get into those things. When I was prepping for Comedy Couple, I felt like I knew the character. I didn't need a backstory. I felt like I'd seen or lived this life at some point in my life, even if it was for about six months in my college time where I was this liar, where I would lie about the smallest of things. So I just went out there and I had fun yaar especially because I also really enjoy stand up comedy. I think that's the difficult thing in trying to do a comedy or a romantic film in that sense that you have to have to be light, fun and breezy, but your character needs to have certain layers, some emotional layers.
CHARACTERS TODAY ARE FLAWED, AS YOU SAID, ACTORS DON'T NECESSARILY NEED TO BE THESE LARGER THAN LIFE HEROES AND “MASCULINITY” IS NOW BEING REDEFINED. WITH YOUR CHARACTER, DEEP SHARMA IN COMEDY COUPLE, WHAT I REALLY LIKED IS THAT HE'S THE ONE WHO'S NERVOUS BEFORE THE FIRST ACT. HE'S THE ONE WHO SAYS,” NO, NO, I DON'T WANT TO TAKE A STAND”. AND HIS PARTNER SAYS, “NO, WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT THIS”. AND OF COURSE HE TALKS ABOUT IT AND GETS INTO TROUBLE. I WON'T GIVE TOO MUCH AWAY FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVEN'T WATCHED IT. BUT HOW DO YOU THINK THE HINDI FILM INDUSTRY IS BollywoodFilmFame.com 27
MOVING FORWARD WITH REDEFINING MASCULINITY IN GIVING THESE KINDS OF ROLES TO MEN, AND ACTORS LIKE YOU BEING COMFORTABLE ENOUGH TO PLAY THE NON-STEREOTYPICAL MACHO MAN ON SCREEN?
So I can't talk for everybody here. I think I can only talk about myself. I did a show about two years ago, which is called Rangbaaz where I play a gangster called Shiv Prakash Shukla. He was a cold-blooded gangster. I had to really, really work on that character because he's a cold-blooded gangster, man. How do you make people feel for him? And more than making people feel for him, how do you show his human side? So acting sometimes is very, very confusing Armin, I'll be very honest. Sometimes I feel like, even while giving this interview, am I acting or am I just being myself? Because, always consciously as an actor, there's an actor inside you telling you, “oh, you did that or that's nice”. You can use it somewhere in some character. “Oh, that's good. Oh, you're that person laughed like that. Oh, nice. I can use it there”. So I think what is important is that you be honest to your material, what your material is. And all you’ve got to do when you're doing a film, and this is my personal process, I don't know if it works out for others is that you fall in love with your director. And you have to make the director fall in love with you. Because the only person I'm going to impress everyday on set is my director, because he's my audience. If he says it's okay, it's okay. So coming back to your question, that you have to change how masculinity is portrayed in films. There will be certain films, which will be your larger than life films, but I don't think I'm made for that to be really honest. I don't think I really enjoy doing that. Maybe one off here and there. Maybe. I don't know, just to see if I can do that. But I want to play a flawed character yaar. It's so much more interesting and fascinating to be flawed and slightly gray. There's so much more to play with yaar. As an actor, you can go to different places in your head while performing. If I have to be that guy who does no wrong and saves the day in the end, come on man. I think times are changing, right? Films are evolving. People are watching content that's being made even in Portugal now. So people have exposure to everything. And how do we come out with different characters in films is when we keep working on a different layer on every character. Keep making every character interesting, add quirks to the character. It's more fascinating when your characters
INTERVIEW flawed yaar. I don't know how else to explain it. It just gives me more to play with. Otherwise, I'll just feel restricted. As an actor I will feel, “Oh, you're just the best guy in the world”, “Oh, you'll, ride this motorbike in slow motion then get off the car, wear your jacket, wear your shades.” Great! It looks great. It looks very nice. Right? You get those whistles in a single screen cinema, hundred percent. But you know, you need a body of work to do that. When, today some of our seniors, when, for instance, Salman Khan does a Dabangg, he has a body of work behind him so that people can accept him like that. A) I don't have that kind of body of work behind me and B) I don't know if I want to play those parts. I want to play parts that are different. For instance, in Crackdown, I play an agent who typically is the larger than life hero. He's got the six-pack abs, he's got those big shoulders, when he shoots, he never misses. He runs like a hero. But when he tells the girl that he's not going to let anything happen to her, he's scared. He feels scared. He doesn't feel like, “Oh, I'm there, I’m going to save the day”. He's really, really nervous about what's going to happen. So these are all insecurities that the character needs to show for the character to become real. Otherwise there's always a slight bit of detachment from the character because usually people are not like that. So yes, it's aspirational a hundred percent, because you see certain characters and you're like, “Oh damn, I want to do that yaar, iIt would look so cool”. But if you sit down and think about it, to make your character believable and real you need to involve some real emotions there. You need to involve some real feelings there. And I don't know, to each his own. People who enjoy watching films like that, or do films like that, massive respect! They have a massive market. They do a hundred, 200, 300, 400 crores. I feel like I just want to enjoy acting. I don't enjoy anything else. I don't understand anything else. So I just need to find my characters and my stories and my directors, and whether it's on OTT, whether it's a theatrical film. Let’s just go out there and have fun yaar.
YOU SAID SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT, WHICH THAT IS YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE CHARACTER A LITTLE BIT REAL. YOU NEED TO SHOW SOME BROAD EMOTIONS. AND I THINK THAT WHAT WORKS PERFECTLY FOR A CHARACTER THESE DAYS IS FOR THE CHARACTERS TO BE REAL, EVEN IF IT'S THIS MACHO DEPICTION, AS, AS YOU
TALKED ABOUT IN CRACKDOWN. YOU HAVE TO SHOW THE CHARACTERS VULNERABILITIES. BECAUSE OTHERWISE, ONE THERE'S NO RELATABILITY, BUT TWO, YOU'RE NOT ADDING THOSE LAYERS AND COMPLEXITIES. SO I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU.
And people have seen that before, right? And people have seen the larger than life hero before, and they've seen somebody they love do that. Why would they want you to or why would they see you in something like that when they have this superstar, who's done it and who they love. If you have to do something, you have to add your own quirk and your own edge. The problem I feel in today's times is that hum acting ki acting karte hain (We act based on acting). So whatever we have seen growing up, like for instance if we’ve seen Shah Rukh Khan romance in the nineties, now we feel that romance only happens like that. So even as actors, we try and do those things and try and be cute, where I feel is the fact that what Shah Rukh sir did, only he can. He's the best at it. If I need to romance, I need to find my own way. And it necessarily shouldn't be me trying to open my arms. That doesn't make sense right? I have to make it personal. I have to make it my own. I have to make my own thing in the romance. I have to figure that out. So I feel like actors sometimes act off performances they've seen before. They see that and that's the reference and that subconsciously blends into their performance. So what one needs to be really careful at all times is to not try and get too inspired by something. Yes, watch something for reference, but that's just a reference. You have to create your own character. I’ll sometimes fail or sometimes I’ll succeed. But it's an effort and it's a process that I love and I'll keep doing it.
HAS THERE BEEN A CERTAIN CHARACTER THAT YOU'VE PLAYED, A CERTAIN ROLE THAT YOU'VE PLAYED THAT HAS LEFT A BIG IMPACT ON THE WAY THAT YOU BEHAVE AS A HUMAN BEING TODAY?
