Exclusive interview of Niyar Saikia who made her debut in Hollywood film Sold
Niyar Saikia is just thirteen, but she already has a major Hollywood film in her kitty. The film Sold, directed by Oscar winning filmmaker Jeffery D. Brown, is yet to be released in India but it has been declared a favourite of the crowds and the critics alike at various film festivals. The lead actress of the film Niyar Saikia, who hails from the city of Guwahati, plays the (lead) role of a girl named Lakshmi, who becomes a victim of child trafficking. A year ago Niyar Saikia was relatively unknown, but today she is making international headlines. She dreams of walking the Oscar red carpet one day and loves the Harry Potter series. In hindsight she is just a regular teenager but from within she is a volcano of talent who is all set to burst out as a star in the world of cinema. Excerpts from an interview with her.
Hello, Niyar Saikia. Creativica welcomes you. First of all tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am Niyar Saikia from Guwahati, Assam. I study at Maria’s Public School and I am in class 9. I love my family, chocolates and books more than anything else. I am the only child, so I get all the love and good stuff. I dance too. I am learning Sattriya under the guidance of Nrityacharya Jatin Goswami. I basically dance around the house and create havoc. I used to sing too, but not now. My father’s name is Probin Saikia and my mother’s name is Roshmi Rekha Saikia. They are both musicians. My dad is a music director and my mom a singer, so yeah, music runs in my blood. I love listening to all kinds of songs but I am not into heavy metal stuff. I prefer folk songs, country music, soft and soothing songs. But I hate those cheesy, romantic songs. I can always listen to old Assamese and Hindi songs as long as my mood is perfect. I am learning all kind of folk dances under the institution named ‘PANCHASUR’.
I love the rain and the winter season. I ‘love love love’ acting. I love eating whatever my mother cooks. I love KFC and McDonalds. I LOVE HARRY POTTER. I really do. I like to write stories. I love to laugh and make people laugh too. I wish to play the piano someday. I love clicking photos of myself. I am pretty much honest with everything. I love earrings. I love all my friends. I hate people who sugarcoat. I hate bitter gourd and fish. I need to stop here or I’ll go on and on.
How did you bag the lead role in such a high profile Hollywood film?
I bagged the role through audition. I was informed by Vidyawati Phukan, she is an actress with whom I have worked in a film called ‘Aai Kot Nai’ by Manju Borah. She asked my mom to take me to the audition. Also, at my theatre school ‘SEAGULL’ there was an announcement about the audition and where it was going to be held. It was on a weekday, and I was not in the mood to go, because that would mean that I had to miss school and that too for a film audition as I am still not so much into films as of now. I prefer theatre to films. I went anyways. In the audition there were people of my age, some elder to me, some I knew, and some strangers. The casting directors, Tess and Dyu, came in and selected four girls randomly, on the basis of our physique, as per the requirements of the role. Both of them were very sweet. They called the four of us for a screen test the next day. We went, we did some acting and our acts were recorded. These videos were sent to America for the director to shortlist. There were almost 1000 videos. A few months later they called me to Mumbai, saying that I was shortlisted. I went, did some scenes and came back. On returning from Mumbai, they informed me that I was selected. Then there were workshops and rehearsals. That’s pretty much it.
Was there any kind of objection from your parent’s side, since the film deals with such a sensitive issue?
No. There were never any objections, because they knew the film is for a good cause. They had the belief that this film is going to create a mass awakening and help all the girls out there who are victims of human trafficking. They told me to take this whole thing as a challenge and to just go ahead with it, without any worry.
How was the experience of working with veteran actors from Hollywood and Bollywood?
