Saiee Manjrekar made her acting debut in 2019 in the Hindi-language film 'Dabangg 3'. This Friday, her Tollywood debut 'Ghani' is hitting the cinemas. We spoke to the beautiful actress about her character in the Varun Tej-starrer, what she is like in real life, her upcoming pan-India movie 'Major', and guidance from her father Mahesh Manjrekar (actor-director), and more.
Welcome to Tollywood. What kind of influence your father Mahesh has had on you?
The reason I wanted to act was I wanted to go to the sets of my father's films as a child. I always wanted to do something in the film industry. Acting as a dream happened to me later when I asked myself what I should. He has done a lot of movies in Telugu as an actor. He would give me ideas as to how to remember lines. He would tell me not to just say something but to say it purposively in front of the camera. Those tips and pieces of advice really worked for me.
You are making an acting debut in Telugu. What drove you to do 'Ghani'?
'Ghani' happened just before a song from 'Dabanng 3' was released. Director Kiran Korrapati sir watched the song and gave me a call. I met Kiran sir in Mumbai. Maya, my character's name in 'Ghani', is a lot like me. She is happy-go-lucky and bubbly. I am a shy person in real life. I don't bring out my bubbliness that easily because I am shy.
Nowadays, heroines don't get prominence in sports films. How important is Maya in the world of 'Ghani'?
The whole setting of the movie is driven by the sport (boxing), the family relationships. Amidst all this, Maya in some way brings some sweetness to the proceedings. She pushes the movie in a certain way. She is the kind of person who wants to make everyone around her happy. I am much like her in real life.
Going by trailer, your role is limited to the college scenes. Do you have scenes only in the college backdrop?
I have more scenes in the college backdrop because I am Varun Tej's girlfriend in the movie. But I have scenes in other situations as well.
Would you have preferred the pan-India movie 'Major' (starring Adivi Sesh in the lead) to release before 'Ghani'?
It's a journey. 'Ghani' may not be a pan-India film but its reach is going to be huge. 'Shyam Singha Roy' has been watched by a pan-India audience on Netflix despite it not being a pan-India film. I don't have any regret that 'Major' did not come out before 'Ghani'. For high box office collections, pan-India matters. But in terms of recognition/familiarity, you have other avenues nowadays (referring to OTT).
As an actor, I am looking for organic growth. Maya in 'Ghani' is so much me. It is as if the writer-director knew me while writing the character (laughs).
What similarities and differences have you observed between Varun Tej and Adivi Sesh?
Off-screen, both of them are workaholics. They are very dedicated and focused. I got to learn a lot from them; I am a little all over the place (laughs). I saw them fully in their films, they are really hard working. It inspires me to better myself. They both made me comfortable. That was important, considering I am very shy.
On screen, Varun has done more action in films like 'Gaddalakonda Ganesh' and 'Ghani'. I guess Sesh hasn't done that much action.
What are you looking forward to doing as an actor?
I want to bring something to the table in the films that I do. My character has to mean something. If it is removed, is it going to change the texture of the story? That's a question I ask. I love challenging myself basically.
Are you open to doing romantic comedies down South or in Hindi?
Talks are on. Nothing has been fully confirmed.
In what way do your father and your family support your acting endeavours?
They support me just enough. They don't give me specific instructions. They want me to make the right decisions. They want me to go through my own journey. They have struck a balance between guiding me and letting me do what I want to. They want me to make mistakes and learn things. Before I read a script, I send it to my dad because he is such a fast reader!