A lot of them, yaar. A lot of them. Starting with Bombay Talkies. I played a homosexual guy. I was about 22 when I played that role. I had no understanding. I was immature. I was uneducated. I was a boy from Delhi who didn't understand much to be really honest. And the first reaction to it was, “no, I don't want to do it.” And what it did was it made me understand a lot of things about life and how things are. And it put a lot of
things for me in perspective. That film really changed me for a lot of reasons. It made me A) realize what is acting. Before that, I did two films, like I said, I was playing a version of myself. I'd done Mere Dad Ki Maruti and I had done Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, which were these young teenybopper films. I was just playing a version of myself. Here was a film where I was playing a homosexual guy at 22. I remember meeting Karan Johar, he narrated the script to me, and I could just hear background music. I’m like his script was so good that I could hear background music. I sat down and I told myself, I'm like, “what is wrong with you, dude”? How can you say yes or no to a character based on that character’s sexuality? It's so absurd. You're an actor. And you got to do this role because it's a banging role. And it's giving you an opportunity to work with such important people, such big people.” Like from a Karan Johar, such talented people like Rani Mukherjee, Randeep Hooda. I'm like, okay, I'm doing a film that is celebrating a hundred years of cinema. And I think that film changed me with regards to how I see a lot of things in life.
AND COMEDY COUPLE MADE YOU REALIZE YOU WANT TO DO A STAND-UP SET
So I've been wanting to do stand up comedy for the last four years. I've been writing a set for the last few years, and I'm never happy with it. And I'm like, “arrey nahin, it's not complete. It's not this. It's not that, it could be more funnier”. And out of nowhere, this thing came about. And what this film did was that it gave me confidence. Because it looks easy. But it's not easy. When you have to make people laugh and they are all looking at you, they really want to laugh, but your joke has to make sense to them, right? And when you're shooting this, of course you had an audience in front of you who would hear your same jokes repeatedly because they were being shot from different angles and they would laugh. So after you reach a point where the audience also gets tired, right? And they don't laugh as much. So the actor in me at that point really wanted to improvise. I’m like let me surprise my audience. Let me try something that's off the script and let me see if I can get a reaction from them. And I did! And it gave me confidence. I'm like, “oh, I can play with the crowd, oh nice”. This could be something fun that I should do. So that's something I really want to explore. I don't know when, how, where, but that's something that's been on my mind that I think will happen soon.
OWNING YOURSELF FIRST
Neha Bhasin ON “KEHNDE REHNDE” Interview by Armin S. 32 BollywoodFilmFame.com
Neha Bhasin is known for her powerful vocals in songs like “Dhunki” from Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and “Aasalam-E-Ishqum” from Gunday, but what she has really made a statement with is “Kehnde Rehnde” in which she chooses powerful lyrics and imagery to debunk stereotypes, engage in conversations surrounding self love, and body positivity.
NEHA, FIRST OF ALL, I WANT TO TELL YOU "KEHNDE REHNDE". YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD PEOPLE SAY IT'S BOLD AND COURAGEOUS, BUT I THINK "KEHNDE REHNDE" IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR. "KEHNDE REHNDE" IS ONE OF THOSE SONGS I THINK CAN BE AN ANTHEM QUITE FRANKLY, FOR NOT ONLY FEMALE EMPOWERMENT. I THINK EVEN JUST EMPOWERMENT GENERALLY. I WANT TO FIRST TALK ABOUT THE POSTER THAT CAME OUT FOR THE SONG, BECAUSE THE POSTER CERTAINLY MAKES A HUGE STATEMENT, RIGHT? IT'S OUT THERE, IT'S IN YOUR FACE. AND I THINK THE BEAUTY ABOUT THE POSTER IS THAT IT REALLY DOES UNSETTLE YOU A LITTLE BIT INITIALLY.
So I think this song has been very cosmic, let me tell you that. Because there are things that go beyond you and I think that I became a vessel to say something. Of course there were a lot of things piling up inside of me for many, many years. And . It's the masses and millions and millions of people. You don't know who they are. They say things to your parents, to your family. I started writing this song before the lockdown. I kept singing “Kehnde Rehnde Ne” and it was like why are you always telling me things. Whether it's this or that. Close your legs when you're sitting with your family. So it all started from there. I was like there was so much to say in one song. Coming to the poster, when the director hears the song, her narrative was for me to go all the way. Because I think I was still holding back. What I had thought was to play where I wanted to half please the people but also want to be myself. And I think the team kind of helped me shed that. When she showed me the mood board, and then the stylist showed me the clothes and I just started kind of shedding more skin and I started becoming the Neha Bhasin that I always have been as a person, not just as an artist. But I grew up hearing that my breasts were too big, or I was too big than a so-called normal girl. So I think the poster is the discomfort that I have felt about myself, all of my life,
because of people. It's like now it's your turn to feel that discomfort. If you called me a besharam, so let me be that besharam. So now I'll be myself. And let's see what, what that makes you feel. And I think it's just literally that. Because I feel like, what kind of a woman would sit on a pot? It's not a sexy sight. Even I was a bit shocked when she proposed it to me. Because as women even if it's a bit out there, we always want it to be sexy. We want to be desirable.
HMM, AND YOU BREAK BARRIERS WITH THE VIDEO TOO.
Yes, this video is not desirable in the mainstream sense. If you think about it. Me prancing around with short hair. I have put on weight after the quarantine. I'm not trying to chisel my body. I’ve always had a good body. And in this video, I'm the biggest that I've ever been. And I was okay with it. If I see a video of mine from a year back, I was so fit. And I have abs and all. I used to be very judgemental during the shoot. I used to feel I needed to be fitter. And in this one, my body was just like how it is in rest state. Lots of fat, lots of carbohydrates. I was doing my squats, but also eating well and being loved by my husband during quarantine. And I look like a well fed woman in her 30's and I'm okay with that. And I think that has resonated with people a lot. Even when I saw the footage, when we shoot, there is always a monitor, right? And I remember in the blue costume, I was laying in bed and I saw that. The first thought was, I'm going to get trolled for this, because that's what happens. Then I was like I am just going to own it.
YOU TALK ABOUT A COUPLE OF THINGS THAT I WANT TO TOUCH UPON, ONE IS OF COURSE BODY POSITIVITY. IN ORDER FOR YOU TO START TO CELEBRATE YOUR BODY, WHAT CHANGED IN YOUR MIND BECAUSE THE “IDEAL” WAY A WOMAN SHOULD LOOK KEEPS CHANGING RIGHT?
Like today, people are accepting curvier bodies. Hence, I'm kind of like now, but when I started my career, by the time we had our first concert, I was 49 and a half kgs as a 19 year old. And that's really underweight for somebody my height. I'm five foot four. I don't think I was 49, when I
was 15 years old. I was always like 61 kg. I entered the band at 55 and a half kg. It was in my contract that I was not supposed to put on weight. So was 49 and a half kgs. I was bulimic by the way, I used to throw up two times a day. When I entered the band, I had no body issues. Let me also tell you that. I was fit. I was a dancer. I was very plump till I was 17 because I had my Punjabi genes screaming out of me. What has changed is many decades of working on myself. This is not a big thing that's happening in a day. It's not like an epiphany. I went to therapy. I think that the management of the band destroyed our self confidence for years to come. It took me nine or ten years to get out of this. And I think finally, I have shed that skin now. I think it's been so long, but I really do love myself today.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING THAT. BUT I THINK SOCIAL MEDIA ALSO PRESSURES PEOPLE AND I'M NOT SURE WHERE THIS CAME FROM, BUT THERE'S CLEARLY A COMFORT IN PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO EXPRESS HOW OTHER PEOPLE SHOULD MAKE LIFE CHOICES. THEY'RE VERY COMFORTABLE IN POLICING THE MORALITIES AND OTHER PEOPLE'S LIFE CHOICES. WHERE DO YOU THINK IT COMES FROM?
