Actress Sayani Gupta seems to be everywhere. The second season of her popular Amazon Prime Video show Four More Shots Please! is due for release next week. On the big screen, she was last seen in one of 2019’s most acclaimed films Article 15, as well as on the festival circuit with Axone which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival followed by the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival With Star.
Overseas, she was also recently seen in the British medical drama The Good Karma Hospital playing the role of an acid attack survivor. The actress also recently turned producer with indie film Where The Wind Blows, in which she stars as the only character in the story of a young woman who embarks on a lone trek high in the Himalayan mountains. Over the phone, the actress talked to me about the mixed response to the first season of Amazon Prime Video’s Four More Shots Please!, the importance of not getting typecast and why smaller films may struggle as a result of the current pandemic.
Is it a kind of upside to have a big streaming release like season 2 of Four More Shots Please! at a time when everyone’s at home watching more?
I guess so, more people are watching stuff, but I would rather people to do something substantial with their lives right now rather than sit in front of the television (laughs). But yeah, I guess it’s a good thing. Even I haven’t been able to watch many new things. I am obsessed with Friends so I keep watching that.
Is it strange not knowing when you’ll be on set again or when you’re upcoming films will release?
Right now, not really. Even though I know there is no certainty to when we can start shooting again. I was actually supposed to start one film in Europe, and I don’t even know when that’s going to start. So that is definitely a worry but having said that, the last 3 years have been so hectic that I’m enjoying the break. Last year I was doing three shifts – morning, evening and night. I was even travelling for the British show which just released – The Good Karma Hospital
It’s great as an actor when you have a lot of work but I was getting burnt out so I’m glad for the break. But again, if work doesn’t resume in a month, then I will be worried. Till then I am okay.
The first season of the show opened to some mixed responses. Did that change the approach to season 2 at all?
There was always a plan (for the second season) because Amazon always signs shows for three seasons. So before the first season had come out, Amazon had already greenlit the shoot of the next season, which doesn’t always happen.
But after the first season, the creators did look at the some of the criticism that was coming in, like how some people thought it was shallow and surface-level and a lot of people said that ‘drinking and smoking is not empowerment’ which I completely agree with. But that wasn’t even the intent of the show. It was actually the other way around because women who do smoke and drink also need authentic representation and we wanted to address the fact that it is not a taboo.
But we all we had our individual notes when we saw the show. We even had a little meeting about what we thought worked and didn’t work and I think most of that was incorporated. There were a lot of things that I didn’t agree with, but there is not much I can do about it. For example, I was always asking why these women are constantly drinking so much and why they can’t chill without alcohol. But I do feel the second season is much more relatable, especially the interpersonal relationship between the girls is much more real.
We even had a little meeting about what we thought worked and didn’t work and I think most of that was incorporated. There were a lot of things that I didn’t agree with, but there is not much I can do about it. For example, I was always asking why these women are constantly drinking so much and why they can’t chill without alcohol. But I do feel the second season is much more relatable, especially the interpersonal relationship between the girls is much more real.
The industry loves to box actors in certain kinds of roles but you’re someone who’s played a variety of different kinds of characters. Was that by design?
It has never been something that I had planned on doing because I can’t plan anything. I’m not that human being. But having said that, I can’t do the same thing I’ve done before because I get bored very easily. I need to keep entertaining myself. I’ve always lived my life like that, if I don’t get the best, I just won’t take it. In fact, in 2017, I said no to everything that came to me for 7-8 months because there were some 6 rape-revenge films that came my way.
For example, after Margarita With A Straw, I got a couple of roles which were lesbian parts. Or after Jolly LLB 2, there were a lot of pregnant roles that came to me, to which I said no. Even with Article 15, I can’t play another Dalit girl part right now. But I have to say I am extremely fortunate to have got Jagga Jasoos. It took a genius like Anurag Basu to even see me as a 14-year-old kid. So I am quite careful in terms of what I choose, but I guess I have also lucked out to have gotten these opportunities.
As someone who’s worked on a lot of independent projects and even turned producer for your new film, Where the Wind Blows, does the current crisis worry you in terms of how it could affect smaller films?
I’ve actually gone ahead and made another film with the same gang after Where The Wind Blows although that I have not co-produced. We finished Where the Wind Blow but there is more work to be done on that. But it is a difficult time. In fact, even with Axone which showed at MAMI last year, we were supposed to have a release now which couldn’t happen. So it is true, now the small films will take a hit in how they reach people.