Sayali Bhagat debuted in an unconventional fashion opposite Emraan Hashmi in the Bollywood replica of Derailed, The Train. Her performance won her accolades and recognition in Hindi cinema. She later went on to appear in Halla Bol in a piping hot item number and then work in a few South movies. After adorning the Miss India crown, her entrance into films seemed almost natural. With her next venture, Paying Guests on the brink of release, BollySpice speaks to the up and coming actress about her career thus far and future plans.
How did it feel to be named Miss India?
Well, obviously it was like a dream come true for me because it was since childhood that I was aiming for this and when the contest finally happened, I was absolutely anxious to get the crown and that’s exactly what happened. Ever since then everything has just fallen in place whether it was modeling, endorsements or ad-films.
How did you get started in the film industry? What was your first film?
Well, my first film released in August 2007. It was The Train, and it was with Emraan Hashmi. Thereafter in February 2008 my film Halla Bol released directed by Rajkumar Santoshi starring Ajay Devgan and Vidya Balan. In July 2008, my film Good Luck released by director Aditya Dutt. This year there are two releases of mine: one is releasing today, it’s called Kirkit and there is another film releasing next week on 19th which is called Paying Guests. It’s a film by Subhash Ghai.
(This interview was conducted on Friday, June 12th. Kirkit is in theaters now. -ed)
What is your role in Paying Guests?
In Paying Guests, I play a TV channel head. Since it’s a comedy film, all the characters are doing some comedy in different ways. There are characters which are doing dramatic comedy and there are characters that will be doing absolutely slapstick comedy, but my character is the one who does very straight face comedy. Besides she is the one who actually helps out all the people in need to become paying guests and actually to see that they have some house to stay in, that they can pay their rent on time. Basically, all the experiences that she faces and all the experiences she has during this journey of helping the paying guests is what the story and my role is all about.
Did you have fun making the film?
Yes, we did since it’s a comedy and it was a lot of fun because it was quite spontaneous and I worked with other actors like some of the good names from Bollywood, Shreyas Talpade, Jaaved Jaffrey, Celina Jaitley and Neha Dhupia. So we had a lot of fun doing this film and for me it was my first comedy film so I absolutely enjoyed it.
Did you find comedy was harder than some of the other roles that you have done so far?
Yes, in fact I think comedy is slightly difficult because this is one place you can’t go with your rehearsed dialogues and you just go there and do your thing. Here the involvement of other artist is very, very important, especially when there is a give and take of dialogues. So, you have to be very alert, and your energy levels have to match the one of the other artist. So altogether we just have to make it work instead of only perform, because you know at the end of the day, we have to make people laugh. That I think is a tougher job.
How was it like working on Subash Ghai’s production?
Well, Subhash Ghai is one of those names from the industry which every artist longs to work with and for me it relatively happened much early in my career. I am really happy that in about one year and half that I have been around in Bollywood, I have already done a Subhash Ghai film and definitely it’s a feather in my cap.
Tell us about your new film Kirkit which is opening today, right?
Yes, Kirkit is a film based on cricket and it’s on the IPL format. Cricket is a very popular game in India. The film basically talks about what happens behind the scenes, what happens in the dressing room, what are the audiences’ reactions, what does a player go through when they are doing certain endorsements or shooting for an ad. It is a side of the story which has not been exposed before and it’s what the film is about. I play a business tycoon in this film who basically is a very shrewd businesswoman who wants to capitalize on the players and wants to see that everything becomes commercial; whether it’s about running SMS contests or whether it’s about making player endorsement products or trying to see that the game becomes much more interesting. Basically she manipulates and she commercializes. It’s a sort of negative character which later goes on to become a little positive.
Did you find it hard to play a more negative character?
Not really because I would say comedy was a lot tougher. In Kirkit there are fifteen male characters, eleven are the players and there are other 4 very good names from Bollywood: Jackie Shroff, Sanjay Kapoor, Gulshan Grover and Johnny Lever. I was the only female character so I knew that I could get away with it however I performed (laughs), but you know it wasn’t all that really tough and I think I can play this snooty girl little too easily — not that I am but that’s what I think! (laughs)
Is there any difference working in the Tamil and Hindi film industries?
I have done two cinemas in regional languages, one is the Tamil film and one is a Telegu film. Both languages are very different from Hindi and both languages are very different from each other. But they are equally big industries in India. So, I was very keen on doing Tamil and Telegu films just because of the reach that they have, the fans that they get you, the quality of the cinema there. It’s definitely much, much difficult doing Tamil or Telegu films because first of all that’s not the language that I speak. I am a Gujarati and I do not speak Telegu or Tamil so first of all I have to learn their language although I did not dub for both these films.
Yea, because you still have to speak the lines.
Yes. I had to speak the lines because they have to lip sync the lines right so it is very difficult. Besides, regional cinema in India is much more animated in terms of acting and much louder, more dramatic than Bollywood which is relatively subtle. So that acting style of being overly animated and being dramatic, which is also good, it’s much different than Bollywood style. Also the form of dancing and basic folk dance that they dance is also different than the Bollywood dancing since performing dance is a huge part of their films. So all and all it is an absolutely different experience. I had to work little harder compared to Bollywood cinema but it was an enriching experience.
