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Saiyami Kher: I take refuge in sports to deal with the volatile nature of entertainment business As the Ghoomer famed actress Saiyami Kher is preparing for participating in the upcoming international sports event – Ironman 70.3 race - in Berlin, being the only Bollywood actress to take part in such an iconic sports event, in conversation with Entrepreneur India, the actress opens up on her passion for sports, mental health and taking risk to live life to the fullest

By Arundhuti Banerjee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Saiyami Kher is different. When girls of her age, to get over the heartbreak from the failure of the debut film, would rather go for a vacation or party whole night, she attempted a full marathon. Though usually in their 20s, any new Bollywood actress will feel conscious of playing a de-glam role, she played a mother of seven-year- old in the film Choked, directed by Anurag Kashyap.

Though nepotism is a topic of conversation in every celebrity interview that is covered in media, Saiyami, despite being the niece of the veteran actress Shabana Azmi, and the granddaughter of celebrated Marathi actress Usha Kiran – stayed away from it. She always curved her niche without taking any advantage of her family linage.

Her association with sports is always very strong and her last released film with Abhishek Bachchan, titled Ghoomer in which she played a cricketer was a reflection of her passion for sports.

Now, the actress is all set to take part in the prestigious Ironman 70.3 race in Berlin. The race will be held in the quaint town of Erkner 30 minutes away from Berlin on September 15. It is one of the unique race that combines – swimming, cycling, running. She is the only female Indian actress to take part in the race, in the past Miling Soman was one of the Indian actor to join the gang!

As her preparation is in full swing, in conversation with Entrepreneur India, the actress opens up on how sports played a crucial role in shaping her personality, taking care of her mental health, empowered her with taking more risk and making bold choices as an artist.

The iron lady on Ironman 70.3 Erkner

According to Saiyami she is going through a hardcore six month training plan. Mentioning why the upcoming sports event is the biggest motivation for her to hit the training ground after a low, she said, "I started training two months ago because last year I met with a bike accident due to which I could not exercise. My fitness level was zero. Now that I have recovered from the injury completely, I have started training, started from the scratch. I have two hours of training every day and nine hours of shooting as you know, I am shooting a film alongside. So, it is really hectic but I love it! I have a goal to achieve on September 15."

Sports, mental health and entertainment business

Making her debut in Bollywood with the film Mirzya in 2016, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, written by Gulzar, though her beautiful screen presence was appreciated, commercially the film failed at the box office. Though it was hard for a youngster like her, she shared how only sports gave her a way to heal and bounce back on track.

Saiyami said, "Sports have been the back-bone for me, to survive in the volatile nature of the entertainment business. The life of an actor is filled with unpredictability. Even though you give your everything as a performer, in a film, you are waiting for the validation from the audience. I feel the high when my film releases…it's so exciting! But then, it breaks heart also, when the film does not do well at the box office. The one thing that kept me sane through these highs and lows is – sports."

She went on adding, "I did a full marathon after the release of Mirzya. That race of 42 kilometer was my way of healing from the box office result of my debut that did not do well. That was my way to find peace of mind that I was looking for after the heartbreak."

Last year the actress also had a hard time to deal with. While on one hand she met with an accident, both of her films – 8 AM Metro and Ghoomer - that released theatrically, received love from the critics and a section of the audience for her performance and the merit of the film, unfortunately it did not reflect at the box office collection again.

She reiterates, "Being an actor I feel it is incredibly tough to deal with the process. When we perform a character on-screen, it emotionally drains us at times. So, I hold on to sports, not just for my physical fitness but mental fitness, for my emotional health too. This year, Ironman race is my motivation."

Sports and risk taking

Whether in entrepreneurship or in the business of cinema, there is a lot of risk taking faction is involved in decision making, considering the fact that there is no blanket rule in achieving success. Saiyami shared how sports not only empowered but taught her to feel confident, and quickly move on; from a failure and focus on small, personal victory in daily life that eventually becomes the part of big triumph of life.

The actress shared, "I think I am a risk taker from my first film. I remember when I was signing Mirzya, Rakesh sir told me how the film will not be an ideal launch pad for a quintessential Bollywood heroine because it is a very different kind of a film. But I still did it."

"I also never took the pressure of building an image. In my second Hindi film Choked, when I was 25 years old, I played the character of a mother of a seven years old. Anurag (Kashyap, director) told me to put on weight for the role and it was quite a non-glamorous character. It was against the image of a young Bollywood heroine and I was taking another risk. But I always had that confidence from within; my choices of films are a reflection of my love for cinema. I wasn't going by formula," added the Breathe: Into the Shadows famed actress.

She also mentioned, "Overall if you look at my choices, they are all unusual, risky and not that every time successful. But you see, I do not have the fear of failure. I thrive. For me, the journey is more important, whether it is in sports or film. What matters the most is, what I become, how I grow through the journey."

Decoding the business

Asked about if she ever sat down and analyzed the nature of the film business and commercial success after spending a decade and working with some of the best filmmakers and actors of the country, including Anurag Kashyap, R Balki, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, Neeraj Pandey among others – she decoded it in her way.

Saiyami said, "Look, no matter what the box office result of these films, I am really proud of them, because after its release on OTT platforms, people DM me with compliments not only for my performance but also the film overall. I am really proud of both the films – Ghoomer and 8AM Metro."

"Personally, I just felt that 8AM Metro should have been released directly on OTT platform. I think it is a very private film, which is not necessarily a theatrical experience of community viewing. Like my other film 'Choked'. I was happy that it was released on Netflix. At times, an internal journey of a character is best viewed in an intimate set up, like the way we watch films on OTT. Mental health issue and vulnerability are something that one does not want to watch in the company of five friends together, while hanging out…you knows what I mean?"

Addressing the issue of release timing of the film Ghoomer, the actress pointed out how marketing and PR of a film is as important as telling a good story creatively.

Saiyami said, "I just realized that at times, it is not how great the story and performance of a film that result a great business, but how we mount the project and when are we releasing the time. At times, PR, marketing, the number of screen, showtime etc becomes more important for the visibility of the film and therefore box office collection, rather than how good the film is. Perhaps that is why, at times, an average film becomes talk of the town and a really well-made film find it hard to get even a good show time in the theatre. For Ghoomer, we had bad show times, I mean, who will go and watch a film, 9am in the morning or 2pm in the afternoon?"

The learning continues…

Currently the actress in working on a film titled Agni, directed by the National award winning filmmaker Rahul Dholakia, also featuring – Pratik Gandhi and Divyenndu Sharma. The film is produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani under the banner Excel Entertainment.

In my next Agni, I am learning so much about firefighters, their lives and more. As I am working with Pratik and Divyendu for the first time, I am picking up few things from them also, as co-actors. This project is also very exciting for me because this is the first time we are making a film on firefighters in Indian cinema.

Arundhuti Banerjee

Content Editor

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