By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | January 24, 2017

Her Irada is now clear. Focus is on work. Sagarika Ghatge has spent too many years on the sidelines having people wonder whether she wants to be a part of this industry or not. It’s now 10 years since Chak De! India and the svelte girl is geared to fulfill her God-given potential.

By her own admission, she was not aggressive, and we have seen how aggressive actors can be even on the day their film releases! “A lot of people thought I did not want to work. I guess I am to blame because I was never ‘out there’,” reveals Sagarika whose Preeti Sabharwal is that one character which stands out, even a decade after its release.

Today, she is alert enough to know that it matters to be seen in the right environment. Although still not comfortable at being in the limelight, Sagarika has managed to break her outer, shy shell.

Irada with Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi releases next month and though not afraid of a Friday, she is definitely a little nervous as D-day dawns.

Martin D’Souza spoke with Sagarika Ghatge about everything… but Zaheer Khan!

Excerpts:
Preeti Sabharwal caught the industry by storm in Chak De! India, how did the goals dry up after that?
I went through my journey after Chak De. I had hoped to get interesting work where I could prove myself as an actor. I did not want to play another Preeti Sabharwal. I wanted to prove myself enough where people would appreciate my work.

So, would it be right to say that you did not get interesting work?
I’m not someone who is in the forefront. When work comes my way, I take it. I feel I have to be a little more aggressive which I have never been. Having said that, I don’t know if I ever will be aggressive! I have never been into PR. I have never aggressively promoted myself or told people “I’m here.” Maybe that’s where I went wrong and that’s what needs to be worked on. Hopefully, I will be a little more ‘out there’ for people to realize that I want to work. A lot of people were of the impression that I did not want to work in films. Maybe that worked against me, and the goals dried up, like you would like to put it [smiles].

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Simply put, you failed to capitalize on a good start with a film like Chak De?
Yes. I was naïve at that time. I did not capitalize on a good start.

What are you impressions of the film, 10 years after its release?
Chak De is a film made once in a lifetime. I was fortunate to be a part of it and even more fortunate to play the character of Preeti Sabharwal. I did not know that Preeti would be loved by everyone—young and old alike. Every actor, when they finish their career, want to be remembered for at least 4-5 films in their career and I am fortunate I have that one film.

Do you at any time feel bad that you were not aggressive early on?
Honestly, when CD happened, I was very young. I got a lot of offers after that. I probably did not pick on the work that I should have as I did not have the right sensibilities or proper guidance. I don’t blame anyone for this. I had other things which were a priority. I was just 20 and I was not even sure I wanted to continue or go to Boston and study. If I was sure of what I wanted, maybe I would have taken different decisions.

You mentioned early on that a lot of people thought you did not want to work. Has that perception changed now?
Today, there is a lot of work happening. A lot of people who earlier thought I did not want to work, now know that I am serious. But aggression as far as promoting myself is not yet there in me. I do my work and I go back in my cocoon. However, I am a little more sensible about my appearances now. I know that these are requirements in the industry so I am trying my best to balance work and ‘presence’.

According to you, where does talent stand in this industry?
Talent is very important. Nobody gets ahead without talent. There is a lot of luck which is very, very important. I was lucky with CD. But there are a lot of other factors that matter as well.

Is there anything more than being a good actor that one has to be in this industry to get good roles?
I believe your upbringing is very important. How you interact with people matters. You need to respect people to get respect back. I have been taught these things by my parents. A lot of times I don’t see this. I hear about people who are not polite. As an actor, as a human being, you need to respect your colleagues and that is very important for me. I know that if somebody does not talk to me politely, I feel hurt.

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Would you bracket your journey so far as satisfying or frustrating?
I am somebody who has not let things affect me too much. This is thanks to my family and the support I enjoy at home. My career has been satisfying in bits and there is a long period of time you have to do work that satisfies you. There have been moments where I have questioned myself, “Why is it this way”? I am not saying that I am a phenomenally amazing actor, but I am not somebody who is bad when on screen.

What is the best compliment you have received for your acting so far, from whom?
After CD was released and whichever shows I went for, everyone would get up and clap during the last scene towards the end where I tell my boyfriend where to get off. That was overwhelming. A lot of people also came up to me and told me, ‘You are Preeti Sabharwal’. That is the best compliment for any actor to receive. It was nice to be recognized that way. But fact is; I’m not like Preeti. She was a go-getter. She was out there and intimidating, which I am not.

What types of role do you ideally like to essay?
This is a question that has bothered me. As an actor, I have never stuck to a particular character I would like to portray. I never said that I would only do this type of a role. I am open to any work coming my way.

Let me simplify the question, how do your assess a role?
My assessment of a role is simple: I ask myself, ‘If I take this part how can I improve myself’. That was the only reason I took the Marathi film Premachi Goshta. I never take up a project based on what I want to do, but how it can benefit me. Can I improve as an actor? I look at every project that comes my way like that. Even if a special appearance can help me as an actor, I would do it.

Tell us something about Premachi Goshta?
I was very excited when I got that offer in 2013. There was Atul Kulkarni in it and I have always looked up to him as an actor. That film did really well. But for me, the way I looked at it, it was 40 days of workshop with Atul Kulkarni. I learnt immensely on the sets.

What are your upcoming projects?
Irada releases on February 17. It has Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah in it. I am looking forward to this film. Then there is also a bilingual film with Gulshan Devaiah which will release later this year. It is called Haadsa.

Also Read: Kirti Kulhari: Pink, Kesar, Gulaboo!

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