Don't you think it comes from a cowardly place of hiding behind a phone or an internet? The same people will look at you. They will come and take your autograph. They will say “beta, bade acche lag rahe ho” (you look very good). There are people that troll me and then once I respond back, they say "Ma’am mujhe bhi gaana gaane ka shauk hai” (I too enjoy singing). They do it for attention. To make up for their sorry lives. Because anybody who's happy in their own life would never bother about policing or lecturing other people. I follow so many people. I have so many artists who I love. I just give them a like, I don't even leave a comment. I think it comes from hiding behind a fake identity. I'm sure these are the same people who if you look at them on the road, they don’t look like bullies. Like me. I was always a fighter but I was never a bully. I would stand up for myself. I don't know how this is going to stop. I definitely feel like we need to stop ignoring it and we need to stop normalizing it. It's not normal for you to just go and say anything. Like even journalists have been told that they
are fat and they look like crap so even they have gone into a shell after that. So when people come and tell me “arrey ma’am, you're doing so well, just let them talk.” It's easier said than done.
I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT THE LYRICS WITH RITESH JUMNANI. TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT THAT WRITING PROCESS, BECAUSE I CAN IMAGINE IT BEING SLIGHTLY THERAPEUTIC PERHAPS.
So I started writing the song and “tu enj na kar, tu onj na kar”, I had written up till there. So I remember talking to Sameer about it. We were both in lockdown together. He was working on a lot of sounds at that point and he was very influenced at that point by electro-pop and chill-pop and that's the music I love to listen to as well. Then I got Ritesh on board. My Punjabi is good but it's not as great to write a full song. So I took his help and I told him that this is what I want to say. Sameer and I had inputs. He came up with the line “diva mat ban, ban tu devi”. I have full respect for Goddesses but I feel like when you call me a devi, you are putting me on a pedestal. I don't want to be on a pedestal. Maybe I want to be naughty or I want to have fun. I can be an empowered woman without being a righteous girl or a good girl. So for me, those lyrics come from there. I think every woman is sized by the length of her skirt. This whole casual commenting of don't do this, don't do that. Right now as we speak, there are a lot of positive comments but some people are like you ruined your image. You ruined your sexuality with your hair being cut. Which I think also worked perfectly for the song. Shedding that long hair and the nonsense of the whole Indian culture. I mean our fathers would get angry when we would cut our hair. Even calling this hair a boy cut. How is having short hair equated to a boy cut? So for me, that whole paragraph comes from this. Then I also felt a lot of good guys are getting gagged in our society. I think this whole emancipation of a man. Ki what makes a man, a man? A lot of my friends are gay, and they are men. And they think of themselves as men and then there are men who think of themselves as women and then there are men that are completely straight and they have that emotional side to them. They like to cry once in a while. Maybe they want to stay at home. Maybe they want to be a makeup artist. I know men that are completely straight but they like to wear makeup. So I also wanted to write this song from an honest place. I thank Ritesh for helping me.
“AS SOCIAL MEDIA IS COMING TO THE FOREFRONT, IT'S LIKE I'M FIGHTING A FACELESS CROWD”
Talking about feelings with
Nidhi Singh Interview by Armin S.
It sounds so basic
right? Talking about feelings. But it isn’t because we hardly hear an actor be vulnerable off screen. We hardly hear them share stories of personal struggle. So when I have a conversation with Nidhi Singh (Permanent Roommates, Dil Juunglee, Bahut Hua Samman, Abhay, PariWar, Mismatched) that turns in that direction while talking about her journey, I’m immediately engrossed completely. Her sheer honesty about her feelings and how she pulled through difficult times was inspiring – and that’s the reason why I think you must have a read through this conversation.
2020 HAS BEEN A WHIRLWIND. WHEREAS THINGS HAVE REALLY SLOWED DOWN FOR A LOT OF THE ACTORS THAT WE'RE USED TO SEEING ON THE BIG SCREEN, THINGS HAVE REALLY AMPED UP FOR ACTORS WHO ARE ON WEB SERIES AND ARE ON THE DIGITAL MEDIUM. AND I THINK IT'S FANTASTIC AND IT'S HIGH TIME THAT WE START TO RECOGNIZE THOSE PEOPLE AND THOSE ACTORS. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW 2020 IS DEFINING YOU PROFESSIONALLY RIGHT NOW.
So you know what, I look at the whole experience of 2020 as a blessing. I mean, of course with the pandemic and people falling sick, some people have lost their loved ones and there are people from my family who are on the front line and all of those things. It's not easy to wrap your head around all this. So that is obviously one major drawback, which is going to reflect in many years coming forth. And one has to be aware of that. As we are going through an experience, we are usually so overwhelmed by what the experience entails that we don't realize what the aftermath of it would be. And I say that to everybody that, you have to have a stronger coping mechanism because the world is moving so fast now. And sadly, we don't have the luxury to slow down and take your time and reflect on things and all of that. But having said that, I know that is the one big chunk or one big drawback of everything that we're going through. But the blessing that I see in all of this is sometimes you do need a reset button to everything. And I see this as a bit of a reset not just in my life but everyone's lives, my parents for that matter. My siblings, my friends, extended family, everybody. I think somewhere we all started reconnecting with things, art, nobody had time to sing or dance. See work is one aspect of our lives, right? We do spend a major chunk and I mean, I'm saying this from my experience, but we spend a major chunk of our time just waiting to hear about a project. There's one part of our lives when you need to know that it's action time. You go, you perform. And there's this huge chunk, which is just waiting and conserving your energy, or directing it in the correct way and just navigating through that. So we are mentally prepared to go through that process of waiting and not knowing what might
happen. But somewhere what ended up happening was a lot of specifically OTT actors, a lot of their content released at this time because the audience was waiting and not doing much, they ended up consuming it a lot quicker than they would otherwise. And that turned into a blessing in disguise. So overall I do see this as a very humbling experience but also something which was a bit of a blessing. So I take it all with a pinch of salt, but I also feel grateful for it, if that makes any sense.
IF I RECALL CORRECTLY, YOU GAVE AN INTERVIEW SOME THREE YEARS AGO. AND YOU SAID “ACTORS WHO WORK ON THE DIGITAL PLATFORM ARE NOT AFFORDED THE SAME KIND OF RESPECT OR GIVEN THE SAME KIND OF CREDIBILITY THAT THE MAINSTREAM CINEMA ACTORS ARE”. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT STARTING OFF YOUR JOURNEY AND SOME OF THE HURDLES THAT YOU CAME ACROSS, WHERE PEOPLE WERE DIVISIVE ABOUT THE KIND OF ACTING THAT YOU WERE DOING BASED ON THE PLATFORM THAT YOU WERE USING?
It's so nice if you do your research and come back to me with something that I had said. So I would like to backtrack a little bit and tell you why I said what I said at the time. I don't know which particular interview this is, but I definitely have said that. And I say this solely from my experience. I know there might be another colleague of mine who is opposed to that and will say, “no, that's absolutely incorrect”. And to each his own. And I say this from my experience solely. When I had my first web series - it came out six years ago. And before that I'd done a few sketches and small little comedic stuff. So I was majorly perceived as not a comedian, but as somebody who could do funny stuff. And I was offered similar kinds of roles, which I was very grateful for. But I knew that I wanted to sink my teeth into something different. I wanted to be a part of the story and everything. And that's when Permanent Roommates came along. And when Permanent Roommates came, I gave my everything to it. It wasn't a lavish project. We did not know what a Web Series was, even at that time. But I was so absolutely in love with the story. I wanted to give it all I had. One thing led to another. People liked it and
people warmed up to it. And then the second season came out and people liked that even more. It became a bit of a raging success solely because that was the only series at the time. It all came out on YouTube. And then after that, the company that made the show started their own app called TVF play. So we went through that whole growth curve. By then, as an actor, I knew that people now can possibly see me in things that are not just funny. It's completely okay, to each its own and we have some absolutely brilliant girls and guys out there who are doing genius comedy. And I'm like the biggest fan. But it's just not for me to only do comedy. That's not all I want to do. So I thought, okay, now I can take my chances.
