Sayani Gupta on Four More Shots Please: It was the need of the hour to represent women authentically
Sayani Gupta, in a no-holds-barred interview, spoke about her journey as an actor, the crazy response to Four More Shots Please, and why she feels it's an important show in the mainstream narrative!
Nobody knows when the lockdown will end and when life will come back to normal. But for those who have access, they are spending their quarantine by watching web-series, films, and reruns of classic television shows. So on one hand, we have Ramayan and Mahabharat, on the other spectrum lies something called Four More Shots Please, Season 2!
This show is what we call the ultimate triumph of a woman's liberation. Their tendency to do all the possible shenanigans and be unabashed and unapologetic about it is what has made this web-series so catchy and contagious. And one of the leads, Sayani Gupta, a fine actor to the hoot, recently in an interview with Radio City's RJ Harshil, she talked about the show's popularly, how she has been spending time at home, and a lot of other entertaining stuff.
As expected, the first question was about the number of interviews she has given about the show amid this lockdown. She sounds perplexed and says, "I have really lost track, so many, it's insane you know. I give at least 1 or 2 interviews every day. But I have now started my own live videos that is a series of my interactions with some of my friends from the industry, it's called Shy-Me-Not. I've had four sessions so far."
The next question is about her journey from FTII (The Film and Television Institute of India) to films and she takes a deep breath since the answer is going to be really long. She says, "I am from Kolkata and went to Delhi for college and did theatre. I wanted to go to the National School of Drama but decided against it because my seniors, M.K Raina and Habib Tanvir, told me how it was going through a turmoil in terms of syllabus and management. But going to FTII was one of the best decisions of my life, I spent three-and-a-half years over there. It's because of the institute that I'm sitting for this interview today."
She added, "I knew nobody would spot me at a cafe and cast me for a film, and I knew this process would take time but I actually got my first film in the first month of being in Bombay, Second Marriage Dot Com. The director had seen my short film that was made during my education at the FTII. I don't like the world struggle, I feel the journey has been very interesting. I also did a travel show that was once in a lifetime experience, I also assisted Manav Kaul on a film that's going to come out soon."
She also spoke about her character Khanum from Shonali Bose's Margarita With A Straw and said, "To get such a character is a once in a lifetime opportunity, for both Kalki and me. Such films aren't made too often. It was a very performance-heavy part, she was blind and an activist. There was so much to do, and of course, she was homosexual. There was so much scope for performance. I'm happy people took me seriously."
We have seen Gupta in a lot of films over the last few years like Fan, Jolly LLB 2, Jagga Jasoos, and Article 15, so how has she been balancing between this medium and the OTT platform! This is what she has to say, "In these last three years, I have been shooting every day and I've actually done two shifts, three shifts. I have done Inside Edge 1 & 2, Four More Shots 1 & 2, a British series called The Good Karma Hospital that's out now, but I've also done nine films," and she flashes her smile! Talking about her character Rohini from Inside Edge, she says, "I don't know anything about cricket, I have seen the sport with my parents. My father was working for All India Radio and his office was right next to the Eden Garden. But I was never aware of the technicalities of cricket and neither was I interested."
She continued, "Karan Anshuman told me about this even before Excel was producing it. After a few months, the creative producer of Excel called me and said they have a fabulous role, come and meet us. When I read the part, I asked them if they were sure they wanted me to play this, but I guess all of them were confident about me as an actor for some reason and I'm really grateful to them." And then it was time to talk about her character Damini Rizvi Roy from Four More Shots Please, and her initial reaction on reading it.
"I hate the word bold and the context in which you are using it is wrong because even according to the dictionary, it's the boldness of mind. People really misinterpret things by using the term bold. Four More Shots was a very important show when I read it for the first time, and I felt it was amazing that a group of women was trying to make a show which actually was about women. It was trying to normalise everything about the life of a woman. I think it's one of those very important shows, and it's crucial to have such a show in the mainstream narrative, and even the criticism that comes and mostly from men about our sex and smoking, you can understand how regressive, repressed and patriarchal our society is even now."
She added, "When men do all these things and we all have seen it, nobody bats an eyelid, and everyone is like,'Oh my god! Friendship'! The moment it's about women that have chosen to live a particular life and are normal with it, like I am, people tend to have issues. There are lots of topics that are being handled with a lot of sensitivity and depth in the second season. You have workplace gender bias, you have body shaming, you have LGBT rights, you have a homosexual wedding, freedom of expression, freedom of speech. It has everything a woman faces in the urban space or rural space. We are getting long letters and messages, it's crazy."
She continued, "It's moving people because it is making a difference to them." In between, she answers a fan who asks if a woman having sex with multiple men is empowerment for her. She says, "No, it's not, and nobody is saying drinking and smoking is empowerment. But people do go out and drink and smoking is not even shown in the entire season two. Women who go out and drink and choose to have sex with whom they want to, and have control over their sexuality, should be not looked at as a taboo. It's normal, we all do it!"
"Also, you have to realise it's about celebrating yourself and women for their rights, it's about subverting these constant pressures of women. The problem is that women are always shown as these crazy stereotypes, either she's virginal and the hero is trying to woo her and have sex with her, the hero is marrying her, or a vamp who's breaking the hero and heroine's home. Nowhere are women, in most of the mainstream narratives, shown as themselves. What is the problem with having sex with multiple partners? So many people do."
She seems to be raising the right points and makes a very important observation. "Sex was always shown as something done to women and never a choice that women are making. If I want to be intimate with someone or be in a romantic liaison with someone, it's my choice. That needs to be respected and celebrated. Having said that, our intention is never to encourage smoking and drinking or go out and partying, that's not the point. But if there are people who do it, there shouldn't be a taboo about it, even in India. You see Sex in the City, you see Girls, you see Friends, any Hollywood series or show or film and it's fine, but the moment you see Indian girls doing it, you're like, 'OMG'!
"Everyone does it so what's the problem in showing it or representing it authentically! It's a show made by women, it was the need of the hour to represent women authentically," she added. Well, this was truly straight from the heart, and in case you are yet to discover Four More Shots Please, watch it and decide whether you agree with Sayani Gupta or not! But one thing people will agree with is that she's truly a fine actor!
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