Sayyeshaa in conversation with Soumita Sengupta about her recently released film Shivaay
You started your career at a very early age. Were you always prepping to become an actor?
Yes, I always wanted to become an actor. In my head, I had started preparing to become an actress since I can remember.
How did Shivaay happen?
Ajay sir (Devgn) liked a few of my pictures and so he wanted to meet me. He said he was directing a film called Shivaay and wanted to see how I looked on screen. I was given two scenes from the film and lines which I had to enact while our DoP Aseem Bajaj sir was shooting. Four to five days later, on my 17th birthday, I was told that I had been chosen for the film. I was totally shocked. Getting my first break under Ajay sir was a big thing.
What was your reaction when you heard that you had bagged the role?
It was a shocking as well as an emotional moment for me. I was almost in tears when I received the news because I’ve wanted to act in movies ever since I can remember. So signing my first film was overwhelming.
From signing the film to going on the floors… were there any workshops or preparation for the film?
There were no workshops but we did some script readings so that each one’s character became clear. Ajay sir was very clear about what he wanted from us. So during those reading sessions, we used to be briefed. The rest unfolded on the sets.
Our first day of shooting was in Mussoorie and it was only Ajay sir and me in the scene. Initially, I was nervous but also very happy that we were working towards the final product. It was a great day as Ajay sir made sure that I felt comfortable and everything went well. I was giving my first take ever in front of the camera but it was all because of Ajay sir that our first day of shoot went smoothly.
Since you’ve always wanted to become an actress, what went through your mind at the time?
I was quite prepared for the day. I was also very passionate and excited as I was about to start my first film. Also, it was a big film and he too was very passionate about starting his next directorial. I knew there was nothing to be worried about as he would take care of everything. Since he had put in 100 per cent, all I needed to do was give it 100 per cent too. So I just worked hard. Throughout the film, all I kept wondering was how I could improve my work.
When did you first watch the first cut or watch yourself on the monitor for the first time?
I never watched any of my scenes on the monitor post the shot. I completely trusted my director to know whether he was satisfied with a shot or not. The first time I saw myself on screen was when I was dubbing, that’s when I first saw the rushes. It’s quite a nice feeling when you see yourself on screen but I didn’t want to form any preconceived notions. Besides, my director was there to say whether or not I delivered a good shot.
The film was shot in Bulgaria too. Can you share your experience shooting there?
Shooting in Bulgaria was one of the toughest schedules. We were there for two-and-a half months and it was super cold. More than ourselves, I believe it was very difficult for the crew to shoot. For the mountaineering scenes, transporting cameras and other equipment was very difficult. So full credit to the entire team.
Any memorable moments?
Lots… There are some scenes which will always remain close to me, like the scene at airport, and the song Tere naal ishqa, which is my favourite. I enjoyed shooting in the rain. Then the scene in the bathtub, where I was actually in the bathtub for 17-18 hours, from Day 9 in the morning to 11.30 at night. That was a tough scene to do as we had dry ice on my skin. But it turned out well and everyone is praising it. All the hard work has paid off, and credit also goes to Aseem sir, who shot it beautifully. Since it was my first film, it was all so mesmerising. I enjoyed shooting every day.
I am excited and also nervous and am hoping the audience likes my work. There is a kind of acceptance that I am looking for from the audience. Only once the audience accepts me and likes me on screen will it become easier for me to get more work.
Was Shivaay the first film you were offered?
There were a few other offers but I went straight from my Board exams on the set of Shivaay. So there was no time for anything else. Shivaay was the first concrete offer I had and the fact that Ajay sir believed that I had the potential to be part of his dream directorial movie made me feel extremely blessed.
How would you describe Ajay Devgn as a director, actor and producer?
As an actor, I don’t have to say much; he is effortless, his eyes speak a million words. As a director, it came as such a surprise because he is so accurate. He is so connected to this film that he was very clear about everything. He knew what he wanted from each actor and how he wanted that scene to turn out. Technically, too, he was very aware. We had a six-camera set-up, and when he was not in the shot, he was operating one of the cameras. That was quite commendable. Since he was aware of everything he was doing, it made things easier for his entire team.
Was he a strict director?
Not at all. I think I also went on the set well-prepared. That’s just the way I am. He is very calm and even when things did not go as planned, he was never ruffled. He handles everything very calmly. He never once behaved like a megastar; he made sure every actor he was directing was comfortable and he gave everyone the space they needed.
You have made your debut with Shivaay. Is there any specific kind of film that you want to do?
I want to do all kinds of films and roles. I am open to working with every director. The role should excite me and it should be challenging. It’s too early to decide what I want to do. I am looking forward to good scripts.