SO WERE THINGS STARTING TO LOOK UP THEN?
You know, I will never forget this instance. I was standing in a parking lot and Ayushmann Khurrana walked up to me and he said, “You’re Nidhi right?” He knew my name. And he was Ayushmann Khurrana. Obviously today he's like a megastar, but even at the time, he was a massive star and he straight walked up to me and he said, “You're Nidhi, right?” “I love what you did with Permanent. You're such a fine actor. All the best” and he gave me a hug. I just froze because I couldn't believe that he had first of all, even seen it. Secondly, I couldn't believe that he would recognize me like that. And thirdly, I couldn't believe that he would acknowledge my presence so graciously. And then Tahira, his wife also came and spoke to me and I was just so grateful and overwhelmed at that point. I mean, apart from these few moments that I would cherish so much, people had a lot of resistance towards me in the beginning. They did not take me very seriously. I think they thought it was a fluke.. I know of so many projects that I have had the good fortune of being a part of that happened because that director or producers saw me in Permanent. And then they kept me in mind or they thought about me a couple of years later. I mean, it would have been nice if it was immediate because I was really struggling. I really wanted to do a lot more. It didn't happen immediately, but that’s okay. It's slow and steady. I come from a very humble, a very grounded family and they are not very taken by the glitz and glamor of my world. They just really focus on the merit of it all. So, when I say that there's so much that I want to do, it's not in terms of how that's the car I want to drive or that's the house that I want. I mean, I do, but
I mean, it is more in terms of the kind of roles that I want to do, you know, so I'm taking it one day at a time.
I WANT TO PICK UP ON WHAT YOU JUST SAID. YOU TALKED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GROWTH AND MAKING SURE THAT YOU'RE DIVERSIFYING YOUR PORTFOLIO AS WELL AND YOU DON'T WANT TO REALLY FIT INTO A BOX. WHEN PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO FIT YOU INTO A BOX, WHEN YOU WERE STRUGGLING, WHAT WERE THINGS THAT KEPT YOU GOING?
Firstly, you lean into it. You have to take stock of what it is that you are feeling at the moment or what it is that that experience gave you. It could hurt you or even if it made you very happy, you have to take stock. I think learning to take stock and taking a moment and telling yourself, this is how I actually feel is very essential. As I grow older, I understand the importance of self-talk and just having that moment with yourself. Earlier when Permanent happened, I was 27 years old. I was not too young, but I was also not wise enough. And people had started recognizing me and all that. So I thought, Oh my God, my makeup is not in place. And you know, my hair and I have to look like this all the time and I have to wear such clothes and I should have this car. And I started feeling all of that pressure. I feel so grateful for the kind of people who were around me at the time. And even to date, like I'm touching wood right now because even from my relationship at the time to my family, to my friends, everybody was such a strong force in my life in keeping me grounded and just making you feel that you are fine. I actually feel that the problems I had back then were so much simpler and they in fact were cute. I would laugh at it and I would say, “Oh, you poor thing”. I look at myself and now and the kind of stress and the anxiety. It's all the life stuff, you know, things happen. Like it's not just what's happening in your career. It's a lot of personal life issues and all. And, when that happens, I think there's that moment when you realize it's just me at the end of the day. It's just me. How many times am I going to talk to my friends? How many times am I going to bother my parents or my siblings for that matter? It is just me and as depressing as it sounds right now, I think one of the best lessons is that I have learned how to live just with myself and not really have anyone that I can just run into and just blurt out all my issues to.
SO HOW DO YOU STAY AUTHENTIC AND STAY TRUE TO YOUR BEING?
I think it's very essential to stay authentic. It's very essential to stay authentic to how you feel at the moment. And earlier, I used to feel this very strong pressure especially when, you know, people are looking at you and people are expecting you to be a certain way and be chirpy and endearing and approachable all the time. I felt this pressure to seem to look happy all the time. And it used to break me, because I would want to cry and I couldn't. I had to keep smiling and it used to break me. That was actually a very, very pivotal moment when I realized that I am not going to fake how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling something, I'm going to speak about it, or I'll stay quiet. I don't have to keep faking how I'm feeling. So I think that that was a big turning point for me.
APRIL 2019, YOU WROTE THIS IS ON YOUR INSTAGRAM. YOU WROTE “I'LL RISE BACK UP LIKE A STORM”. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT BECAUSE YOU ARE RISING UP LIKE A STORM. I THINK YOU ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. TELL ME ABOUT THAT POST.
(Smiles) Right. So that particular post, you know, I was so skeptical about posting it. That was a moment of vulnerability. And I thought, okay, I really do want to say this out loud. I did say this one time. Because, you know, people expect you to always be content and happy. No, I can’t, I struggle. I struggle every single day. I almost cry every second day, you know? Otherwise I'm quite personal. And specifically in the last two or three years, I've become very, I wouldn't say protective, but I am. I'm a bit private now. So I don't really share everything. But I did share this particular one because this was back in the beginning of 2018, when a couple of things that I wanted, I really prayed that would work out for me, fell through. And it would keep me up at night and I wouldn't be able to sleep. So it was just one of those moments where I think I scribbled it, and a year or two after that, I happened to read it again and I was instantly brought back to what I was feeling at the moment when I wrote it. And I was feeling a lot more grounded in the present time. And I thought, okay, I should share it. So that's why I made that journal entry. And that's why I chose to share it. There are many, many journal entries that I have, which I will never share. So yeah, that particular one, I said it because of that. There are things that
“we don't have the luxury to slow down and take your time and reflect on things” happen that cripple you and at the time, you feel crippled by it. And it's okay. Everybody goes through things, you know, it's okay.
AND WE HAVE QUITE A BIT TO LOOK FORWARD TO.
Yeah. I happen to have releases back-to-back, so it might just look like it's a lot, but all of last year, every single thing that I worked on, it never released last year. So I actually had no releases last year, and it all happened to release now. And that also during the lockdown and people, because they have nothing to do, they happen to watch it. I have Dark Seven White, which is a political thriller/drama. And that series was shot in 20 days, record time! We shot in Bikaner, it came to Bombay.
“Before I knew it, I was a full-time actor”
MUKUL CHADDA Interview by Armin S.
becam Bicc about b job, how a and the d
As I sit down to chat with Mukul Chadda, I realize that the last time I saw something of his was Banana Bread, a wonderful short film released during the lockdown on YouTube. My parents certainly remember him from his time in the hit show, The Office. But before all that, he was working as a banker in New York, enrolled in acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. And somehow, eventually, acting me a full-time gig. With his recent choo Ka Khel, Mukul talks to me breaking out of his initial full-time acting eventually became full-time danger of being typecast, all in a very interesting narrative.
I WANT TO GO BACK SEVERAL YEARS. I MEAN, MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, WHEN YOU DECIDED THAT YOU WOULD QUIT YOUR JOB IN NEW YORK. I BELIEVE YOU HAD DONE YOUR MBA, YOU WORKED IN A BANK IN NEW YORK, AND YOU DECIDED THAT YOU WEREN'T HAPPY. WHAT HAPPENED THAT MADE YOU DECIDE THAT THIS IS NOT WORKING FOR ME?
