Sayani Gupta: Putting the ‘Act’ in Bollywood Acting

Summer vacations brimming with Shakespeare. School days packed with performing arts. The universe had placed its pawns meticulously. And so, while the muggles were bemused that Sayani left a thriving corporate career to pursue acting, her fate smiled knowingly. “Everything you do in life acts as a brick for the building you become eventually,” as she aptly puts it: Meet Sayani Gupta, the actor putting the ‘act’ back in Bollywood acting. #DSSCSecretConversations unravels this force of nature we all need to watch out for.

Leaving behind a structured Sales & Marketing career for film school isn’t all too common, but that didn’t stop Sayani from taking this dauntless step “I wasn’t happy doing just anything to earn money. Progressively I realised I’m wasting my life, unable to do things I’d always wanted to do – theatre & performing arts,” she says. Speaking on what made her take the plunge, “Within two years into the corporate world, I knew not taking the leap of faith meant getting sucked into it more and more. I didn’t want to be 40 and regret not doing something with my life!”. As cinema proved to be Sayani’s “only breather” in corp life, her interest in acting was reignited and her then-flatmate’s suggestion to join FTII was perfectly timed. “Initially, I didn’t take my FTII application seriously, as coming from a typical middle class family, acting as a career is never on your radar,” she shares. But it was the final selection round at the Pune campus for a workshop that changed the ‘maybe’ into ‘will be’, “Those four days were remarkable and exhilarating! I was on top of the world, doing what I love. I discovered that if selected, FTII is the path I want and figure out whether I’m cut out for acting or not.” Safe to say that the acting bug has not left its place as Ms. Gupta’s homeboy since then. “It’s all about seizing the right opportunity and believing in yourself. Even if you fail, it’s okay, because that chance to fail is important,” she sums it up wisely.

Talking of breaking the mould and not shying away from the unconventional she says,”In our country parents are always telling you what to do and live their life through you, and that’s ridiculous. Parents need to realise that you need to expose children to different experiences, as you never know what will click.” She backs up her belief by telling us, “I believe that in every person there is a seed planted somewhere, and at some point they take a leap of faith to chase it,” adding that her formative years spent reading literature and taking part in performing arts helped her evolve into who she is today, personally and professionally. Calling her years at FTII one of the most enabling experiences, Sayani recounts, “It’s one of the greatest environments to be in because there’s a strong sense of finding yourself. They push your limits to look deeper within, grapple with elements around you and critique those. Which is very important as an artist.”

Image:; Sayani in Jolly LLB 2

With striking performances in Margarita with a Straw, Parched, Fan, Jolly LLB 2, this talent powerhouse is undeterred by the possibility of strong storylines or big movie stars overshadowing her. Batting the cliche of “Industry Outsider”, Sayani’s confidence in making it in the film industry is refreshing, “I was sure I deserved to be everywhere there is good work happening.” However, life didn’t offer her an air ticket to the skies, it took 10 auditions a day and tireless efforts to ensure that casting directors know who Sayani Gupta is to bag her first big break. Starting out with Second Shaadi Dot Com, it was Margarita with a Straw that propelled Sayani’s career onto the upward curving graph it is today; and in the last three years she has not only worked with engaging scripts but also Bollywood heavyweights like Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Ranbir Kapoor. Her calm confidence shines once again as she says, “I was never intimidated, but excited about working with these actors. I’m fortunate to have done some really good films with some really good people!”

Channeling the art of acting as her focus, Sayani has broken stereotypes and successfully balanced parallel and mainstream cinema. From the blind activist Khanum in Margarita with a Straw, Sunaina the secretary in Fan, Champa in Parched, to the pregnant Hina in Jolly LLB 2 – she’s created a rich body of work in five short years. Christening herself as a “greedy actor” she gives insight into her choice of projects, “I’m very hungry, I want to do exciting and challenging work. I would like to do all kinds of cinema, in different languages, and with directors from all over the world.” Her quest for good work is also what has pointed her into the direction of character roles till date, keeping the protagonist parts at bay, “It has to be the right film. The protagonist parts offered aren’t the kind that I wish to do. I’m very choosy about the quality of my work, and I think that’s the way everyone should be,” she quips.

Image:; Sayani in Jagga Jasoos

On that cue, we look forward to seeing more of her ace performances in Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos as a 14-year old, and the adaption of the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus, The Hungry’. an. As we prep for the actor to get back from our real life to reel life, we bid adieu with the signature DSSC rapid fire.


One change you’d like to see in the industry?

Sayani: Our referral point is so low that in Bombay we all celebrate mediocrity. Bollywood is very star oriented, that needs to change, everyone should towards making good cinema and just not making a film with a big star. The industry needs to give talent more importance.

Last day on earth and you can watch only one movie – which would it be?

Sayani: Jumping Over Puddles Again.

One talent you possess apart from acting no one is aware of?

Sayani: I can sing!

Favourite perk of the job?

Sayani: Getting paid to travel, meeting different people everyday, and channelising all your emotions through work.

And the worst pitfall of the job?

Sayani: Selfies.


This conversation is a part of the DSSC Secret Conversation Series, where we get candid with the ace industry disruptors who map its course one masterstroke at a time.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of DSSC & its affiliates. 


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