Saiyami Kher has lived most of her life far away from Mumbai despite her family’s connection to Bollywood. Her grandmother is yesteryear actor Usha Kiran, and her parents, Adwait Kher and Uttara Mhatre Kher, were popular models in the 1980s.
In her interviews, Saiyami has recounted her idyllic childhood; one that was spent swimming in ponds at her parents’ farm house, playing sport and manning the kitchens of one of the three restaurants her parents own in Nashik, Maharashtra.
Little however, is known about Saiyami, the actor, and the select films she does. The actor will be seen in this week’s Faadu: A Love Story, a web series directed by Ashwini Iyer Tiwai releasing December 9 on SonyLIV.
Learning from rejection
Saiyami who has worked with prominent names in the film industry including Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra for Mirzya and Anurag Kashyap for Choked, says that both these opportunities happened only because she believed in the scripts and went with instinct.
“Rakeysh sir has many fantastic life lessons. I still regularly go to him for advice. When we were shooting for Mirzya, I was being offered some other roles. He said that actors should read scripts as viewers and only then pick up the phone to ask which part they will be playing. It has helped me immensely while making choices. When it came to Choked, I went with my instinct. I play a mother of an eight-year-old in the film. Anurag sir saw me at a random film screening at the Mumbai Film Festival and asked ‘Picture karegi?’ (Will you do a film with me?),” she says.
This can be attributed to the several hurdles she has faced in the initial phase of her career, says Saiyami.
“For the first two and a half years, I got nothing but rejections. Mirzya happened after a long audition process. Before the film’s shooting began, I did preparatory work for the role with actors Adil Hussain and Dilip Shankar who became my teachers. I learnt to appreciate and love acting as a craft. It helped me get comfortable in front of the camera and decide who I will play on the celluloid. It was also then that I accepted that 99% of an actor’s life is rejection,” she says.
The ‘Faadu’ story
In Faadu, Saiyami plays the role of Manjiri, a poetess who falls in love with Abhay (Pavail Gulati) from a vastly different economic strata and has opposite temperament. However, she ends up becoming his anchor during tough times.
The long audition for her role, which took place in the thick of the pandemic, saw Saiyami dressed in an old kurta and wearing no make up.
“When the call came, I just basically did it and sent my entry. However, I did somehow reach out to [the director] Ashwini ma’am later to tell her that I loved her work and was willing to travel to Mumbai to give a better audition. Ma’am said that Manjiri is exactly who I am. Ashwini ma’am even made a trip to Nashik to read for the character and asked if my father would like to act, since he is exactly what Manjiri’s father should be. I enjoyed working with her,” Saiyami says.
The story moved Saiyani and she believes that it will empower people because of the depth in Ashwini’s writing. “It makes you introspect. We often see lots of fast-paced content and crime on screen. However, we hardly take time out to sit and think or even fall in love. This show will help in that regard. It will make you appreciate the silences,” she says.
Sports is integral
Saiyami knows that movies are just one of the facets of her life. She still spends a lot of time playing sports including badminton, and training for events such as marathons and Ironman triathlons.
It is no surprise that she has bagged the lead role in director R. Balki’s much-anticipated Ghoomer, in which she plays a cricketer with disabilities. “ Ghoomer is the most emotionally and physically demanding film I have done so far. Cricket is just one aspect of it... I see it as a film full of emotions and it’s a story of a woman,” she concludes.