I think it takes a little bit of courage and a lot of stupidity to take that kind of plunge. But it happened. I mean, no, you know, it's very hard to go back and figure out, even at the time for that matter, what was the trigger? Was it a single trigger? Was it multiple triggers? But deep down somewhere, I wasn't particularly happy with what I was doing. It wasn't as if I quit in a huff. I was working at Lehman Brothers for six years. So that's a long time. I think after a couple of years on the job, I was looking to do something different and it was very hard to make that switch and that transition also. Because I didn't know what else I would do. I think there were two factors. One was that I wanted to do something different and I also wanted to return to India. That was also a very big factor in my mind at the time. I think had I been working in say banking in Mumbai, I might not have made the switch. Actually, it's funny. I may have made the switch to something else, but not to this. And this was kind of odd because somewhere I felt, I need to go back to India and this is not what I want to do, but it was very hard to make that switch because I was doing a job that was sort of coveted by many people who are classmates of mine, ex classmates of mine. It was hard to say no to good money. I was fortunate to be making some decent money then. But I think over time, you know, you keep doing it for a couple of years and eventually it catches up with you. And I think it's important to recognize that if you're not enjoying something, you should not really pursue it because your heart's not in it. And then, you know, sometimes you get lucky breaks. Someone quit, I got a promotion, I got his job and it gets harder to leave. But eventually I guess it catches up somewhere. So when I did quit, I wouldn't say that I quit to say, I want to go back and be an actor. I don't think I had that much courage. But I certainly felt that I wanted to go back to
India. In the absence of having something else to do because I wasn't sure, you know, I was at a crossroads in life. I always had a passion for acting and theater. I studied drama class at Lee Strasberg while I was in New York. I took stage and drama all throughout school, college, MBA. I was always on stage. And we started a theater group in New York also. So I did plays there. So all that was always around. I just never saw it as a career option because you just don't. I mean, you know, growing up in an upper middle class in India, you don't think of that as a potential career option. I said I will take a sabbatical. Do theatre for a couple of years and I also wanted to write. I did try for a couple of years and then I found it hard to quit. I wasn't able to break out of it. And before I knew it, I was a full-time actor.
RIGHT. AND I'VE READ THAT! I READ THAT IT SORT OF TRANSITIONED INTO BEING FULL-TIME AND YOU DIDN'T NECESSARILY REALIZE WHEN THAT HAPPENED. WAS THERE EVER A MOMENT OF REALIZATION THAT THIS IS WHAT I AM ENJOYING?
I think a couple of things, you know. I think sometimes these preferences reveal themselves to you. It's not as if you necessarily think it through and say, okay, you know, pen and paper, pros and cons and you weigh up, and this is a little heavier than that. It's you. You start taking decisions that reveal certain preferences to you automatically. For instance, I always told myself that I'm only interested in doing theater. It's a sabbatical, it's a couple of years and nothing more. I'm not looking to be a film actor or get into this as a career because you know, some of admitting to that is also making a commitment, which is then a very active choice. But then I found that I started doing a lot of TV commercials. I enjoy doing them. I didn't want to quit doing that. In the very early days. I got some offers to do some roles in films, and I found myself going for every one of those auditions. It's a funny story, I think it was Rang De Basanti actually. I was called for an audition and I had nothing on me. I just saw myself as a theater actor. I wasn't doing anything else. I got called for an audition and I went. I said, let me see what this is about. And I had nothing. I had no portfolio. I had not taken photographs of myself as an actor because I just didn't think that that
“But I think somewhere deep down, most actors are delusional.”
was something I’m doing. I went to this meeting and the casting person asked me for photographs. And I said, I don't have any. And you know, he looked at me like “are you even serious about this career?” And now the funny thing is, I think how I responded at that point revealed a lot to me. Instead of saying, yeah, “I'm not sure, I’m not that serious” and walking out, I found myself saying, “I'm so sorry. You want photographs”? I really want to do this. So I went out to a one hour photo shop and got some photos clicked, and brought them back. It is kind of hilarious and stupid because he had lost interest by then. But the fact that I did it made me realize the next day, that, given a chance, I would love to do these roles. I would love to act in these projects. And I would like to do more of this.
IT'S A TOUGH ADMISSION TO MAKE, RIGHT? BECAUSE I THINK CREATIVELY SPEAKING, YOU CAN TRY TO CONVINCE YOURSELF THAT YOU'RE DOING THIS PART-TIME OR THIS IS AN INTEREST THAT YOU HAVE. BUT AS YOU SAID, AS SOON AS YOU VOCALIZE THAT THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO, THERE'S A CERTAIN COMMITMENT THAT FOLLOWS. YET, YOU ENDED UP DOING A LOT OF PROJECTS. YOU DID GURGAON. YOU DID I, ME AUR MAIN. YOU DID SATYAGRAHA. I THINK YOUR FIRST PLAY WAS BAANSURI. THEN, THE ICONIC JAGDEEP IN THE OFFICE. DO YOU EVER THINK TO YOURSELF, ALL OF THESE CHARACTERS HAVE HELPED ME SOMEHOW BECOME A BETTER PERSON OR TAUGHT ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MYSELF.
I think it's very hard for me to say it's made me a better person. Those are very difficult things to sort of figure out. I certainly think that a lot of roles and a lot of characters and a lot of the work I've done has helped me become a better actor. I can certainly say that. There are some roles that I've done where the process alone has taught me so much that it's something that stayed with me. And sometimes I think the little lessons you learn from the journey in those projects are good reminders for the future
when you get stuck in something later. So those certainly I can say. As a person, it's very hard because we are always evolving and I hope I'm getting to be a better person, but you never know the truth with that. But yeah, I think Jagdeep Chadda and The Office has been a big, big teaching place for me as well. I think I do feel it was a tough role to play. I mean really, there were so many nonsensical lines that the writers had written for the character. You have to somehow make it convincing. You have to find new and different ways to do that. And I think it sort of sharpens the muscle of trying to make lines work. I mean I really think that sometimes an actor's job is just making lines work. You've been given a set of lines. You’ve gotta make them work. And there was a lot of that in that show. I mean, I had a big opportunity, which is great, and I'm grateful for that, but that was a great experience.
AS AN ACTOR, HOW DO YOU GET OVER SELF DOUBT? WHEN YOU ARE THE LEAD IN A PLAY OR PLAYING A PIVOTAL ROLE IN A PROJECT, HOW DO YOU GET OVER THAT HUMP?
I don't know. Sometimes I think it's luck. It could have gone the other way. You could have just said, “Oh, forget it. I can't do this tonight. I wouldn't make it”. But I think somewhere deep down, most actors are delusional. I mean, I think we all have this strange self-belief that we can do anything. And I think at some level, you need that delusion.
HMM. INTERESTING. I LIKE THAT YOU TALK ABOUT A LEVEL OF DELUSION. I THINK ALL OF US HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THAT A LITTLE BIT THOUGH TO BELIEVE IN OURSELVES. SO INTERESTING YOU SAY THAT. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE BICCHOO KA KHEL. I UNDERSTAND YOU'RE PLAYING THE FATHER TO DIVYENDU SHARMA AND YOUR CHARACTERʼS NAME IS BABU SRIVASTAVA. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW THAT HAPPENED AND A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO AND WHAT YOU DID LOOK FORWARD TO
AS YOUR CHARACTER WAS DEVELOPING IN YOUR MIND.
So this role was offered to me when they called up and said, would you like to do this? And I read the script and I thought I liked the script. I liked the character a lot. Also, you know, to give you some context, like I said, it's sometimes nice to just push yourself in different directions. I think one of the things I have been feeling for the last few years is the danger of really being typecast. It's not as if it was one type of character, but most of the characters I've played have been a certain way. They've been of a certain milieu, even if their characterizations are different. And we also see that in India as of late, there's been such a shift to so many stories being from the Heartland, from smaller towns. And I think one of the things that first attracted me about Bicchoo Ka Khel was that character, he's a lower middle class guy. He works in a Halwai shop. He's from Banaras. He's a small town, simple guy. And I hadn't done a role where I've played a character from that part of the country. So I jumped at it. I thought the character was very interesting. It was very different from what I played, but more importantly, it would force me to play someone from that social milieu. I think this danger of being typecast is real. You need to break out and do different things. But we are fortunately in a wonderful golden era where so much content is being made that.
