Saiyami Kher delves into her passion for cricket, redefining beauty standards and magic of manifestation

She bags her dream role as a paraplegic cricketer in Ghoomer. In our candid chat, the breakout star shares about her athletic lifestyle, immersive travel experiences, films and more

Priyamvada Rana Published :  15th September 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  15th September 2023 12:00 AM
Ghoomer, a sports-drama directed by R. Balki, opens the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, featuring Saiyami Kher as a paraplegic cricketer who transforms with the help of Abhishek Bachchan.

Ghoomer, a sports-drama directed by R. Balki, opens the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, featuring Saiyami Kher as a paraplegic cricketer who transforms with the help of Abhishek Bachchan.

When you manifest a dream, magic happens. That’s the message actress Saiyami Kher’s life gives us as she bags her dream role in esteemed director R. Balki’s inspiring sports-drama Ghoomer. The film opened the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne and is earning great reviews for the high octane performances. Saiyami plays a paraplegic cricketer who loses her right hand in a tragic accident only to spin a new way of bowling with the help of her coach played by Abhishek Bachchan. The film also stars Shabana Azmi in a pivotal role and Amitabh Bachchan in a cameo. 

Saiyami Kher

For the 30-year-old actress, this film holds her ‘entire heart’ as she has been “obsessed” with cricket all her life— aspiring to be one as a teenager. However, being born in a family of actors and models — father Adwait Kher a model, mother Uttara Mhatre Kher a former Miss India and grandmother Usha Kiran an actress, the threads of Saiyami’s lineage are woven with thespian excellence leading her to act in Hindi, Marathi and Telugu cinema with films like Mireya, Mauli, Rey and OTT projects like Choked and Special OPS. 

Saiyami's look in Ghoomer

We speak to the actress on why Ghoomer is the most special film of her career. As someone who believes in deconstructing the idea of stereotypical Indian beauty, Saiyami also shows us her raw and real side where no makeup looks rule, dusky skin flexes the tan, curly hairs unfurl a feral in making and athlete level fitness goals are the kick of life. In our conversation, she also dives into the wellspring of emotions telling us how travel humbles her and the cherished memories of growing up in the small town of Nashik, away from the conundrum of metropolis. Excerpts:

Tell us what Ghoomer means to you as a cricket lover?
This film embodies everything I've ever envisioned. My passion for cricket has been unwavering since my youth. Ever since I embarked on my acting career, if someone would have inquired about my dream role, I would say ‘to portray a cricketer on the silver screen’. Patience became my virtue over seven enduring years and now I'm elated that R Balki has given me this golden opportunity to essay the same role. My parents used to always say that you should ask what you want and the universe will give it back to you. I didn’t really believe it until this film happened.

How did you prepare for the role, considering that your right hand was tied -up during the shoot?
Yes I assumed the role of a left-handed player. My right hand was tied for up to 10 hours a day during shoots. Whether it was activities like eating, brushing, or even cooking, I conscientiously used my left hand to do all the chores. While actors often tell how every project is close to their heart, this film holds my entire heart. The film transcends beyond being solely about cricket; it delves into the profound emotional journey of a player who has weathered a significant personal tragedy. Typically, I'm able to detach from my characters once the cameras stop rolling, but with Ghoomer, that disconnection was slightly challenging. I found myself completely consumed by the role.

Natural beauty

You had previously alluded to a period in your life when you lost faith in yourself. Where was this stemming from?
Our profession can make us feel insecure a lot of times as our fate often relies on others granting us opportunities. This lack of control over many aspects is a recurring reality. That phase came for me too when I found myself grappling with self-doubt and questioning my capabilities. Ultimately, it was Anurag Kashyap who extended the chance to me in Choked. That project rekindled my self-belief and gave me a confidence boost. Later, Ghoomer taught me to believe in magic as it is a role that I manifested for all my life. I owe Anurag to bring logic in my life and Balki to bring magic. (smiles)

