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Sayani Gupta: I am very intuitive while selecting projects

As the film Article 15 releases and Season 2 of the popular web show Four More Shots is awaited, actor Sayani Gupta talks to Bhavi Gathani about her character in the film and the web show, about the explosion of the web space and more

What is usually your criterion for selecting a project?

It is always the script. It is always what is there on paper first, because I come from a school of thought where I believe that if you are able to make it the way it is on paper, then half the battle is won. But even that is very difficult. Only seldom do things turn out better than the script. In most of my work, it is always the story that is special. Especially, it has to be a story that I want to tell. Often, I come across a good script but I don’t find the voice in it.

I use a very instinctive, intuitive process for selecting my projects. I am good with visualising when I read the words on paper; I guess most actors are able to do that. I am almost able to see the film in great detail. I can almost see the furniture and what the lighting will be like. From the screenplay, I can tell the extent of detail the director or the writer has used to visualise this world. That becomes very apparent from most of the stuff that I read.

And what made you select Four More Shots and Article 15?

My last project, Four More Shots, is very different from Article 15. The world is very different, the two characters are diametrically opposite. But the common thread is that both parts are new for me; I have never played parts like that before. They are very complex. When something challenges me as an actor, it makes me channelise a newer part of myself.

Article 15 is fantastic on paper. It is one of the best scripts I have read till now. I think everyone who is part of the film would agree. I remember reading the script in the middle of the night and I couldn’t put it down. When I finally finished, I was crying and I was smiling and I was overjoyed and overwhelmed with so many emotions. It touched me in a big way.

I called the director, Anubhav Sinha, immediately even though it was 3:30 in the morning. Obviously, he didn’t pick up the call. (Laughs) I was, like, what am I doing; it’s not a professional thing to do. I couldn’t contain my excitement because he had managed to write the script like this.

The part he offered me is fabulous. My character is from a village, she is Dalit but she is very empowered. She is really strong, she thinks for herself, she is not afraid to voice her opinions, and she is extremely enlightened. So, yes, I loved the part. The character I play… it could be a meek character but not a weak character; I don’t relate to characters that don’t have a spine and don’t have a voice and don’t have some grey matter.

As you said, you need to connect with the character you play. In Article 15 and in Four More Shots, your characters are quite unlike. How do you connect with such different characters?

I feel that each of us has five different human beings in ourselves. It’s only a matter of time before you channel all of them. If you can’t, too bad but as actors you are trained to channel different parts. There are various stories that you can connect to, and there are various people you can relate to, and they could be very different people. In Four More Shots, there is a lot of similarity between Damini and me. Her politics, she is very honest, she is not afraid, she is opinionated, she has OCD, which even I have and we are both Bengali.

But there is a lot of her that I also don’t relate to, like she is all over the place when it comes to her personal life or when it comes to the man in her life. She is an extreme feminist and I am not extreme. My understanding of feminism is very different from Damini’s. Naseeruddin Shah, who used to teach us in FTII, used to say that for every character, you bring the character towards you and you take yourself to the character. So both of you meet somewhere in between. And you have to have that but you also have a sense because, as actors, we are generally observant and we generally like studying people and studying characters. So you are able to relate.

When it comes to Article 15, it is something that I fully relate to because I feel very passionately about any kind of discrimination. It angers me. While I was reading the script, I cried every single time.

You have done some popular web shows. Do you think the web space is opening doors for talented people who never really got opportunities?

The web space has opened doors for actors like never before. It’s been such a boom, such an explosion, that it really generates employment for everyone, not just actors. As far as actors are concerned, those who used to only get work before as the supporting cast, people who we haven’t seen as leads typically in a film set-up, they all are playing the leads in web shows because producers are not only looking at the box-office opening. I think it’s a great time and place for exploring talents and new things.

And how do you look at web censorship?

I have always been critical about any kind of censorship when it comes to art. If a filmmaker wants to portray a certain thing in the way he wants to, he should have the right to do it. He should be the one deciding how the film looks. Having said that, there are certain things you can’t show and shouldn’t show. You can’t show child pornography, you can’t show something that is stupidly violent to sensationalise stuff or something that puts any part or any group in a bad light. You have to be politically correct. And you have to be sensitive towards everybody when you represent them. Apart from that, I don’t think there should be any censorship and I don’t think that’s going to happen anyway.

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