Sarika, one of the most beautiful actresses in the Hindi film industry and a two-time National Award winner, has taken long sabbaticals in her career unlike any other actress of her time. She wouldn’t wear makeup for most films and always prioritised her family and herself.
Her career as an actress spans over five decades — with her first film at the age of five in 1967 and her latest in 2022, Sooraj Barjatya's Uunchai. The movie also stars Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Parineeti Chopra and Neena Gupta.
Sarika has worked in a range of films, including Baar Baar Dekho (2016), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), Manorama Six Feet Under (2007), Bheja Fry (2007), Parzania (2005), Satte Pe Satta (1982), Shriman Shrimati (1982), Raakhi Ki Saugandh (1979) and many more.
She bagged her first National Film Award for Best Costume Design in Hey Ram (2001) and later in 2005 for Best Actress in Parzania. Earlier this year, in May 2022, she also made her OTT debut with the much-appreciated anthology, Modern Love Mumbai.
In an exclusive chat with Zee Zest, Sarika talks about the need to appreciate the Hindi film industry, why work-life balance is important to her, working with her latest co-stars and more.
Excerpts of the interview:
1. You’ve won the National Award twice and have been an actress since you were five years old. When you talk about your journey, what do you want to talk about the most?
I want to talk the most about the Hindi film industry. It's really time that we recognise and appreciate what a big part the film industry has played in the lives of this country. Some great films have been made and generations have grown up with the music of Hindi cinema.
And yes, there might be a few films which you don't like, which you think are not okay, but that’s the same for every industry. You never get one hundred per cent in any industry. But we are an integral part of this country. India is a cinema country, a music country. So many great talents have worked here, and I think we should all appreciate that.
2. Your latest was Sooraj Barjatya's directorial 'Uunchai'. How was it working in this film? Is there a moment that meant a lot to you?
The most interesting part of working on Uunchai was that it reiterated a thought that I have had for a long time. I have always felt that no matter how many years you have spent doing something or how many years you have lived, still there are new things that you experience in life. And Uunchai kind of confirmed my belief.
(Despite so many years in the industry), I have never worked with a director like Sooraj Barjatya before. He is such a different kind of filmmaker, be it as a person or as a director — he has this childlike passion for his work. So that meant a lot to me. The most intense part of doing Uunchai for me was working with Sooraj ji.
Then, of course, most of my work was with the three friends — Mr Bachchan, Boman Ji and Anupam Ji. I have worked with Mr Bachchan earlier, but every time that I have worked with him, as an actor, my respect for him just keeps growing in leaps and bounds. Every time the admiration and respect become much more than the last time. I have worked with Boman Ji before too, and we all know what a brilliant actor he is. I have known him for years. We also have this Parsi food connection so it was great working with him again. Anupam ji and I worked together for the first time in Uunchai. I was looking forward to working with him because for so many years of both our careers, we had never worked together. Working with Anupam Ji was also very good because he is a very interactive actor. So for me, doing Uunchai was a great experience in many ways.
3. You began your career when you were five years old and you took your first sabbatical at 25. Tell us about it. Did you feel you had done it all by 25?
Yes, I not only felt that way, I HAD done it all. I was so ready to just stop. I had done so much, and the number of films that I had done was too many. Keeping in mind the industry and what it was at that time, you didn’t have that many quality films. Maybe because the cinema was a little different in those days.
But then I did have films like Griha Pravesh (1979) which was acclaimed, and I had worked with some of the best talents in the industry in those days, (including Basu Bhattacharya, Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore). I had learnt so much by the time I was 25, grown so much. So yes, I was all ready to call it quits.
4. You have always prioritised your family and taken career breaks, unlike many actresses. Do you feel your career would have been different if you didn't take those breaks?
Let me just correct that. I had priorities — not just my family but myself too. The last two breaks I took were really for myself. Because I wasn't feeling comfortable as an actor to wait, wait and wait for good films to come by. I thought it's very silly to be wasting your life as a person, for the actor who was waiting for a good script.
I really don't think my career would have been very different if I hadn’t taken those breaks because it is not that I would have gotten more roles or something. Now when I look back, I feel we are destined to do some things, I really believe in that. So yes, I don't think my career would have been different.
5. You have seen Indian cinema for decades — you have seen it change, metamorphose over the years... What are the changes that you have loved?
The changes I have loved are how beautifully we have grown. From the then-cinema of those three love songs, two mother scenes, three sister scenes, three action sequences, one vamp, one hero, one rape scene and ‘maa main college se aa gaya’ scene. From those days to today, we are so good! That is the best thing.
The fact that we opened ourselves up and we went into spaces which were good spaces. We saw world cinema and incorporated their good parts. Sometimes I feel that some of our Indian films are better than some foreign films. So that openness to embracing the change, I think that is the best thing that happened.
6. OTT has changed many things in the film industry — what do you have to say about it?
There is so much we have said about OTT changing things. I just think OTT was the future but because of Covid, it became our present. There were years still for OTT to take over and do what it is doing now but because of Covid we got stuck at home and it all got cemented.
What is very good about this is that the opportunity for talent in every department here is much, much more than in films. And in OTT, there is a casting that happens for characters, unlike in films where the casting happens only for stars. And then in films there would be ‘ye hai toh iske liye role aisa kardo’ but in OTT that does not happen, which means, more talent is coming in.
Writers are writing what they want to write, directors are directing what they want to direct as there is no pressure on them externally, which makes the quality of OTT content much better. They are making good films also but the quantity of good content on OTT is much higher.
7. What do you regret the most in life?
I don't have that many regrets because I believe whatever you do in life, at least 80% of it is what is right in that moment and 20% we all go wrong. Regret is a very heavy word, that I think I don't feel. I might have said ‘arrey mujhe woh karna chahiye’, maybe I should have done it differently, but that's not really a regret. So yeah, I have no major regrets.