Meet HEMANT KHER: Ashwin Mehta from Scam 1992
Interview by Armin S.
Hemant Kher plays Ashwin
Mehta in the super successful, highly rated Scam 1992. Scam 1992 is a series that has the internet goers completely enthralled. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Hemant Kher and have a quick one-on-one with the actor who talks about going back to the 90s with his series, how being a writer has helped him as an actor, and whatĘźs next for him.
HEMANT, SCAM 1992 HAS DONE SO WELL AND RECEIVED RAVE REVIEWS. BUT BEFORE SCAM 1992, YOU HAVE HAD A LONG JOURNEY. WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE ACTING WAS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO DO?
I was in standard 12th, everyone was thinking of going to medicine or engineering but I decided to get into acting!
HOW HAS BEING A WRITER HELPED YOU EVOLVE AS AN ACTOR AND VICE VERSA?
Everything generates from words and gets physical shape in the form of performance! Being a writer myself, helped me a lot to have a better understanding of not only the lines but what happens between the lines! The actor always loved writers and the writer in me always wrote for the ultimate living form - that is an actor!
“the writer in me always wrote for the ultimate living form - that is an actor!”
WHEN TRAINING AND COACHING FOR TELEVISION SHOWS, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?
I learnt that there is always a way to make people feel that they are special and there is always a way to make things understandable! Personally I learnt that when I teach, actually I learn more!
LET'S TALK SCAM 1992. IT IS SET IN AN ERA THAT IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM TODAY'S WORLD. HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE SKIN OF THAT TIME?
It was easy because I was a teenager in 90s and I had lot of strong images of that era! Actually I relate more to the period of 90s than any other era!
YOUR ROLE IS BEING RECOGNIZED BY THE PUBLIC. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF PLAYING ASHWIN MEHTA?
Every bit of that character is my favourite but I felt him completely when he requests Sucheta Dalal for help to get Harshad out of jail.
WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO NEXT? A movie written and directed by me (smiles).
“Music is a canvas on which I can paint colours sonically”
Samira Koikar Interview by Armin S.
“creativity is beyond gender...“
opularly known for her vocals in songs like “Aaj Phir Tum Pe” from Hate Story 2 and “Mohabbat Barsaa Dena Tu” in Creature 3D, Samira Koppikar has also proved her mettle as a composer. This field, in particular, has been mostly dominated by males but Koppikar is leading by example that women too can make it big if they have what it takes. She has composed for Saif Ali Khanʼs Laal Kaptaan and is excited for her next release, Bole Chudiyan. In the meantime, her song “Mai Ye Haath Jo” is making waves on YouTube. Talking about her musical influences and how music has shaped her being, here is our chat with Samira Koppikar.
SAMIRA, IT IS SO NICE TO SEE A FEMALE COMPOSER IN HINDI FILMS AND PROJECTS. WHY IS IT THAT YOU THINK WE HAVEN'T SEEN SO MANY FEMALE COMPOSERS IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA?
Thanks, I believe that creativity is beyond gender…hence it is absurd why there have been more male composers & hardly any female composers. I myself have wondered why there aren’t so many females in this field.
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, WHO WERE YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCES?
My family has been listening to Indian Classical Music, Ghazals, Folk & Vintage Bollywood Music, Western Pop and Rock Music, …since childhood, I’ve listened to artists like Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi, Bade Ghulam Ali, Kishori Amonkar. Shobha Gurtu, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle. Lata Mangeshkar, Usha Uthup. In Western Music, I’ve listened to U2, Sting, Bobby Mcferrin – they have all been influences. One of my favourite music composers has been SD Burman.
MUSIC CAN BE SOOTHING AND AN OUTLET FOR MANY. WHAT DOES MUSIC AND SINGING MEAN TO YOU?
Creation of music & singing for me is pure expression of emotions in a way that can make a difference & reach people’s hearts. It is meditative, at times cathartic. It is a canvas where I can paint colours sonically. Melody, lyrics, expression of thoughts, ideologies, experiences all take form and shape a song or a musical piece.
ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES OF YOURS IS 'MOHABBAT BARSA DENA TU' AS A SINGER. IT COMPLETELY OVERWHELMS ME. IS THERE A PARTICULAR SONG OF YOURS OF YOU LISTEN TO THAT CAN COMPLETELY TAKE YOU OVER?
“Bairaagi” from “Bareilly ki Barfi” is one of my personal favourites. Soulful lyrics by Puneet Sharma complement the melody seamlessly. People have said that this song is a timeless piece & touched their lives like no other. This feedback is heartening for me.
YOUR LATEST, 'MAIN HAATH YEH JO', IS DOING EXTREMELY WELL ON YOUTUBE. THERE IS SOMETHING VERY SOULFUL ABOUT THE SONG. WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF COMPOSING AND SINGING FOR THIS ONE?
Yes, “Main Yeh Haath Jo” has been received really well… People have loved it as being a soulful melodious track. The process was organic.. This melody drifted into my being one day, I developed it further & sent it to my lyricist Neeraj Rajawat, who then penned lyrics which were so apt. The song just happened effortlessly. Singing this song was an amazing experience. I took off the composer hat & put on the singer’s hat. I invested my emotions into rendering the vocals of this song.
WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO FROM YOU?
Three more singles & music videos are in the pipeline. They shall release back to back over the next few months. That apart, I’m working on the music of a couple of web series. Songs for a film called “Bole Chudiyaan” and a few feature film albums early next Year…
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Asmita Sood “I realised the power cinema has over people!” Interview by Armin S. 50 BollywoodFilmFame.com
ayed an integral part in nt series, Poison 2, with dasani. But before that, huge success in the film ng a part of nine films in ndia. Sheʼs also been a ision content that everymembers to date – Star hir Bhi Na Maane…Badez Dil and Sony TVʼs Dil h Hai. We catch up with actor as she delves into hy she stayed in acting, being an avid reader as a child, and what being a part of television has taught her.
I UNDERSTAND YOU DID YOUR FIRST FILM NOT NECESSARILY WITH THE INTENTION OF DOING ACTING FULL TIME? WHEN DID IT DAWN UPON YOU THAT THIS WAS THE PATH YOU WANTED TO TAKE?
After the release of my first film, we went for theatre visits. Over there I saw the crazy energy and the excitement of the crowd. When they first saw me with my co-star outside the theatre, they went crazy. The love and the respect I got with one release...I realised the power cinema has over people! That was the moment when I thought that yes, I might want to give this a shot in the long run and do justice to all this love and affection I have got. I felt like I should work harder and really feel like I've earned this!
I WANT TO TAKE YOU BACK TO CHILDHOOD. DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR TV SHOW, FILM, ACTOR WHO LEFT AN IMPRESSION ON YOU, WHO YOU USE AS A REFERENCE EVEN TODAY?
As a child, I think I used to read a lot more than watch any TV or films. I was a voracious reader, so much so that I would finish off reading all my next year’s syllabus books in the three month holiday break we got in Shimla before the next class! I loved books and eventually had a mini library of my own at home, so I guess books have had a larger impact on me and my perception of life as a whole. I think the influence of television started much later.
“I guess books have had a larger impact on me and my perception of life” SO MUCH OF AN ACTOR'S GRAPH IS BASED ON GROWTH. HAS THERE BEEN AN INCIDENT, A CHARACTER OR A PROJECT THAT HAS REALLY HELPED YOU GROW AS A PERSON?
