‘Until Sacred Games I lacked the courage to face the world’: Saurabh Sachdeva

The actor and acting coach is part of the cast of the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Haddi streaming on Zee5. He will next be seen in Bambai Meri Jaan.
Saurabh Sachdeva (Photo| Instagram)
Saurabh Sachdeva (Photo| Instagram)

Saurabh Sachdeva is enjoying a packed year. The actor and acting coach is part of the cast of the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Haddi streaming on Zee5. He will next be seen in Bambai Meri Jaan, (releasing on September 14 on Prime Video). The film is adapted from Husain S Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai which documents the story of gangsters Haji Mastan and Karim Lala, among others. Upcoming is Sujoy Ghosh’s thriller Jaane Jaan (Netflix, September 21). 

Excerpts from the conversation:

In Bambai Meri Jaan, you play Haji Maqbool. How did you prepare to play a 1960s mafia don of Mumbai?

As an actor, I am fidgety, I like to use things around me. The director, Shujaat [Saudagar], wanted me to play Haji in a completely opposite way. He wanted me to be aristocratic and calm. Rather than changing something from the outside, he wanted these attributes to be coming from within me. In the beginning, it was pretty difficult for me but ultimately, we worked well together.

Is there an added pressure in playing a real-life figure?

Well, I don’t know if it is a real-life character or not. When I got the script, my character was written as a fictional character. As a result, I never took any inspiration for Haji. I tried to find my own truth to the script.

During Haddi, did the acting coach in you pick up tips from the way actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui prepares?

The coach in me picks up things when I sit out and watch actors objectively. Acting happens when I  get in the process and work on it subjectively. In coaching, you work on others. In acting, you work on yourself. Teaching someone is a difficult job but doing it yourself… that is the real challenge. I did use a lot of what I teach and what I had learnt – the shifting of the body language, working on my voice and the attitude of my character. I tried my best to not make it a caricature. My challenge was to make the character seem human – made of flesh and blood. For that, I had to empathise with my character.

How was it like being part of a Sujoy Ghosh thriller?

They are a very powerful, yet mature group of people. I felt very connected to them. I have watched Kahani and Kahani 2. Sujoy has done a good job, he has made a mark in the industry. My instincts as an actor came out in this film.

You have been an acting coach much longer than you have been an actor. At what point in the journey did you wish to venture into acting?

I started as an actor in 2001, in Delhi, with Barry John. After a year, he asked me to be a teacher in his school. It was very difficult for me to decide whether I wanted to be a teacher, because at that time, I remember feeling very disrespected by one of my teachers in school. But my friends encouraged me to take it up. I told Barry Sir that I would try it for a few days and see whether I liked it. Now, it has been almost 22 years that I have been teaching.

When I first came to Mumbai, I was very nervous about how people would see me and whether they would accept me. But in 2016, something changed in me. I thought about opening my own school. In 2017, I started the Actor’s Truth school and also got a chance to work in front of the camera with Sacred Games. My life changed. Until then, I was just lacking the courage to face the world.

You began working in Delhi. Has the city influenced you in the way you perceive your craft?

Yes, definitely. Delhi is more impulsive as a city. So many of my childhood memories come from growing up here. Yet there is a difference between Mumbai and Delhi. Mumbai is more relaxed. Sab aapne kam se kaam rakhtehai, in the most positive way (Everyone is involved in their own business). They don’t interfere in each other’s lives and let others be.

Has the rise of OTT platforms and its content made any changes in the way you coach actors?

Over the years, people’s concentration span has gone down. They won’t watch a film that spans a couple of hours. They want to consume it immediately and consume it fast. They can switch off a screen in minutes. So, actors have to act accordingly, so that the audience stays hooked. I have changed my teaching method to incorporate this speed and the simultaneity of having a lot happening at once.

Do you prefer being an actor or an acting coach?

Coaching gives me more respect and love. Acting gives me the power to do something – both are very important to me. But if I have to choose one, I am going to choose to be an acting coach.

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The New Indian Express