It was such a wonderful experience. It was an honour for me to work with such legends like Seema Biswas, Sushmita Mukherjee and Madan Mohan (A famous Nepali actor). I can’t tell you how down-to-earth and phenomenal these people are. I learned so many things from them. I literally had goose bumps when I had to do a scene with Sushmita Mukherjee, because she is just ferocious and can eat anyone up in front of the camera. I really love her, because she is just too sweet for words. Then I guess, I don’t need anything to say about Seema Biswas. I really respect her and love her. She is so calm and dedicated; no one can divert her mind from work. She has got such endless, beautiful stories to tell. Madan Mohanji is like the Amitabh Bachchan of Nepal. He is very famous. Yet, being famous doesn’t strike him. He is old, but I can’t tell you, how funny he is. Then there was Tillotama Shome and Ratnabali Bhattacharyya. They are wonders. They helped me out in so many ways. They taught me so much about theatre. Then there were the actors and technicians from Hollywood. To be honest I had no idea about who Gillian Anderson or David Arquette was. And then when I googled them, I was like “OMG! They are THEY”. I didn’t get to know Gillian Anderson but yes David Arquette, I got to know him more. He is very serious about his work. Also, there was Parambrata Chatterjee.
Yeah so, I guess all my co-actors, like Neerja Naik, Sierah Royin, Himangshu Tyagi, Saksham Dayma; they were all amazing. I had the honour of working with all of them and I am so glad that I got the opportunity.
During the shooting of the film, did you even realize that you are a part of something very big and important?
Yes, I did. At the beginning I was not sure, I was confused and nervous. Later, I started to get the feel of it. I knew that this film was more than ‘Big’, more than ‘Important’. I did for all the girls who are the victims of trafficking and I took the whole thing as a challenge. The whole cast and crew was so supportive. I always had fun while shooting. The whole unit became like a family. The director Jeffrey D Brown and the producer Jane Charles were so supportive and they helped me so much. And I thank them and love them from the core of my heart.
Have you ever faced the camera prior to doing this film?
Yes, I have, so I guess this made the process a little easy. I have done Assamese films and two Hindi films. One of them was a short film ‘Main Ganga’, which won the best short film award at the New York Film festival. It was directed by Jayashree Saikia. The other was by Jahnu Baruah, which eventually never got released. The name of the film was ‘Butterfly Chase’. I have also done T.V. serials, but I prefer theatre and I just love doing it.
Now that you have started off in such a grand manner, would you consider acting as a profession in your future?
I would love to have acting as a profession but I also have this great desire of being a doctor.
How has been the reaction of your friends and dear ones towards you, now that you are quite famous?
My friends are like, “Niyar Saikia, the Hollywood star”, but they know I never wanted this kind of stardom. They tease me a lot but they have strictly told me to be down-to-earth and not to forget them. I love them all. They don’t talk much about my Hollywood venture, but they have helped me a lot. They just want free tickets to see the film (laughs).My relatives are like going crazy, they tell each and everyone about me. They are really encouraging and they love me very much. ‘Maa’ and ‘deta’ doesn’t really talk about it but they are really excited about all this.
When will the people of North East get to see the film?
Hopefully in the first half of 2015. I hope everybody likes it, because there is so much hard work involved in the film.
Since the film is directed by Oscar winning director, Jeffrey D. Brown, do you have any secret Oscar dream that you want to come true?
For now, I want to walk the red carpet at the premiere of the film. I do dream about walking the red carpet at the Oscars, wearing a gown and posing for photographs, signing autographs and all, but winning an Oscar? No. It’s just a stepping stone. You can’t expect an Oscar right now.
Your favourite movie stars.
I LOVE SHAH RUKH KHAN. He is more than a favourite. I have grown up watching his movies. Among the Assamese movie actors I like Jatin Bora, Prastuti Parashar, Kapil Bora, Rabi Sharma, Zerifa Wahid. I totally adore Chetana Das, Arun Hazarika, Mridula Boruah. I admire Kajol and Vidya Balan. Apart from that, above all, I just can’t stop loving the entire cast of Harry Potter. They are my REAL favourites. I can read the book and watch the movie over and over again. I also am a huge fan of Johnny Depp.
Any upcoming projects.
No, there are no upcoming projects right now. I would love to do theatre, but at the moment, I would like to concentrate on my studies.
Team Creativica wishes you all the best!
Thank you very much.