I guess many such incidents shape and mould you as a person. I’m a completely different person from what I was when I started working in the Industry. A lot of senior actors taught me different things, experiences, incidents. It’s been a good blend of all of these.
BEING A PART OF TELEVISION, YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT HAVING THE PRESSURE TO DELIVER QUALITY FOOTAGE IN A SHORT TIME SPAN. WHAT ELSE HAS TELEVISION TAUGHT YOU THAT YOU REFLECT ON EVEN TODAY?
Apart from delivering quality footage in due time, television has also taught me the importance of having a good team to work with! TV is a generally longer commitment. You have year long contracts and you are working with the same faces throughout that. If you end up getting stuck with the wrong peo ple or people that you generally don’t get along with in real life, it’s tough for me to do a good job on screen...off screen camaraderie is very important too to bring out special nuances and bonds to create memorable characters. Again that’s my experience, to each their own!
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I guess the unnecessary delays and changing schedules of the productions every now and then. This sometimes really messes with you if you are doing multiple projects at one time. A lot of times actors end up losing projects because of this.
WITH DIFFERENT LANGUAGE FILMS, OTT, AND OF COURSE, YOUR RECENT POISON 2, WHAT APPEALS TO YOUR SENSE TODAY AS AN ACTOR?
All of them have been special in their own way. For now I would want to concentrate more on the OTT zone and explore this platform.
“There are no fixed norms in our industry”
Sanchita Puri S
anchita Puri gained huge appreciation recently as she essayed the role of Prerna in the film Ginny Weds Sunny. Previously, she made her mark with some big projects such as Baarish, Laal Ishq, and The Final Call. Candid and certain, Sanchita talks to us about how she feels when she watches herself on screen, her varied experience through The Jeff Goldberg Studio, and what she would change about the industry.
Interview by Armin S. Photographer: Khushi Agarwal Make-Up Artist: Parigya Puri Stylist: Sneha Puri
“Thereʼs never been a project where I judge myself.“
YOU PLAY THE LOVABLE PRERNA IN GINNY WEDS SUNNY. WHO IS THE PRERNA IN YOUR LIFE?
I’m glad everyone loved the character of Prerna. She’s a very intelligent and sorted girl. In my life, I’m blessed to have a few close friends who have been very supportive and have guided me the right way. I wish everyone has people like that who can help them grow.
I WANT TO TAKE YOU BACK TO CHILDHOOD. I UNDERSTAND IN GRADE 9, YOU HAD A PLAY, AND SOMEBODY MADE A RECORDING. YOU WATCHED IT AND REALIZED YOU ENJOYED PERFORMING. CAN YOU WATCH YOURSELF NOW BECAUSE SOME ACTORS SAY THEY CAN'T WATCH THEMSELVES OR CANNOT HEAR THEMSELVES...IS THAT THE CASE FOR YOU? WHAT DO YOU LEARN FROM WATCHING YOURSELF?
Whenever you watch yourself on the screen for the first time, you feel awkward. But for an actor, it’s important to keep watching and recording themselves so that they know their flaws and the areas they need to work upon. When I was young, I used to feel very awkward watching myself, but over the years, I’ve become very comfortable. I proactively watch myself to know my areas of improvement.
YOU STARTED OFF AS A METHOD ACTOR WITH THE JEFF GOLDBERG STUDIO, DOING PLAYS, WEB SHOWS, COMMERCIALS AND SHORT FILMS. IS THERE A PARTICULAR PROJECT THAT YOU WERE INVOLVED IN THAT YOU FELT DIDN'T GET ITS DUE? WHY?
Yes, I was part of The Jeff Goldberg Studio. I feel initially it’s very important for every artiste to try the hit and
“When I was young, I used to feel very awkward watching myself“
trial method to understand what suits them and what doesn’t. There’s never been a project where I judge myself. I just like to go with the flow and do justice to the character that I’m playing.
WHICH ONE OF YOUR CHARACTERS HAS LEFT THE DEEPEST IMPACT ON YOU ON A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL? AND ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?
I played a really nice character in Baarish and I enjoyed playing that, as an actor. On a personal level, Prerna was very inspiring. People really wanted to connect with me and know me in person after watching that film.
WHAT WOULD BE THE ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE IN THE INDUSTRY, IF YOU COULD?
There are no fixed norms in our industry. For instance, in Hollywood things are fixed in terms of actors’ wages, the scheduling of their auditions and the casting system. There are trained agents involved, who are given a legal validation. They know how to behave with actors. Back in India, the actors in the Hindi film industry, especially the beginners, aren’t treated as well in most places. I feel there should be an association that’s backed by the government to safeguard their interests.
are an Integral Part of
Paras Madaanâ€™s Life
Interview by Armin S.
aras Madaan has a way with words. If you check him out on social media, along with having oodles of talent we have witnessed in shows like Divya Drishti, Beyhadh 2, and Qubool Hai (to name a few), he also has a talent for finding the positive, the light. In my interview with him, I talk to him about believing in himself, manifesting his dreams into reality, and his work as an actor so far.
Photography by @the_prfct_idiot Outfit @nitinsingh.designer Retouch by @foodwithkapil Coordination by @aesana0710 & @shah.dev.22
YOU SPOKE ABOUT BELIEVING IN AFFIRMATIONS AND MANIFESTATION IN AN INTERVIEW BEFORE. WHAT KIND OF POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS DO YOU ENGAGE IN FOR YOURSELF ON A DAILY BASIS?
Words are powerful sources of energy and I strongly believe that the energy that you let out in the universe comes back to you for sure.I was initially skeptical about affirmations but soon I realised that they have immense positive impact on my mindset. Since then affirmations have become an integral part of my life. My powerful morning affirmations are related to happiness, mental peace, self worth and abundant growth both personally and professionally.
MEMORABLE FOR YOU?
I have done a lot of characters but the role of Bicchu in Divya Drishti has been my favourite so far. I loved the role for the versatility it had in store. It was a perfect concoction of humour, wittiness and fun.
DO YOU FIND TELEVISION ACTORS GET THEIR DUE AND RECOGNITION FOR THEIR HARD WORK OR IS THERE A VERY COMMON DISPARITY BETWEEN THE POPULARITY OF TELEVISION AND FILM ACTORS AND THE REAL BUT UNNECESSARY DIVISION THAT EXISTS?
I believe that talent and creativity cannot be defined by any boundary or limitation.
“talent and creativity cannot be defined by any boundary or limitation.“ Picture Courtesy: Sayan Sur Roy Coordination by @aesana0710 @shah.dev.22
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE MANIFESTED YOUR DREAMS INTO REALITY?
I strongly believe that if one wants something then they should go for it. Chasing dreams is not a cakewalk and definitely has its own ups and downs. Little progress each day adds up to big results. The passion within me has always encouraged me to keep standing strong in the toughest of times to continue chasing my goals.
YOU'VE DONE SOME MEMORABLE WORK ON TELEVISION WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST
Hard work pays off irrespective of the platform so I don’t really think that way. For an actor, the inner satisfaction of performing is what matters the most. I feel recognition is magnetic to consistency and complete transparency in work.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE IN FIVE YEARS?
Life is full of aspirations and dreams to be fulfilled and five years down the line I definitely believe that I will be able to further hone my skills in this field which I find fascinating. I want to do some really exciting and meaningful roles in the future carving my niche way deeper into the hearts of my lovely fans for times to come.
FIRST TIME FACING A CAM The first time I faced camera was when I acted as a village girl in a Doordarshan show named “Zindagi Dot Com” which can be found on YouTube. I was nervous but definitely it was a very lovely experience shooting the same in Delhi. My director, Mr.Umesh Bisht was calm and confident throughout that I would play the part well and it made things easy. It was a wonderful team to work with. I remember getting sunburns to a point that my skin got peeled off then. All in all it was a wonderful & exhilarating experience facing camera the first time.
