Herald Global with Sayani Gupta about lockdown, work and mental health

With the lockdown putting a complete stop to shoots, what did your work from home look like?

“My work from home looks like promotions on digital platforms. I am surrounded by Paani, books, wires (to charge phones and laptops) and all kinds of bottles and notebooks. Honestly, it’s pretty cool and I can’t complain about it.”

We congratulated her on the second season of Four More Shots Please. 

How different are you from your character Damini Rizvi Roy in Four More Shots Please?

“We are totally different. Damini is completely a different person from Sayani. I wouldn’t play a character which is similar to me in real life. So totally different.”

What do you look in the script before you decide to play the role of the character?

“Basically, it’s a very instinctive choice for me, honestly. When you read the script, it's either you like the script or you don’t like the script. For me, I have to feel a part of the story, I have to tell the story, it has to excite me enough to be invested in it and then obviously the director and the actors. Basically, when it’s on paper I have to be able to visualize it, the world it belongs to and if I can be a part of it and its narrative. It's really all about Instincts.”

What’s your take on the shift from the big screens to OTT Platforms?

I think we are lucky we have it. In the lockdown we are surviving on entertainment on the OTT platforms, not just Indian content but content from all over the world, films, documentaries, short films, webseries. Its great because entertainment is a huge part and a lot of our stuff is being watched which was at lesser extent otherwise. For Four More Shots, it was the expectation of the second season and the lockdown that it got a massive response. My film Axone was supposed to be a theatrical release but we choose to launch it on Netflix as we aren’t sure when the theatres will open. For some films obviously, you need like a big extravaganza and you need big screens for the experience but for some it’s not required and at this point we just need to reach out to the audience.

How was your experience shooting for Axone?

It was a shoot in July, in Delhi, at a place called Humayunpur. The house was really very cramped, it was incredibly difficult, but we also made some amazing friends, had some amazing food and overall it was good. Now it’s a win win situation as we are showered with so love for the film and so much appreciation, the way it went viral and it was through sheer word of mouth. It’s been quite a journey for the film, we are very happy and grateful for where it’s come today.

What was the message you wanted to drive through the film?

The message was very clear. It's about people from different northeast states, and it’s a bunch of kids and friends who are trying to make a dish and depicts heavy racism. Its also in the form of a comedy of errors, but it underlines very very serious issues, and it also shows how people from the northeast are viewed upon, the prejudice state that they often face upon in the mainland India. I have been getting a lot of messages saying that it was a complete eye opener and thank you. Very few people know about these issues faced by people from the Northeast States.

Many brands are redefining their language of communication due to racism. What is your take on it?

I think Racism is a nightmare and shouldn’t exist as people are getting killed by it and being brutalized. It existed for centuries. It's also about many prejudices and nature about skin colour, caste, race, sexual orientation, genders, facial features, class. There is prejudice everywhere. And humans, I don’t know what is this obsession about dividing people as us and them, it’s horrible and it should not be there. No matter how much we talk about it, its not enough. I have always spoken against fairness products and never endorsed them and I never will. I am always against any fairness products and I won’t even speak about it as they don’t deserve any amount of screen time.

You are a powerhouse of many skills. What is your formula of fine tuning them?

There is no formula to fine tune skills. It’s a process. It’s regular work and the best way to do it is work and practice. The cliché of practice makes you perfect, it doesn’t make you perfect but definitely makes you better. The more you do it the more you get better and understand it. You start being ready with an open mind to explore and grow wholly and lunge and take risks and all of that. Respect what you do and work and people who you work with, yourself and your dignity. There is no one formula and there can’t be.

People from all walks of life are facing difficulties in the pandemic. What would like to tell people about this difficult time?

It will be very wrong for me to say anything from my luxurious bubble. I can see people are struggling and even my family is going through a lot. I honestly feel to each other your own. We can have a little bit of empathy and lessen our greed. At an individual level, think about nature, environment and one another. Think about a more sustainable living and help each other; coming from a place where people have the fortune, a little more than others, if you can share to whatever degree, how much ever you can. It’s a time to contemplate with self-respect and little things that make you happy. Do things like draw, spend time with your family, clean the house or do whatever makes you happy. We should also talk about mental health in all our conversations and not just speakerism. We should truly inspire each other to seek help. You might not know what shit I am going through and vice versa, and obviously we are not here to change lives but if we can help one another, be it our family or friends.

We should reach out because we all need help and sometimes we feel lonely and truly helpless and a therapist or just person with a different perspective can help. I have seen it with myself and life. And it truly helps.