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Sarika: “Uunchai took away my toenails but gave me so much in return”

This interview was first published in Cine Blitz by the same author.


Actress Sarika returns to Rajshri Productions with Uunchai after acting in their Geet Gaata Chal which was released way back in 1975. Uunchai will release on 11th November 2022 in theatres. In a candid conversation with Cine Blitz, the veteran actress talked about her character in Uunchai, what excites her to do a film, playing characters that are different than her, and what did Uunchai give or take away from her.


What was your response when Uunchai was offered to you?


I said yes immediately. I decided to do it because I wanted to be back home. For me, it was emotional. After Geet Gaata Chal (1975), it was a homecoming for me, so I just wanted to do that. I had no expectations. It just happened that the role was so good, and the screenplay was good too. I was happy when he [Sooraj Barjatya] sent it to me during the lockdown. Because I had already decided to do the film as a person but then the role and script were so nice that the actor [in me] was also happy to make a mark.


What can you tell about Mala, the character that you play in Uunchai?


Mala is a very independent character, not just in her nature but Mala’s standing in the film is very different. She is not connected to anybody. It’s a single woman standing there which is very attractive. There’s an intrigue to her character. She doesn’t speak much. Mala also has her journey like the rest of the characters in the film.


The goodness that Rajshri films have is remarkable. But generally, goodness or kindness are considered to be signs of a weak person.


Yes. All these things such as being quiet, being silent, being kind, and being good are considered to be weaknesses. But these are the biggest strengths. It takes strength to be in that space.


Your character Dilbar from the Modern Love Mumbai anthology was interesting. It was handled with great sensitivity.


I don’t think anybody else could have directed it the way Alankrita [Shrivastava] did. She has that touch of sensitivity. That whole anthology was good. I especially liked Vishal’s (Bhardwaj) film.


How important is conviction for an actor while playing characters that are different from your real self?


Conviction is to do it right, isn’t it? There’s no fun playing myself. That’s boring. I am always looking for women characters who are not like me. Of course, every character that I play has some shade of me. But I like doing characters that are not like me or the things that happen to them have not happened to me. It’s interesting because it’s not easy. Once you get that, you just get into her life. That’s why good directors are important. You can’t and should not make that journey alone. You have to make it with your director. That’s when you’ll succeed as an actor.


What kind of characters do you want to play more?


I am really looking at playing different lives that are around me. Real lives. Not only the screenplay lives. I don’t have anything against screenplay lives. But I would prefer to go all the way. There’s no fun in playing half-baked, underdeveloped roles. It’s strange but every time I play a character like Mala or Dilbar, when the film ends, the character dies. That’s the death of the character. How can you kill them halfway? You have to give it a full go. Dilbar had a full go, a complete character arc.


Do you think in today’s age a woman might lose her femininity while competing with a man?


Does that happen? Maybe sometimes. Actually, I don’t look at people like that. I don’t have a gender line. Whether someone is good or bad, they’re a human being to me. I know some fabulous men. I know some not-very-good women. I know weakness. I know strength. I really think it is an individual. A lot of people don’t like me, so they don’t call me for feminist meetings and all, which I’m okay with. Because I am not that person.


It’s an interesting point you made that it’s about individuals. But the generic talks are about the men versus women divide.


That is not my problem. How do we make our place in this world? On our terms, right? I am secured with my terms. I don’t have any insecurity about what others think of me. I don’t have to shout or change for you to respect me. Because I am not looking at you in any other way. I am not looking at you with anger that “Oh, you’re a man and you’re not giving me my chance.” I’m not doing that. I am at peace.


Some films give you something whereas some films take something away from you. What did Uunchai give or take?


Uunchai took away my toenails. It was a one-month schedule. By mistake, I wore small shoes on the first day. I was walking downhill, and my toe got hurt. On my fourth day, my toenails were curtailed. On my twelfth day, my toenails were getting into pus. It went on and on, but I couldn’t do anything. I used to put deo on it because there was pus inside and blood coming out. I completed the film like that. So, that’s what Uunchai took from me.


But it gave me so much in return. It gave me new friends. I had never worked with Anupam Ji and Neena Ji before. It gave me the chance to work with one of the finest directors. If any actor gets to work with Sooraj Ji even for four days his/her outlook would change. As a person, you learn from him how to live your life correctly without trying to score points. It’s amazing. I cherish this experience very much. And it extends from top to bottom in the production. I’m not saying this for promotion, but honestly, there was not a single person in this film’s production who had a wrong note. You can’t plan this. It just happens.


After such a long journey in films, what excites you to do a film now?


A good role. A good director. A good script. Nothing else matters. If the role is not good in terms of quality and where it stands in the script, then it doesn’t work. A good director because that’s half the fun of doing a film.


At this stage in life, do you have any things on your checklist?


I don’t have a checklist at all. Whenever I want to do something, I do it right away. I’m that person. If I want to tell you that you’re good or your shirt is good, I’ll tell you right now. I believe that you should never ‘not do things’. This is the day. This is the moment. No regrets later. I believe in that.

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