While growing up like in a family of models, actors and Miss India's, how did cricket become a fetish?
Indeed it’s an obsession! While my grandmother and aunt are both actors, and my parents pursued modelling, they did not want us to be brought up in a filmy or glitzy atmosphere. So we relocated to the small city of Nashik, a place far away from the bustling metropolitan milieu as my parents felt that growing up in a small city changes the priorities we make in life. Growing up in Nashik did have a profound impact on our upbringing.We were not allowed to watch films till 12-13 years old and a major part of our life revolved around being in nature, trekking and swimming in lakes. I would hang around at my parents' restaurant and interact with different people and used to learn so much from them. That was a holistic way of life, hardly possible to achieve in a big busy city. At school I used to play professional badminton. Cricket, I just picked up on my own without going for any formal coaching, while I used to go for my badminton matches. At our house in Nashik, there was a help who was seven years older to me who further taught me how to play. Cricket became an obsession later, when I started watching Sachin Tendulkar play, he's been my inspiration! I still hero worship him (smiles). After a certain point, my friends and my older sister used to hate cricket because I was so obsessed with it! Me and my sister used to fight over the TV remote because I always wanted to watch matches. 

Fitness champ

Tell us your best memories of the sport.
Just recently, Sachin Tendulkar watched Ghoomer. Post that, I had a long chat and the good fortune of spending time with him where I showed him the unique style of bowling as shown in the film.He was intrigued by it, I cherish that moment to the core.

You have a strong athletic built making us envy your fitness goals…
I love pursuing a mixed bag of athletic pursuits. I play badminton and cricket and go for regular runs. Over time, I've participated in numerous marathons spanning the globe. Currently, I am training for a triathlon. I also try to find time for other physical activities like diving. Such activities help me connect with myself. I like setting such small fitness goals and ticking them. 

You seem to embrace your natural beauty which is non-typical of an Indian heroine. How would you weigh on smashing the beauty standards of today? 
Yes, I am a low maintenance and comfort driven person. But since the start of my acting career, I've been advised to look like a conventional Indian beauty to get projects. I was told to straighten my hair, wear certain clothes and be glammed up. I have never conformed to such norms as I don’t believe in being a factory made product. We should embrace what we have been blessed with and stay true to ourselves. If we hide who we are, that discomfort would start to show in every aspect of life. I have managed to stay as authentic to the person I am and fortunate to get work where characters lived a real life with minimal makeovers. Thankfully, now the industry is changing and celebrating realness. 

Unwinding into self

How do you disconnect with the world and focus on wellness?
Running is my ultimate therapy. Even if I can spare just 20 minutes in a day for running, that centres me for the day. I also love playing music, it calms me. For my mental well-being, I do not succumb to the pressures of numbers. My focus remains on delivering my best as other variables in success are beyond my control. I don't invest excessive time on social media, unless it involves sharing my work. That spares me the need for a social media detox. Infact, travelling to mountains is my ultimate detox where I detach from the world and phone. I also prefer going to some secluded island where I do not have much communication with people. That is a kind of detox that I like more than social media breaks!  

Speaking of travel and mountains, tell us about a journey that had a profound impact on you.
Quite a few actually and I think travel does that to you! It impacts you in ways you never know. One was during my Hindi film debut Mirzya. We were shooting in Leh and there was a cloudburst. We had to travel to Kashmir which was a 12 hour drive from there. I had Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra ( my director), a cameraman and me in the car and none of us spoke more than three sentences in that 12 hour journey because we were so mesmerised by the views and the lofty mountainous terrains. Silence spoke to me in Ladakh and it made me realise how small and irrelevant we are in the larger scheme of things. The mountains give you that humility to know who you are and not to take yourself too seriously because you really are not making any difference (laughs). Gulzar (poet) has penned a poem on how mountains teach us to be humble. I was reading that during my journey which moved me from within.

On the go in mountains

We often see you experimenting with swimwear,ethnic wear, athleisure and work wear? What style suits your personality with aplomb?
Being a sports enthusiast, athleisure is my jam. My closet is full of comfortable essentials like track pants, shorts, tank tops, and relaxed loose shirts.When I'm not rocking my sporty look, I opt for the never-go-out-of-style combination of blue jeans and white shirt. When the occasion calls, I pick a classic black dress.

Ghoomer is currently running in theatres
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