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Saiyami Kher has created a niche for herself in the industry over the years with her choices of projects and performances. On the occasion of Women’s Day 2024, ETimes got in touch with the actress for a freewheeling interview where she reflected on the evolving portrayal of women in Bollywood films and advocated for more women-centric narratives. She also offered advice to aspiring actresses while emphasising the importance of celebrating women every day, not just on specific occasions like Women’s Day. Excerpts…
How do you think the portrayal of women in Bollywood films has evolved over the years, and what changes would you still like to see?
I feel the Hindi film industry has seen a significant change over the years, and I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this change with my debut film. ‘Mirzya‘ was about a girl choosing between two boys. My film ‘Choked‘ was entirely about a homemaker who works in a bank to make ends meet for the family, and then ‘Ghoomer‘ was entirely about a woman athlete who loses her arm. So, for me, I have been very fortunate to have received such strong female-oriented roles. Yes, we are witnessing this change. We see how films have evolved over the years, but I feel that the degree of change is still relatively small, and I hope that more women tell women’s stories and that more stories are told without the man being the sole hero of the film. I hope to see this change grow more rapidly.
What challenges do you think women face in the Indian film industry, and what steps can be taken to address them?
When woman-centric films are being made, the budgets immediately become less than half. The interest from producers decreases when it’s a completely female-centric film; perhaps the studios are hesitant to invest that kind of money because audiences may not embrace those stories as much. So, I feel that one of the challenges is the budget constraint when trying to make a female-oriented film.

Can you share an experience where you felt empowered while working on a film set?

I have a very special memory that I won’t forget. When we were shooting for ‘Ghoomer,’ there was a particular scene that was physically demanding. There was a big crew, security, and it was just a very demanding setup. After a particular shot that I delivered, I remember everyone standing there and applauding. I feel that when you do good work, it gets appreciated by all, and it’s a special feeling on a film set when you hear applause. This is one of my most memorable experiences.

Saiyami Kher and cabinet minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha felicitate underprivileged talented kids

In your opinion, what impact can movies have on shaping societal attitudes towards women and gender equality?
I believe films have a significant impact. I have always believed that films influence society at large, which is why we should be responsible when making certain films because it is a very impactful medium. I remember after ‘Ghoomer,’ many men and women approached me, saying that amidst the male-dominated films, ‘Ghoomer’ was a refreshing change. They mentioned how their young children, daughters, and sons, were inspired by the film and watched it multiple times. They requested that more films like this be made to inspire people and make them better human beings. Films really influence people, and I hope to be a part of more films like that.
What advice would you give to aspiring actresses who are striving to make their mark in Bollywood while staying true to themselves?
The only advice I would give to aspiring women in the film industry is that it is a tough place, very brutal; you’re judged physically all the time, and there are still certain perceptions in the industry that need to be broken. But ultimately, if you’re here because you love acting, you will survive. Your goal should be important, and you should know why you’re acting. If you enjoy it, only then should you join the film industry; otherwise, it can be a very brutal place.

Lastly, how do you plan to celebrate International Women’s Day this year, and what message would you like to convey to your fans and followers?
I am not someone who celebrates womanhood on one particular day. I feel women should be celebrated every day. It shouldn’t be that you celebrate women on Women’s Day and then treat them badly throughout the rest of the year. I feel that this day should serve as a reminder that every day is a celebration of women. I just hope that people who follow me will also celebrate this and be kind to each other every day, not just on specific days.


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