'I don’t want to be a part of any competition,' says TV actor Sai Ketan Rao as we chat about his show MHRW, industry competition, fitness and relationship
Actor Sai Ketan Rao, who grew up watching Shah Rukh Khan’s movies in Hyderabad and decided to become an actor, is now turning many heads with his first Hindi TV series — Mehndi Hai Rachne Waali. Sai portrays the role of Raghav Rao, a don from Hyderabad who forcefully gets married to a high-headed independent girl, Pallavi Deshmukh played by Shivangi Khedkar. In just five months after the show released, Sai has become a household name in India, especially for his dakhni dialect, leading to a massive fan following on social media. Apart from being an actor, Sai is a national-level boxer and a hard-core fitness enthusiast. As of now, the actor is shooting in Hyderabad, while we catch up with him for a quick tête-a-tête. Excerpts.
You grew up in Hyderabad and worked in the Telugu TV industry, how did you get the role in MHRW and how did you prepare it?
I started in Telugu and did a few short films, TV serials and a web series. I always wanted to explore more since language was never a barrier for me. My father is from Maharashtra and my mother is from Andhra Pradesh. I auditioned for this show during the first lockdown and it worked. I immediately connected with the character. I watched Amitabh Bachchan’s movie Agneepath to prepare my role.
When did you decide that you want to become an actor? And how did your family react to your decision?
I always knew I wanted to be an actor. After completing my engineering and an MBA from Hyderabad I started working as an intern in a corporate firm, it was then that I realised I can’t continue with a corporate job any longer. I quit that and joined a theatre company in Hyderabad and started auditioning for roles. My parents at first didn’t agree. It took me some years to convince them.
Are they happy now?
Yes, they are. They watch every episode of Mehndi Hai Rachne Waali.
You are one of those lucky TV actors who shot to fame overnight, how have things changed for you in the last few months?
Actually, nothing much has changed, except that people know me and like my work. I am thankful for the way things are happening. It feels nice when people appreciate my craft. People connect with me because I am doing what I love and I ensure I give it my hundred percent.
We all know that the entertainment industry is very competitive. There is always a demand for new faces; do you feel the pressure to stay relevant?
I agree there is a competition but every actor has their journey. It’s just been a few months since I started this show and there have been immense opportunities for all the actors. You just have to work hard. I started from the basics. I would go office to office searching for work and never felt bad because of rejection; it kind of made me fearless. I don’t want to be a part of any competition, but do I have a choice?
Are you open to working in the South again?
Of course. I am a multilingual actor and I am always open to opportunities that help me expand my repertoire as an actor.
Tell us what goes behind your fitness and hair and how do you take care of your mental health?
Regular exercise for one hour at least! That’s my secret. Workouts are like prayers for me, I can’t live without them. I have all the gym equipment at home because of the pandemic. I do weights and cardio on a regular basis. I oil my hair almost every day after I’m back from my shoot. My work keeps me sane and away from any negative thoughts.
You have an immense social media following, especially from among your female fans, so we have to ask: are you single and have you given thought to the kind of person you would like to spend your life with?
(Laughs). I am single and I don’t have specific characters that I seek for in any girl. I feel a romantic relationship should be organic. You can’t make up what qualities a girl should have and then tick mark them to choose your partner. So, whenever it will happen it will be organic, sweet and simple.
Mehndi Hai Rachne Waali telecasts on Star Plus