I don’t pick the movies, they pick me – Sugandha Garg
From a TV show host to a singer, actor and more, Sugandha Garg wears many hats. She’s remembered as the quirky friend from Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na and has gone on to make her presence felt in Hindi cinema through some unconventional films like Tere Bin Laden and Patang. She will soon be seen in an interesting film called Jugni where she plays a music director on the path of self-discovery. In a tete-a-tete with Pandolin, Sugandha talks about her connect with her character in Jugni, why she’s open to unconventional films, her future projects and more.
You are a singer, a host and an actress. How would you describe your journey so far in the industry?
My journey has been something that I have done on my terms. From the beginning I didn’t particularly desire fame, I have always desired good work and have made those choices. It has been slow in terms of what I want to do, but it has been very satisfying and I have done a lot of work. I have done travel shows, about 7 to 8 films now, have sung a little, and there has been some theatre and all of this has been on my own terms. So it has been really good.
How did you get associated with Jugni?
The film is a musical and the protagonist is a music director, so she (protagonist) had to have some kind of musicality. A friend of mine was talking to Shefali (Bhushan, Director) about the role and she asked me if I’d like to go for the audition. She sent me the scenes, which I learnt, but for my audition I also took my guitar and sang for Shefali. I am not the singer in the film, but I think that since Shefali is a musician herself we connected on that factor. I did the audition and by the time I got home, Shefali asked me if I wanted to do the film (smiles).
What was the character brief that you received from Shefali?
Shefali told me to watch Smita Patil’s Bhumika. I saw the movie and was a little worried because the girl in the film, the protagonist, was making these choices, these decisions that she wasn’t particularly apologetic about, which is rare to see in Indian films as far as women are concerned. When I watched the film I realized that Shefali meant to show that certain sense of freedom in being a woman, in being a professional, in being today’s woman where you are making your decisions and taking charge of your life and yourself. You are just not reacting to the decisions made for you, but are making your own decisions, whether good or bad and then standing by the consequences. So, I think the brief was that I had to be very real and not have even a shred of dishonesty.
Being a singer yourself, was establishing a connection with your character easy? What preparation method did you adopt for the role?
Yes, I understand the language of music. And I understand that when two musicians meet they don’t need to talk; they can communicate through music. Moreover, that is something that I have gone through in life so I know what that feels like. This relationship drama touched upon some very private emotions, which were very difficult to portray. There are things that happen to all of us, be it falling in love or falling out of love. I think, those parts were probably harder than the music.
In terms of preparing for a role, I don’t particularly learn the dialogues because if you know what the character is going through, then the dialogues will come naturally. My preparation for Vibhavari was to get back in touch with my own sense of adventure. For me, I think, it is more about physical preparation. You are going to be away for that one month of shoot and are going to give everything up while you are there, so physically it almost seems like you are uprooting your life every time you go on set. But while shooting, you bring in passion and commitment and that is something that I find exciting. Other than that, in the film, I am suppose to play a ukulele, so I did buy one and now I know how to play it.
What was the most challenging part about playing Vibhavari?
The most challenging part about playing Vibhavari was that she is extremely instinctive, she doesn’t think, she just does; she is a doer. It is a little difficult to play that on-screen because you can’t rationalize what she does. She does things because she is very passionate about them Plus, her priority is to find herself, which at times seems selfish. To believe that as a woman you can be a priority as well, is important and something that we as women end up forgetting. Vibhavari was going through a journey that was hers alone and she wanted to find herself, but in the process she landed up unintentionally hurting people around her. For me to not rationalize that in my head and say, how can she do this, was very difficult. So, it is a little difficult to not look at her as someone who is selfish, but as someone who is truly trying to find herself even if it causes some bridges to burn.
The film is made by a debutante director. Were you apprehensive at any stage before agreeing to the film?
Actually, barring Mr. Karan Johar, all the films that I have done were made by first-time directors. Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na, Tere Bin Laden, Patang all have been directorial debuts and I like them because they have a different energy to them and it is very raw. These are scripts which the directors have held on to for a very long time before they could make it, therefore, there is so much love and honesty in them. The projects are also very collaborative as you are helping them find the world they always wanted to make.
You have acted in various unconventional films. Is that an intentional move on your part? Also, what factors do you look at before saying yes to a film?
Very honestly, I am not conventional, so, I don’t get hired in conventional films. I get hired in unconventional films because, I think, I am unconventional. So, I don’t pick the movies, they pick me. Plus, I would never pick a movie in which I am sitting in a vanity van for eight hours and taking selfies. I want films where I can make a difference, the character should have a little weight and moreover, the character should have relevance.
For me, it is the script that really moves me. And I feel if it works on paper, then it will work on the screen. The script is the most important factor for me while I am choosing a film.
This is a time when several singers are getting into acting, whereas, several actors are trying their hand at singing. What according to you has led to the growth of these multiple roles?
I think that is because now content is king. Today you are the person who is creating content, whether it is music, acting, or writing. If you are generating content, then you can do anything you want. I have been doing that for a very long time as I didn’t want to do just one thing. I have a lot of passions and want to indulge them all. This option was not there five years ago, but today if you want to release a single, you can go online and do it. The avenues for showcasing and creating content have increased and hence, we are generating more content. There is no one way to get to people now, you can reach them via a million ways like for instance, YouTube stars. Today there are 17 – year – olds who make more money than people who are at the prime of their career. This is because there is an avenue, so, when there is a demand then you supply and I think that is fantastic.
You sang a song with Raaga Trippin for Jugni. How was your experience?
Yes, I did sing the song ‘Dugg Duggi’, which Vishal Bhardwaj has also sung. They were so sweet and let me sing in it. It was so much fun.
Any word of advice for budding actors/singers?
My only advice is that nothing happens to you, you have to make it happen and that doesn’t mean that you have to be aggressive about it. I like the idea of doing a lot of things and I don’t think that one should put all their eggs in one basket be it acting, singing or anything else. If you feel that you have the skills to do multiple things, then you should do them while keeping your peace of mind and still be creative as an artist.
Can you tell us something about your future ventures?
My next Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive will release on February 19, 2016. I’d done a British television series called ‘Indian summer’ and now did the second season of that. There is one more thing that I am doing but it is still under wraps. For three years I have worked very hard and now, all the hard work is paying off.