Sayyeshaa Saigal, the grandniece of Bollywood’s veteran couple, Saira Banu and Dilip Kumar, is gearing up to make her Hindi cinema debut with Ajay Devgn’s magnum opus, Shivaay. As we settle down for a chat, Sayyeshaa reveals to us that she’s been trained in several dance forms. The celluloid, obviously, was her dream then. During the course of the freewheeling interview, Sayyeshaa opened up about the journey to bag her Bollywood debut, working with Ajay, future plans, and more. Excerpts:
How did your journey to becoming an actress begin?
I’m a Mumbai based girl. My primary education happened in London, and later in India. Ajay sir saw my pictures, and liked them. He happened to call me to his office, and I went, despite not knowing what it was really for. He told me that he was directing a film called Shivaay, and that he had liked my pictures. The next day, I gave an audition, where our DOP, Aseem Bajaj sir shot me on camera. That was my first ever camera interaction; I’d never seen a film camera before! It happened to be my 17th birthday barely five days later. I didn’t know I had been selected, but my parents did. I ended up signing Shivaay on my birthday.
Did you always wanted to be an actor?
I went on to the sets straight from my board exams. I always wanted to get into films. There was never a second option for me. Since my childhood, I would dance in my house’s corridors and do something in front of the mirror. Anyone could see that I wanted to become an actress one day. I started my training when I was nine-year-old. I did a lot of dance training, especially in Latin American dance forms like cha-cha, rumba, samba and jive. I learned them in London and South Africa. Later on, I went on to learn kathak, odissi and ballet.
Tell us about your role in Shivaay?
The character is quite like me since it’s that of a young girl. She is an independent, working girl, who shares a close bond with her father.
Did you shoot with Erika Kaar for the film? Was there any rivalry between you two?
I hardly have any scenes with her in the movie, but we did have one or two shots together. She’s a very sweet girl, and I did interact with her while we were shooting. And no, there was no rivalry. I honestly don’t have any sort of envy. I’m very fresh and young. It’s always good to be positive.
Did you visit other people in the industry for your dream debut?
I didn’t meet that many people to be honest, but I have people in the industry, who happen to be into movie making. At the same time, I was very young at that point of time. It was only Shivaay that came as a concrete film to me. Now, closer to the release, I’m a little apprehensive and nervous.
What does your Bollywood bucket list consist of?
More than actors and movies, I have a dream list of directors—Rajkumar Hirani, Imtiaz Ali, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Mani Ratnam. It’s not because they’re bigwigs, but it’s the way they present their characters— they create magic.
Do you believe Shivaay will be a huge step into Bollywood?
It’s a big film, of course. I feel people will come to see the movie because of Ajay sir and I will be seen naturally. That’s the way of thinking, I guess. I have a decent amount of role in the movie. People will probably approach me post the release.
Are you ready for the paparazzi now?
I have nothing to hide, since I don’t have a happening life. I guess the media watching you is a part and parcel of the career. When you choose the film line, one knows this is going to happen.
What was working with Ajay like?
I always ask him how he manages to multi-task. There were times he’d give a shot and run to the monitor to see it. It was really difficult. He was handling a unit of 200 people in an outdoor set-up. He’s flawless, even as a director. I was taken aback to see his perfect vision for telling a story. He’s also familiar with every department on the set. He’s such a huge star, but he’s so grounded. I never felt overshadowed by his stardom, except when I probably went to places like Indore to promote the film. That’s where I saw his fan following.
How do you think you’ll handle the highs and lows of being in the showbiz?
Everyone hopes that their films do well, but of course the few flops that come along with the hits are a part and parcel of the line. Honestly, I feel an actor should do his best and then leave it to God. The fate of the movie is in the hands of the public. If they accept it, it’s great. If not, work hard in your next movie.