Saiyami Kher: Sports is my first love

The actor, who will be seen next in the Nagarjuna-starrer ‘Wild Dog’, hopes to crack the Ironman challenge in 2022

Not many who have watched Saiyami Kher’s performance in Anurag Kashyap’s feature film Choked, or web series Special OPS and Breathe: Into the Shadows might know that she made her acting debut with the 2015 Telugu film Rey. Six years later, she stars in the soon-to-release Telugu film Wild Dog, in which she plays a Research & Analysis Wing agent collaborating with a National Investigation Agency officer, played by Nagarjuna Akkineni, on a mission.

“I hadn’t even completed college when I signed Rey. I had been modelling and doing theatre. It was an interesting project, unfortunately, it took three years to release and looked dated. I think it would have worked well had it released earlier,” she reminisces.

In the meantime, she had signed the Hindi film Mirzya and moved to Mumbai. Intermittently, there was a project from Mani Ratnam, which did not take off.

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Action and sports

Wild Dog, which unfolds in the aftermath of the Hyderabad blasts of 2007, has Saiyami playing a Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent. She recalls the cosmopolitan atmosphere on sets, given the presence of actors Nagarjuna, Atul Kulkarni and Dia Mirza, and French action director David Ismalone. “I loved the script and it helped that director Ahishor Solomon gave it to me a month in advance; I had enough time to learn the Telugu lines,” says Saiyami.

  • Runner’s high: Saiyami finds running to be therapeutic, “As actors, 99% of the time we face rejection. I find it healing to run.” Having run two full marathons in Mumbai, a half marathon in Germany and a 10K run in London, she hopes to crack the Ironman challenge in 2022. Her running playlist includes yesteryear Hindi film songs by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
  • Carpentry: In her family home in Nashik, Saiyami used to conduct carpentry workshops prior to the pandemic. She spent her childhood in Nashik and reminisces, “I grew up swimming in lakes and climbing hillocks and mountains. At our family property, I used to conduct carpentry workshops. There’s so much to learn; the more the merrier for me. I believe sports, carpentry and every new skill set helps me become a better actor.”

She was keen to take up a film that has scope for action, given her sports background, and trained in mixed martial arts.

Sports, she says, is her first love. Saiyami had played badminton while growing up and later became a marathon runner. She was hoping to participate in the Ironman event in the Netherlands in June 2020, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event. She plans to do it in 2022.

The actor hosts the ‘Silly Point with Saiyami’ cricket series on Instagram. While in Hyderabad to film Wild Dog, she had hoped to play with Pradnya Gadre, who was her doubles partner in Maharashtra badminton matches. “But it wasn’t possible due to COVID-19 restrictions.” Pradnya coaches at Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy.

‘Choked’ possibilities

Saiyami Kher in ‘Wild Dog’  

Reverting to discuss her acting career, Saiyami says it’s a great time to be an actor, to be able to take up web series and feature films. She looks back fondly at Choked. A few years ago, she happened to be seated next to Anurag Kashyap during a film screening at the Mumbai International Film Festival. The director broached the idea of working together. The opportunity materialised after two years.

When she heard the story and her character, she wanted a look test, but Anurag didn’t think it was unnecessary: “I went ahead and did a photoshoot; I then realised what he had seen in me.”

On sets, Anurag preferred his actors to be spontaneous than rehearsed: “He is a magician who knows how to get the best out of his actors. I read the script once and he never let me see it again.”

Choked got her noticed and Saiyami has signed a new Hindi film; she’s also waiting for the new seasons of Breathe and Special OPS to go on floors.

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