What kind of impression do you hope to make in industry with these two releases?
Well, first of all we were going through producers and multiplex strike for so long so there are lot of people waiting to see films. I am happy and I guess I am also lucky that two of my films are releasing back to back. Secondly, I have already said I want to be a versatile actress. I want to continue doing some things different. I want to continue doing variety of roles. I think I am pretty much doing that. My initial films were little serious and now there is a negative role and this new comedy. In the future I am also doing a horror film so I am not getting stuck to a certain image. I don’t ever want to do that so I guess I am pretty much on the line for myself. But yes, I am very desperate for super hit film you know.
How do you think your journey in films has been so far?
Well, I would say that considering a year and a half in the industry and so far I have had about seven releases plus two films under production I think I am doing pretty fine, considering that my family does not have filmy background which is also a big thing in Bollywood. You can make it only if you are a star kid so, yes it’s a family business and having to break in and find a niche for myself is a challenge. But yes, like I said it’s not the quantity of releases but the quality of the films you do. How successful films become is more important so I am really desperate for a hit film and I pray each day for one.
What do find hardest about being an actress?
I think the hardest thing about being an actress is obviously keeping fit and not living a regular girly life. Especially nowadays you have so many temptations, the dinner parties, the alcohol, all the chocolate, so that’s one of the difficult things. And of course like you know as an actor, as a celebrity, all your life is very public and not private so that definitely is one of the drawbacks as well.
Is there any particular role from the past that you want to play?
Yes, I have two dream roles and two films that I would love to work in. One is Mugal-e-Azam. I think I would love to do the role that Madhubala did in the film. I think that is an absolutely eternal character. The second film that I would name is Mother India, but that’s a film I may want to do ten years down the line. That’s also because of the fact that it’s one of most historic characters in Indian film industry. These are the two films that I would love to do someday.
Have you done any training in acting before you started in the film industry or do you have any workshops before working on a film?
Yes, obviously we do have workshops before we do any film and I did take theatre training and trained in cinema. But mainly I did take theatre training and I performed about three or four plays. Since I was modeling and was Miss India I did have the experience of doing a couple of television commercials and ads. I knew a little bit of how to move with the camera and working with the camera would be against a live audience.
What attracts you to accepting the roles you have done or will be doing?
Well, I would say that the role has to be really exciting. It’s not really important whether it’s a positive role or negative role or the length of role. All these things come much later. What comes first is how excited am I about a role. And that’s my first priority. Second priority is will I be able to do justice. There have been some roles that have been offered to me which I thought pretty exciting but I thought my experience is too little when it comes to performing these roles and that’s the reason I didn’t take them up. So, how much of justice will I be able to do with the role is what comes next. Then comes the director and then comes the actors. And then comes the length of the role and the importance in the script and such things.
You have done a lot of roles with really big actors. What is something that you have learned from them?
Every film I have signed I try to learn from my director who have done a lot of work or the actors who have been around for a very long time. Basically what I got to learn from my senior actors is the presence that they have and how to make that felt. Also how to have your own identity and your own style even if you are performing different characters every time. There is a variety in every role yet how do you give it your identity, make it your own, your style. I think this goes in a long way in making you a star. I think at the end of the day a star is different from normal actor. When it comes down to it, you can give it your style no matter which character you are performing.
I read that you are going to do Hollywood thriller Shout Is that true?
Yes, Shout is a film by Wilson Lewis but this is very much a Bollywood film. Wilson Lewis is an Indian director and he does have his script in the Oscar Library – Ho Sakta Hai, which released about two years back. He is a very talented guy and he is doing lot of work in graphics and animation in lot of Hindi films including Krrish, Jantar Mantar and all. And now he is doing a horror film which is called Shout. That’s the film that I am doing with him and like I said that’s going to be my first horror film. I am very excited about that.
That’s probably going be another difficult thing because it is something you probably have never experienced.
Yes, but I like challenges.
What you hope to be in your career in five years?
I would say about three to five years I will be around in the film industry doing different sort of films and hopefully having many successful films. And many films who have been blockbuster hits.
Besides the thriller do you have any film in the works?
Well, Shout is one of them and there is the film called Challu Movie which is a film by Reliance. I have just signed that film, so it’s little early to talk about that film. That film is first of all a drama. I play an actress in the film. It is a drama, it’s a film within a film.
My last question is, since you have been Miss India and a model, do you have any secret beauty tips that you can give to our readers?
Well, something that people always ask me that how you have these eyes and I think it’s just mascara. It is like some simple beauty routine that I follow – lot of mascara. And obviously my mother always says that you should eat a lot of almonds. She gives me four almonds every morning saying that two for skin, two for hair. I think they really helped me generally to keep popping lot of multi-vitamins and doing lot of artificial things. Stick to natural things as much as possible.
Clearly Sayali has an exciting future ahead of her with great dreams and aspirations. BollySpice wishes the actress good luck for her future ventures. Paying Guests releases June 19th. Catch it at a cinema near you.