Sai Tamhankar is a well-known name in the Marathi film industry. From films like Pune 52, Balak Palak to Duniyadari, the actress has proved her mettle with every film she has been a part of and has emerged victorious. From doing a cameo in Aamir Khan’s Ghajini to being a part of Hunterrr, the actress has showcased that her talent isn’t limited to only regional cinema. In a candid conversation, Sai talks about everything from pay parity, Bollywood films and the recent #MeToo movement in Bollywood. Read on.

Bollywood was shocked recently when news about Nana Patekar sexually harassing Tanushree Dutta on the sets of Horn ok Pleasss 10 years ago started making rounds. While every Bollywood actor has been asked to comment on the same, I began my interview with Sai with the same question who was quite shocked about it. The actress revealed that she thought it was high time for us to raise our voices.

I really don’t want to get into calling names, but this has, of course, forced me to think about certain things. There is no gender equality clearly. Women are still being objectified. It takes a decade or probably more than that to speak up in the kind of society we live in. We are scared to open our mouth and state anything about anybody. I am so tired and stressed about this entire environment. This is not how it is supposed to be. I am waiting for that day when talent will be enough to get work. I am being optimistic and positive. This is not a pleasant thing we are hearing and I am ashamed about it if it is true. I think it’s time we need to open our eyes and speak up. The problem with us is that when a person speaks up, we hear that person according to our convenience. I think we should hear that person on a neutral basis. If somebody is done wrong to you, that person should be punished. I hope that if there is something wrong that has happened, the person should suffer.

While the #MeToo movement started in the West a while ago, with Tanushree finally speaking up, people are calling it the rise of #MeToo movement in Bollywood. Sai began her career in films 10 years ago. Ask her if she was ever approached for casting couch and she says,

“There was a shady phone call once. A random person called and said, “I have a film and all that but there is something. You’ll have to sleep with the director and the producer. Generally, you have to sleep with the hero as well but since it is you, I am saying producer and director,” and I said,Why don’t you send your mom.” He went silent for 10 seconds. I told him that now you understand that you are not supposed to call me ever again and post that I hung up. That phone call never happened ever again. You should voice out everything you feel that is not right.”

Apart from talking about the moment, Sai also addressed the need for pay parity in the industry. The actress says that while Bollywood is talking about it, it is equally relevant in Marathi cinema.

I really think that women should be paid equally to the male co-stars. I have always been the person who has said, “Mujhe itna do”, instead of saying, “usko itna mil raha hai toh mujhe itna do!” Things are slowly changing but the hierarchy still remains the same and I am not a big fan of it.”

Sai’s recent release Love Sonia directed by Tabrez Noorani hit the screens recently. While the film didn’t manage to earn enough moolah, it did speak about the performances of the actress as well as the topic of human trafficking which the film brilliantly highlighted. Sai feels happy with space the film has put her in.

We all felt that the forces were with us. For the longest time, we couldn’t find somebody who could fund the project. We are glad that the efforts behind the film have paid off. There is a very thin line between numbers and a good film. However, I feel that the people who saw the film recommended it to others. I am very happy in the space I am in. The kind of praises and comments we got for it was worth the wait.”

The Hunterrr actress also spoke about how the change needs to begin from the roots.

Jab tak humans zinda hain, these kinds of mentalities will exist. We need to take responsibility, women especially. We need to think about hum apne bacchon ko kaise bada karte hai, how much do we contribute. I think it starts from your roots because it is very difficult to change something from its roots. This film was relevant 10 years back and it will be relevant 10 years later as well.”

While people loved to hate the character of Anjali, Sai portrayed, the actress reveals that this hatred from the audience gives her a high.

It is not every day you get to play a character like Anjali. She has so many layers and I really liked the fact that I could get this close to a character like her and play it with conviction with Tabreez’s help. While many hated the character, what I like about her is the fact that she is a survivor. She was a victim once, and now she has reached a stage. She also knows what a father goes through because deep down she is human but it is very difficult to pull that side out because the survivor in her is overpowering. While I was at a screening of the film there was a guy who  came up to me and said: “I thought you were a bitch! And I said, “Thank you.” I think to be somebody you are not is quite exciting and to be able to tap that emotion into your audience is satisfying.”

Harshvardhan Kulkarni’s Hunterrr starring Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte and Sai released in 2015. While the masses loved the film, Sai’s character of a married woman having an extra-marital affair was one of the highlights of the film. While the actress was happy with the kind of the love the film received, Sai revealed that similar roles were later offered to her.

In most of the roles I was offered, I would be either sexually tortured, starved or sexually something. I was a little irked. I played that character because she had a soft heart and some level of frustration, but sadly for a lot of people, Gulshan and my scene was the highlight of the film. I think a different film had to come my way to showcase that I can do other roles as well and thus I am happy that Love Sonia came my way.

Ask her if she was being typecast, and she immediately replies,

I am just three films old in Bollywood so it is tricky for me to answer the question. When you are playing in big leagues, you might want to think about what you choose. You want to gauge the weight of a particular character and think about how it is going to help you as an actor.”

With her performance being appreciated in Hunterrr and Love Sonia, ask her what’s keeping her away from doing Bollywood film and Sai quips,

Please ask this question to Bollywood filmmakers. I don’t know. I think a lot of things matter. Right time, right people and right scripts., I would want to believe in that. Sometimes I do get impatient but my mind calms me down. I just believe in giving my 100% in whatever I get and I know that it will get me somewhere.”

While Bollywood is still getting acquainted with Sai, the actress is a star in the Marathi film industry. Ask her whether she believes it and she replies,

I agree that my presence matters but I never get that feeling that I am a star. I have too many people who keep grounded and the strongest of them all is the dawn of my life, my mother. I am glad that I am away from what’s not permanent. I would love to keep it that way.”

With three Hindi films and a streak of Marathi films in her kitty, is there any difference she notices between the industries and she says,

Content is the hero, in Marathi films whereas, in Bollywood films, it is the actor who is the “Hero”. Budgets are starkly different in both the industries as well as the reach. While there are stark differences, every industry has its own charm. Things are changing now and lines are fading and soon we will have an Indian film industry.”

While Sai is still reading a number of scripts for her next Bollywood outing, ask the actress if she admires somebody and she says,

I think Alia Bhatt is doing amazing films. She has discovered herself in the right way. I love the way she is exploring herself as an actor. I really admire Radhika Apte as well. She is fierce. Rajkummar Rao and Vicky Kaushal are also inspiring.”

I want to do a film high on action. I am all game for giving a year for training and sweating it out. I would love to do a hardcore action film like Kill Bill,” signs off the actress on a promising note.