FIRST TIME FACING REJEC AND HOW YOU DEALT WIT
Interview by Armin S.
ansi Srivastavaʼs work has been varied, as she commenced her television career in 2012. When she starred as a lead in Do Dil Bandhe Ek Dori Se, she gained immense popularity and adoration. Recently, she has further added to her long list of fans with huge projects such as Ishqbaaaz, Divya Drishti, vVidya. Given her journey, we thought it would be fun to ask her about some of her very first experiences and thoughts. 56 BollywoodFilmFame.com
I understood it quite early that in this industry rejections happen everyday. Initially, I used to go for four to five auditions everyday and I knew that I won’t be selected in all of them for there are a lot of options and most importantly there are different faces for every character. It’s like every role has a brief & the face that fits the bill is selected .It’s okay to be rejected and one should not take it to the heart. It’s just that the character they are looking for isn’t made for us. Most of the time, after a great audition I would follow up with the creative a few weeks later & that would be all. I seldom pondered over being rejected or not.
FIRST TIME FEELING ACCOM The first time I felt accomplished was when I bagged my first lead role in “Do Dil Bandhe Ek Dori Se” with names like Aloknath, Arhaan Behll & Shubhangi Latkar. I felt elated about featuring as the lead on a Zee TV prime time then.
CTION TH IT
FIRST TIME YOU TRULY FELT HAPPY IN THE PROFESSION The first time I truly felt happy in the profession was when I was doing this show named “Peterson Hill” which got me really good friends whom I address as my extended family. Sucheta Khanna is my go-to-person for everything & is my godmother/godsister. My producer Ashwini Dhir was an amazing person for how approachable, cooperative, and funny he was as an individual. I felt happy about meeting great people through work.
THE FIRST PERSON YOU CALL WHEN YOU GET GOOD NEWS The first person I call when I receive good news is my dad from family and Sucheta amongst my friends.
THE FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YOU GET BAD NEWS The first thing I do when I get bad news is getting anxious over it followed by me ringing up my friend, Sucheta. I also call up two of my other friends Amruta & Anusha one of them is not from the industry. My parents are emotionally stronger than me and have a supportive nature. They support me if something bad happens.
THE FIRST THING YOU WANT TO SAY TO YOUR FANS The first thing I want to say to my fans is a big thank you.I have seen a lot of people have been following me since my first show “Do Dil Bandhe Ek Dori Se” & a lot of them keep expressing their love via messages which I of course reply to, but somehow I am not able to reply to all. They look forward to my upcoming projects and in turn, make me feel responsible to work on good projects for them (laughs) - for me also! I am thankful for everything they like about me be it work, style or content. Their appreciation inspires me and they are the reason I have reached the space I am in. Thanks a lot guys!
Executive Director, WIFT Toronto
Board Member, WIFT Toronto Vice President, IT - Bell Media
WIFT Toronto Member Owner, Who Gets It Done Productions
RABIYA MANSOOR WIFT Toronto Member Writer and Comedian
By Armin S.
Since Spring 2019, WIFT Toronto has been working toward building an inclusive and diverse membership with greater mentorship opportunities. The organization is now committed to ensuring that a minimum 50% of the mentees in its Connect Mentorship programme will be BIPOC women. Further, WIFT Toronto continues to build relationships with like-minded organizations that prioritize equity, inclusion, and diversity including: Black Women Film!, Breakthroughs Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival, imagineNATIVE, Inside Out, Reelworld, Regent Park Film Festival, and Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, among others.
IFT Toronto’s new logo reflects the organization’s commitment to inclusion. The plus symbol signifies that all genders are welcome and represented and that the organization is rooted in all screen-based media – no longer just film and television. Lastly, the plus symbol reflects energy and forward movement. We asked Karen Bruce, WIFT Toronto’s Executive Director, what WIFT Toronto offers in helping South Asian Canadians move forward with their careers. Karen said, “WIFT Toronto offers professional development, programming and networking opportunities that we have seen successfully improve the career of many individuals over the years. WIFT Toronto is about engaging, empowering, and educating those working in the screen-based media industry. We are committed to working hard to ensure the South Asian community sees the value WIFT Toronto can offer helping them reach their career goals.” We also spoke to Sonia Dhillon, who led a 19 year career with Bell/Bell Media, and is a WIFT Toronto Board Member for four years. We ask her about how WIFT has helped her in her career: “WIFT helps members by Engaging, Empowering, and Educating through tools, community support, and networks that are relevant to members based on their tenure. WIFT has helped me personally in connecting with young leaders through WIFT Connect, the mentoring program, which has helped to educate me in what young leaders are struggling with and how to help, as well as, the immense value that can be created by that level of engagement. In addition to that, the programming for more senior members has connected me to peers where discussions can happen on how I can continue to evolve my leadership to really push the bar in my role and the industry.”
A WIFT Toronto member and the Founder of Who Gets It Done Productions, Raj Dhillon talks about why she would recommend South Asians join WIFT Toronto: “I would love to meet more South Asian men & women through WIFT as I think there's specifically a lot of room to tell more stories from the Punjabi point of view. I'd love to have more people to connect and collaborate with. I think the one thing I would add is that I think it’s interesting
Festival. She talks about how WIFT Toronto has helped her move forward in her career: “I think a big part of moving forward is just talking to people, making connections, and understanding the industry. So while not everything is “I did X program, so I achieved Y”, it’s starting to plant the seeds and nurture the garden that is my career (I have butchered this metaphor, please forgive me). First off, the WIFT Connect mentorship did not disappoint. I got connected to an awesome “the programming for more mentor who was senior members has connected really open and willing to discuss me to peers where discussions the industry, can happen on how I can continbuilding a career, and forging my ue to evolve my leadership to own path. She really push the bar in my role also was kind and the industry.” enough to step in at the 11th hour SONIA BRAR as a producer on WIFT Toronto Board Member a project so I Vice President, IT - Bell Media could secure some funding. I also got to sit in to explore the idea of identity as a first on a writers summit thanks to her! generation Canadian. I think the 10/10, would do WIFT Connect again. opportunity to explore the duality of the I also really liked the Scripted Digital two cultures is interesting. There is a Series Incubator program – just huge range of duality between our getting a deeper understanding of the cultures that I think should be funding landscape for digital series explored.” alone was so helpful. And I’d be remiss to not mention the thing that Another WIFT Toronto member and a only exists in the before times – Walk writer and comedian herself, Rabiya & Talk. Just a networking walk around Mansoor, originally joined WIFT in a park meeting people and learning March 2019 because of the WIFT about them. I made a few friends Connect Mentorship Program. Rabiya through that (smiles).” has a collaborative web series project called Get Up, Aisha in development that features a Pakistani-Canadian lead and explores mental health and she did her first solo sketch show at the 2020 Toronto Sketch Comedy
ABOUT WIFT TORONTO Women in Film and Television Toronto is a non-profit, inclusive, member-based organization dedicated to the development and advancement of women and those who identify as women, in the screen-based industry. WIFT Toronto engages, empowers, and educates its 900 members through professional development, mentoring, networking opportunities, and celebrations that underscore the successes of members and non-members alike. In the last three years alone, WIFT Toronto has generated more than 150 mentorships, bestowed 21 bursaries and 62 awards, and produced nearly 700 hours of programming including 65+ networking opportunities.
Our cover story, Sayani Gupta, talks to us about building her life through the various characters she has played. Saqib Saleem is making a...
Published on Dec 12, 2020
Our cover story, Sayani Gupta, talks to us about building her life through the various characters she has played. Saqib Saleem is making a...