Shabana Azmi’s niece, Saiyami Kher will foray into Bollywood with Mirziya, a film based on the Mirza-Sahiban folklore. She talks to Sangeeta Yadav about working with director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
- How did you bag Mirzya?
Like any other struggling actor, I stood in a long queue and auditioned for the film, unaware that it was for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mirzya. It was a long and strenuous six-month audition process. I gave 10 screen-tests and got shortlisted for the role along with another girl. They sent me to Delhi for intense acting workshops under Dilip Shankar and actor Adil Hussain. They greatly influenced me and those three months changed my life. I learnt horse-riding and biking. This film is close to my heart it has helped me discover the actor in me. It is a life transforming film for me.
- Coming from an entertainment background, did you really struggle in getting thus far?
The struggle is always there whenever you do something for the first time. Though my mom Uttara Kher was ex-Miss India and father Adwait a model-turned-restaurateur, they made sure my sister and I were brought up in a small town in Nasik away from the entertainment world. I was not allowed to watch films till Class X. My childhood has been one with Nature, be it swimming in lakes or climbing mountains. I am glad this happened. Now I feel that there is so much more to explore. I am trying to make up for all those lost years and catching up on films every day.
- How did you get into modelling?
When I came to Mumbai for higher studies at St Xaviers College, I was under the guidance of Sushma Reddy, a family friend. She told me I was photogenic and should try modelling. She groomed me and changing my bad habit of biting nails to a complete personality makeover. Fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar signed me up and I bagged a lot of modeling assignments. But the biggest breakthrough was when I modelled for the Kingfisher Calendar. I started doing theatre in college and realised that acting was something I enjoyed doing the most. Since then there has been no looking back.
- How did your parents and family support you?
My family and friends still don’t believe that I am doing such a big film. Nobody thought I would model either. My parents are happy and supportive. Just being around my mausi Shabana Azmi and bua Tanvi Azmi, who are such strong performers, observing and learning from them is a fortunate thing for me. I am imbibing all good things each day.
- What is it that one thing that you will take back from this film?
The bond I created with director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. His style of filmmaking is different as he likes to take time doing every project and gives everyone enough freedom to do things the way they envisage them. On the first day of the shoot, there was no nervous energy. Instead, I felt like I was in a big rehearsal. Rakeysh sir had a calming effect on all of us and pampered everyone so much that he spoilt us for life. He is someone I owe my life to. I wish I can get to work with him in all his films.
- How was it working with Harshvarshan Kapoor and Om Puri?
I get along well with Harsh as we are sports buff. We also got to know each other better during the eight months of workshop. Working with Om sir, on the other hand, was insightful. He is so dedicated and disciplined about his work.
(The article also got published in Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/i-am-here-only-after-10-screen-tests-6-mth-audition.html)