A chat with Ghoomer duo: Abhishek Bachchan and Saiyami Kher

Abhishek Bachchan plays Saiyami Kher’s cricket coach in Ghoomer. Photo: Sterling Media

They have got an ace director in R. Balki and a sports film, Ghoomer, that is said to be “all heart”. Amitabh Bachchan’s son, Abhishek Bachchan and yesteryear star Usha Kiron’s granddaughter, Saiyami Kher, the lead artistes, were available for exactly 14 minutes on Zoom, and I cashed in on this.

Excerpts from interviews follow.

Abhishek Bachchan

You are shown as a failed cricketer in Ghoomer, while in real life, you actually own the successful Pro Kabaddi League franchise team, Jaipur Pink Panthers, and co-own the Indian Super League football team, Chennaiyin FC. What was the contrast in this aspect so far as your performance or its prep were concerned?

Well, when you own a team, it gives you a slight insight into the world of sports, but I have also played sports right form childhood, so that too gives such understanding. But at the end of the day, each character is different and comes with its own set of challenges. This character wasn’t based on anyone I knew and was based on Balki’s writing.

The news is that your father cried on watching you in the film. Has he done that before?

How did you know that?! Wow! I hope those were tears of joy—it could be the other way round! (Laughs) Seriously, I thank him, look forward to his support and after all, he’s my idol. So his acceptance and validation are very, very important.

And Saiyami Kher, with whom you have already worked in both seasons of the OTT series, Breathe?

She is absolutely flawless and brilliant in the film and a complete revelation. I had high expectations from her as it is, but she has surpassed them all!

You have worked again with Shabana Azmi after Umrao Jaan, with whom your mother Jaya-ji just worked in Rocky Au Rani Kii Prem Kahani, and your father has done three films. She is known as a powerhouse performer. How much is your interaction with her in the film?

As actors, we are always selfish! When you have great talent like Shabana aunty in the film, you always want the maximum time with them, and they just prove their worth. She’s just wonderful!

Something about R. Balki, with whom you have worked as producer and actor on Paa too, and as a producer on Shamitabh.

Well, I have worked with Balki for several, several years and I was very happy and comfortable collaborating with Balki after a long time. For a producer, he’s a dream, an absolute dream! He’s so sure of what he wants that you know we are going to put up a quality product together with no stone unturned. He’s immensely prepared, and therefore very producer-friendly.

You have been showbiz for 23 years as actor in films and a web series, and have been a producer and singer as well. You even sang a song for your father’s character in Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap. How do you look back at your long journey and how do you plan to assess the roles offered now?

Well, the process I have always followed is that I have to emotionally react to any  story that is narrated to me. I look upon my journey with great fondness. It’s been wonderful and there is a long way to go. But I am on the right path.

Your performances have been so variegated so far. Why do you think you are not known as a versatile actor?

You tell me! I can just do my work!

Saiyami Kher as the physically-challenged cricketer in Ghoomer. Photo: Sterling Media

Saiyami Kher

What were the challenges in this role? Was there a real-life research or reference involved?

This role was everything I was asking for ever since I began to act, and I can’t thank Balki-sir enough for giving me this opportunity. With regards to challenges are references, I was fortunate enough to get support from para-athletes who represented India abroad and won medals, like Ekta Bhyan. I tried to understand what her journey was like, so that I could borrow from her life.

I am a right-handed person but trained with my left arm, and I was very excited that Murali Kartik, an ex-left arm cricketer was training me for the film. So this role ticked many boxes, including working with Balki-sir, who I think is a complete genius and just the nicest and kindest person to work with, and with AB (Abhishek) whom I am very fond of. And there is Shabana-maasi, who has known me since I was very young, and Angad, who is my first friend in the industry, so it felt like home!

Balki, on his own admission, says that he is quite quirky about his casting. So has he told you why he has cast you?

I am glad that his ways are quirky, because he actually saw me play cricket many years ago! I have known him for some years, and he said that he had this idea about a film he wanted to make, and if he did make it, he wanted me! I did not believe him because when people of his stature say something like this, you take it with a pinch of salt. But he was really true to his word! So my casting happened because he saw me playing cricket! (Smiles)

Did Usha Kiron-ji know about your acting ambitions and give you tips?

I wish I had got more time with her at the right age, but she passed away when I was just nine or ten, and I really got to know about her work only as an adult! Bawarchi, Chupke Chupke and Mili were films in which I really loved her, and she was just like what I had remembered of her in real life. As a heroine, of course, I have watched her hits like Daag and Patita from the 1950s. She was so effortless on screen. I wish she had been around to guide me!

Did acting with Shabana Azmi, who is related to you, make any difference in your on-screen interaction (Shabana’s brother Baba Azmi, cinematographer, married Tanvi Kiron—now known as actress Tanvi Azmi, who is Saiyami’s aunt)?

I actually called her Shabana moushi (Marathi formaasi’ or maternal aunt) as she has known me since I was born! I was very, very close to her mom, my dadi maa (grandmother), Shaukat (Azmi), and she plays my grandmother here. So I was reminded a lot of her as they look similar too! So it was all extremely emotional for me. As a person, Shabana mowshi was extremely protective, like asking me not to stand in the sun and advising me to get sufficient sleep. As a performer, she is so tremendous that I enjoyed working with her.





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