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Interview Hindi

Sayani Gupta: I keep reading a script for over 20-25 times till I find something

In an interview with Cinestaan.com, the Jolly LLB 2 actress speaks of her belief in playing strong characters irrespective of their length and how she prepares for new roles.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

From a pregnant widow in Jolly LLB 2 to a teenager in Jagga Jasoos, Sayani Gupta has transformed herself with each character she plays. In Amazon Prime Video’s first Indian original series, Inside Edge, she plays a cricket analyst. 

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, Gupta speaks about her character in the series, the kind of characters she wants to play and how she prepares for a role. Excerpts:

How did you become a part of Inside Edge? Could you share something about your character in the series?

I had actually auditioned for another part initially and this was when it wasn’t with Amazon. Karan [Anshuman] was still directing it and had written it. He said, “We’re still not sure, that character has become much smaller. I’m not sure if I want to waste you in that character.” Kassim [Jagmagia], who’s the creative head of Excel Entertainment, called me one day and said, 'This is about Karan’s series and now Excel Entertainment and Amazon are making it and we would like you to do another part, it’s a much bigger part, which is Karan’s favourite part actually and it’s a very good character and we would like to meet you.'

So I went in and chatted with Karan and he explained what the character was and I got quite excited. Also, I had already done a film with them and I obviously knew Karan from before. It just felt like another great opportunity to work with friends.

My character is Rohini Raghavan. She is the chief analyst of the team, Mumbai Mavericks that Zarina Malik (Richa Chadha) owns. [Rohini] is basically in charge of all the decisions that are being made for the team. So she decides the players that are going to play, what’s the batting lineup, what’s the bowling lineup, what’s the fielding positioning, everything. Her life is basically dedicated to this team and the game of cricket.

Vayu (Tanuj Virwani) is the star of this team and she is also his sister. So there’s that angle as well. She’s very independent, fierce and very vocal about her thoughts. She doesn’t take no for an answer. She is somebody who is absolutely in charge in a man’s game and all the men have to listen to her. They are scared of her. So that’s a very nice, fun character.

Were you anxious at all while signing up for a digital series or were you confident about this?

Honestly, I still say no to web series and I don’t do other web series. I understand there’s a lot happening in the web world and I’m happy to be part of the digital world like this, but my only apprehension is because there is very little money in the web series zone, stuff is being made for YouTube and [all]. You can’t really ensure that it’s made in the best way possible.

I did this because it was Excel, who I know will obviously ensure they make something good. Also, the team they have hired is very good, it’s a complete film team.

Amazon India, this being their first one, they will also want to have control on how the product is made and that’s why I was like, definitely, this is something that I could be a part of.

You have played different kinds of roles in films. What do you look for in a character?

I would say something I haven’t done before, something that’s not close to a part that I’ve played already. I’m somebody who gets bored very easily. I probably need to challenge myself in order to keep that interest level going and honestly that’s why it’s very important to keep doing different kinds of things. I feel like there might be a lot of parts which might be long in terms of length in the film, but they don’t have anything to do. They don’t have anything meaningful to add to the character. I’m not interested in doing those and that’s why I end up saying no to a lot of the parts that come to me, because it becomes very boring standing next to the hero, not doing anything and not having a life of your own. I need to have my own graph.

I had done a film called Parched (2016) where I had two scenes but still I felt like I need to be a part of this film for what it was trying to do. I knew I would be able to make an impact in those two scenes. Even in Jolly LLB 2 (2017), for example, I have six scenes in the film, but they are my scenes. I am the main conflict in the film so I have a graph, I have a journey.

How do you prepare for a new role in a film or any project? Do you have a process?

The process is different for different parts, honestly. You can’t have the same process for all the characters that you play. It’s always a mismatch of different things that you try out. First of all, the main basic foundation of starting work on a character is to know the character very well and the only way to know it is through the script. They used to tell us in film school [Gupta studied acting at Film and Television Institute of India] that any good script will give you everything you need to know about the character. Now, unfortunately, we don’t have great scripts (laughs) these days but even then, whatever you need to know is more or less there. It still gives you a clue in terms of what it’s going to be like.

I keep reading [a script] for over 20-25 times till I find something, till I absolutely know what the written details are. The first five times you read it you are constantly discovering new things, the smaller things that you might not have seen earlier but after some time when you keep reading it, it automatically gives you clues about your own character and then I spend a lot of time with the lines, know the lines by heart.

I believe in doing my lines a lot. I love rehearsals with myself and I generally spend a lot of time at home doing my lines — like I’m going to cook and do my lines. If I’ve gone out partying, I’ve had a few drinks, I’m going to come back home and do the lines to see how in different states of mind, how you would approach the lines and every time, they are different. So if I’m very agitated, I’ll do the lines, if I’m happy, I’ll do the lines and all of that as I’m doing the lines, your body and mind only gives you different clues about body language, mannerisms and how to sit.

Like for Jolly LLB 2, I spent a lot of time with a cushion in my tummy (laughs). I would try and believe there’s another entity inside me. I would always be mindful of this other thing that is with me.

For Margarita with a Straw (2015), I spent a lot of time at schools for the blind. Honestly, for [Inside Edge], the only thing that I had to work on is my cricket knowledge which is very tough and I’ve forgotten most of it now. When I was doing it, it was very weird because I had to know everything about cricket. There was nothing that this girl doesn’t know. I was rattling off a lot of this technical stuff at the time in long monologues, I needed to understand what the technicalities were, but otherwise it wasn’t so hard.

Honestly, last year, I was doing three more projects, I was already doing Jolly LLB 2, two other British films and they are such diverse parts that the process was very different for each one of them. I would literally shoot for one in the night and then travel for another, I would be all over the place. I would literally be working in one scene here to one project there. It gets very confusing when you’re doing multiple projects.

You have a release coming up in Jagga Jasoos. That was quite different for you as a role as well.

It was different but honestly, I don’t really know what my role has become. When I signed the film, I was supposed to be doing two big things. I was supposed to be the third most important character in the film, but a lot of that was not working out in the story. There was a love angle with Ranbir Kapoor, that was not working, then I was the narrator. Katrina Kaif was then made the narrator because their story was not working otherwise. Since [Anurag] Basu does not have a script beforehand, he just makes the film and writes it as he goes along. But honestly it doesn’t really matter because I’m very happy to be part of the film. It’s looking very nice and also while we were shooting it, to work with Dada (Anurag Basu) who I love absolutely and Ranbir, that was very nice, and for me to be able to pull off a 14-year-old's character. This film, for me, in that regards, is a very good feeling. Obviously, I don’t know [how much of my character is in the film].

Which other projects are you working on?

There are two British films. One is called The Hungry, that I’m very excited about actually and I dubbed for it also. I feel it’s going to be a very special film. It has a beautiful star cast. The whole team is very good. There is another British film that I can’t talk about. These two films will be out either this year or early next year.