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TETE-A-TETE WITH SAATTVIC

— EXPLOSIVE FASHION

The ensemble cast of "Everest" on Star Plus has done complete justice to challenging multi-layered roles from training at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) to hiking up Mount Everest but Saattvic's performance as Kabir of ‘Black Horses’ gang is a tour de force. Though he is genteel and charming in reality, his portrayal of an aggressive Haryanvi stud is so convincing I felt a moment of confusion. If I were pressed to explain his prowess, I'd say it springs from getting into the skin of the character with emotional transparency. There's more! Saattvic has to his credit being a trained classical musician and dancer under Pt. Ashok Moitro, trained in Hindustani Vocal Music at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, was awarded centenary medal at St. Stephen’s College, and obtained MPhil in Economics at Oxford University. He is currently an Associate at Europe Economics. Over to the star of tomorrow, Saattvic.

 

"I was approached for television serial "Everest" when the casting director Nalini Rathnam called me to audition for this role incidentally while I was at a conference on economic policy at the Mumbai AAP offices. When I read the audition script, it was apparent that they needed someone who could play negative, arrogant and cocky and hailed from the Delhi NCR region. My mind immediately went back to some of the kids with me in Modern School in Delhi and Kabir came to life. I was told later that my half smile—smirk was the clinching factor!

 

I took up this role that was so physically challenging and potentially dangerous firstly because it was a chance to work with Ashutosh Gowariker. Even though he did not direct "Everest", he was present on set as Producer and one had several opportunities to interact with him and absorb his wisdom and experiences. Secondly, "Everest" as a show is a very different concept. It is very different from the usual saas-bahu serials and is something that Indian television needs right now. So I felt it would be nice to be a part of something new and grand on Indian TV. Thirdly, I have a bit of a love affair with the mountains. As a child growing up in Delhi, our family would visit the mountains at least once every other month. The peace, the simplicity of life and the tranquility of mountain life appeal to me greatly. Moreover, it made me physically fit because i was walking everywhere. The prospect of spending a month and a half living in in the mountains, and getting paid to do it, was too much to resist.

 

As for the role being physically challenging, I pride myself on fitness—both inside and outside the gym. One of my fondest experiences was trekking 150 km from Glasgow to Fort William over seven days, carrying my own 30 kg backpack, camping in my own tent and cooking my own food, through the highlands of Scotland. After that, walking up and down a hill in Uttarkashi everyday was not that challenging! Regarding the potential danger of the role, we had a very capable crew who ensured that health and safety were always top priority. All the action scenes were well planned and choreographed to eliminate any chance of physical harm. For the climbing scenes, we used harnesses and other safety equipment that made it completely safe. In short, there was no danger at all.

 

I have some memorable experiences of when I began shooting in Uttarkhand. This was the first time I was facing the camera, and that too under the capable direction of Glen Baretto and Ankush Mohla, with an industry giant in Ashutosh Gowariker standing by them. Naturally I was slightly nervous. But once the cameras rolled and the acting started, the overwhelming feeling was 'I belong here'. I felt at home in front of the camera. It all felt right. I know I have much to learn yet but once I started shooting I knew that I need to do more of this. I never ever felt "OMG Where am I?” We were in Uttarkashi, a town of beautiful scenery and beautiful people. When we left, I felt like I was leaving a bit of me behind. Sometimes you do feel "why am I here?" There are times when you've been shooting action scenes for long hours, your body has given up but the director still wants you to go on. But the questioning is only fleeting, for you realise soon that it will all be worth it when it comes on screen. Then you look around you and you see that the technical crew has been there longer than you, the assistant directors have been there longer than you. And unlike you, they don't get to switch off when the director shouts 'cut'. Out of sheer respect and admiration for them you must push forward. And at the end you create something beautiful.

 

I am impressed with the care and caution taken by the entire team of “Everest”. We received mountaineering training once we got to the NIM in Uttarkashi from their very capable instructors. We were taught the basic mountaineering knots and given climbing training on the indoor wall that you see in the show. In fact, some of us were so addicted that we have decided to join the actual NIM course in the near future! Regarding security, there was a lot of care taken to ensure that health and safety was top priority. All the fight scenes were well planned and choreographed. We took an entire day to shoot the fight sequence in the canteen that you see in the thirteenth episode — even though it lasted for all of 30 seconds. The level of attention to detail was comparable to that of the best films in Bollywood. Every move was choreographed to ensure that no one got hurt but it looked real. Moreover, for all the climbing scenes, we were well secured by harnesses and ropes. There was never any threat to personal safety.

 

Looking back this entire serial taught me a lot in terms of an actor and a person. This was the first time I faced the camera, so naturally it felt like it was a bit of a crash course introduction to the world of film and TV. As an actor, the most valuable learning was how to adjust my knowledge of acting on stage to be effective in front of the camera. I learnt the kinds of adjustments that needed to be made from the stage, where the audience is sitting at times a hundred feet away, to TV where at times the camera is right next to your face. I learnt that on screen, the camera is really close and it can see everything, so it is best to not 'put on' fake expressions or to pretend, but instead one must genuinely feel what the character is supposed to be feeling and let the lines flow from that internal place. I learnt a lot about lighting for screen, camera angles — I got a fast track introduction to how film and TV is made and this knowledge now allows me to tailor my acting to make best use of the conditions. As a person, seeing industry stalwarts hard at work, trekking up mountains, shooting long hours and staying in the same accommodation as us was very humbling. It drove home the point that hard work is the only way to leave a mark. Also, I realised that there was an army of people that you do not see on screen there to make sure that things ran smoothly. The food needed to be there on time, the costumes needed to be washed and ironed, the props needed to be bought and kept in place, etc. Even if one cog in this entire machine went out of place, the shoot would not have happened. TV and film is collaborative on a scale much higher than anything else I know, and I now have a new found respect for the folks you do not see on screen.

    

Well there's a lot on the plate now. I’ve recently shot for a small part in a lovely little film called ''Badmashiyan''. Other than that, it's back to theatre for me. Right now I'm rehearsing for three plays. There is a musical called 'In Trousers', which is premiering at the 'Celebrate Bandra' festival on 26th November. This is a full broadway style musical and rehearsals are absolutely exhilarating. Then there is Tamaha Theatre's 'Marrigology', being directed by Sunil Shanbag where I am stepping in to replace an actor. This is a series of short pieces revolving around the theme of marriage. My first performance in this piece will be in December. I am also a part of Vickram Kapadia's 'The Merchant of Venice'. This is going to be a grand play, as Shakespeare always is, and will open in February 2015. There are also a bunch of shows lined up over the next year!"
 

Saattvic
Ashutosh Gowarikar's
 
Saattvic
Memorable moments during the shooting of
 
Saattvic
Saattvic as 'Dark Horse' Kabir
 
Saattvic
The ensemble cast of
 
Saattvic
 
Saattvic
Ashutosh Gowarikar's
 
20-NOVEMBER-2014
 
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