Saiyami Kher reveals plans to sponsor women on the track and in the field

Saiyami Kher reveals plans to sponsor women on the track and in the field

It’s been seven years since her debut film Mirzya, yet Saiyami Kher has not changed. She’s still as composed, talented and rooted, only now that she has the means, she wants to give other young girls wings to fly even as she takes train journeys herself.

Roshmila BhattacharyaUpdated: Saturday, May 20, 2023, 10:07 PM IST
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It’s been seven years since her debut film Mirzya, yet Saiyami Kher has not changed. She’s still as composed, talented and rooted, only now that she has the means, she wants to give other young girls wings to fly even as she takes train journeys herself. And that prompts the first question:

Excerpts from the interview:

Your just-released film,8 AM Metro, is a journey of self-discovery. What did you learn about yourself?

Actually, I jumped into it straight from Ghoomer, a very different film, so I had to unlearn all that I had learnt with R Balki. 8 AM Metro is an ode to the Before Sunrise, Before Sunset films, about two strangers meeting coincidentally and how it changes their lives.

I’ve been on many train journeys myself, from Mumbai to Nashik, where my parents live. I’ve taken the local train from Bandra to go to college. Friendships were struck with strangers. You would guess what was cooking in someone’s house from the vegetables being cut. There were distinctive faces you saw every day and remembered.    

Every film is a journey. I’ve learnt from my writer-director Raj R, my co-star Gulshan Devaiah and 20 minutes with Gulzar saab will give you two years of life lessons. I also interacted with therapists and friends who suffer from panic attacks and that has made me more empathetic and understanding of mental health.

You recite six of Gulzar saab’s poems in the film.

Yes, and he helped me with the recitation too and I’d get lost in his voice. He had written my debut film too and since Mirzya, I’ve been finding some excuse to meet him every week. He gives me one of his books every time. At 88, he’s bringing one out every two months, doing shows, and travelling too. He puts people of my age, who pretend to be doing so much to shame.

You have announced that you will be supporting female athletes...

It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child having seen my parents support athletes in the rural interiors, like Kavita Raut, who runs for India today. Earlier, I didn’t have the means, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, I started sponsoring the engineering studies of a vegetable vendor’s daughter.

Now, having lived the role of a para-athlete in Ghoomer, interacting on Zoom with special athletes with sponsorship who’ve won gold for India as part of my prep, I want to support promising talent in track and field in my own small way. Someday, I hope to start an NGO.

Ghoomer is not just another cricket film, you had to perfect an action not seen before on field. How difficult was that?

I’ve been playing cricket since I was in school, I was even selected to play for Maharashtra. Balki saw a video of me playing and cast me. But in the film, I don’t have an arm. That made it physically challenging and emotionally exhausting.

In a charity match with women cricketers, would you be able to make a mark?

Let’s say I’d survive the game and not go unnoticed. I’m going to London soon to watch a Test match there. I’ve been shooting non-stop since the lockdown ended, I couldn’t even go for my annual diving holiday. But no complaints. During the pandemic I was at my parents’ farmhouse and had enough space for my daily runs. The downside was that I lost two uncles to Covid. That taught me to live in the moment.

What was it like working with your aunt, Shabana Azmi, in Ghoomer?

Extremely intimidating! I felt this way while doing my first scene with Om Puri sir in Mirzya. These actors are masters of their craft, just having them around makes everyone nervous. But surprisingly, Shabana maasi is a giving actor, one of the easiest to work with, and just watching her was like going to acting school. When I started out, I’d go to dadima, her mother (Shaukat Kaifi), to improve my Hindi. This film completed the journey.

You are in Balki’s next..

Really? I wish. After Rakesh sir (Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra) and AK (Anurag Kashyap) Balki and Gauri (Shinde) are family now. He’s a combination of Rakesh Sir and AK. He’s straightforward and pragmatic, doesn’t show any emotion and is extremely intelligent. You can’t go to him with stupid questions, he keeps you on your toes. But he is also one of the nicest human beings. The genius filmmaker comes second.

How will Shirley in Breathe: Into the Shadows evolve in the next season?

I hope we are going into another season, I’m not sure. I hope to start the second season of Special OPS soon. Breathe was fun. I didn’t get much screen time, but Shirley was an important character and different from what I’d done. Like me, she is hard from the outside and soft inside. My equation with AB (Abhishek Bachchan), a wonderful human being, started with Breathe. I’m a fan and I’m glad we did Ghoomer together.

Another interesting film is Tahira Kashyap’s Sharmaji Ki Beti.

I’m glad you brought it up, it happened so long ago. It’s a feel good film about four women. The day after Tahira narrated the script, I was still smiling. Like Shirley, she knows what she wants. And, she is passionate about her writing and directing. With Anurag there were no readings and rehearsals, with Tahira everything was locked before the shoot, we just executed it in front of the camera. I want it to be released soon and for people to watch it.

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