In the ‘90s, with the television boom, we had television stars who were as busy as the A-listers and extremely famous. Televison created several success stories. In 2017, it’s the streaming medium that’s creating avenues for highly talented actors.
Flora Saini is a legit veteran of the streaming industry by now. She’s part of three of the hottest titles – ‘Maid in India’, Arre’s ‘A.I.S.H.A’ and the upcoming Netflix original ‘Inside Edge’. With Season 3 of both ‘MII’ and ‘A.I.S.H.A’ in the works and ‘Inside Edge’ about to release, Flora might be one of the few Indian actors who will be seen in 3 web series concurrently.
We got in touch with her and found out more about her experience as an actress in the ever evolving streaming market.
How did ‘Maid in India’ happen?
The casting director called me to the Web Talkies office for something else. I auditioned for a different part and series. My reference for that role was Sunny Leone. It wasn’t about the attire, but the attitude and the accent. I don’t know whether that series happened or not, but the next thing I know is that we were shooting for ‘Maid in India’.
How was it shooting for ‘Maid in India’?
Not just the makers, even I wasn’t confident that I could do what was needed. That’s because I don’t know Marathi.
But the man of the moment in all this was Mr. Umesh Gadge, the director. He had earlier directed Kya Kool Hai Hum. He is fantastic. He has a great hold over the language. He is someone whom I have learnt a lot from.
The way he brings Priyanka, the housemaid to screen, I don’t think I will be able to do even one percent of how he does it. If he was a woman, this series would be on a very different level, him acting as a maid.
When I wasn’t getting the scene, he would come and show me how to do it. And the way he does it, his dead pan face, the way he shakes his head, it is so cute…
Tell more about how the director brought Priyanka to screen.
It has been a learning experience for me. I was accustomed to the way the South film industry works but the language was a big problem.
When I used to get my dialogues, i used to write it in Roman and learn it right there. He changed all that. He banned selfies and talking out of the character on the sets.
He told us to learn the dialogues beforehand. That has really helped me because it taught me that if you don’t worry about your lines, you can concentrate on your performance.
How has life changed after ‘Maid in India’?
I have been awarded twice for this character, that has made it even sweeter. I never thought it would become such a great character. People who haven’t seen my movies know me because of this series. They have found the series endearing. Everyone wants to know who Priyanka has an affair with.
The second season ended with my character saying that she’s going out with the guy that she has an affair with. People are requesting us to bring the third season out quickly.
The character has changed the real me too. Priyanka is a bit flirtatious. Now, in real life, even I say one-liners and complete my sentences in them.
How did you prepare for the role?
I only followed my director. I don’t have a maid at home. So, the housework is divided between me and my mother. Since I do the housework, I know how that is. As far as the mannerisms are concerned, I remember Shilpa Shetty’s role in an Anil Kapoor film, ‘Rishtey’.
How was it working with your co-stars?
It was fantastic. The rapport I shared with my co-stars is incredible. We used to travel together. We usually shot in Madh Island so we used to meet at Marve and travel together for the shoot. I and Sandhya hit it off since the first episode.
We got along so famously that we used to hang around on the set even when we didn’t have a shot.
Saahil came in a bit later, but we have a great camaraderie. We have become like a family. Sandhya calls up my mom so many times for suggestions, even Saahil does so.
You are also part of ‘Guns & Thighs’, whose trailer is controversial. Tell us more about it.
This is just the trailer, it has captured eyeballs. But when you see the series, people will understand. Then, that OMG factor will peter down. It is about gangsters and molls so the language has to be rough because that’s the way they talk.
I am glad for Guns & Thighs. RGV is doing something that nobody has done, and the same goes for Inside Edge.
Can you tell us more about ‘Inside Edge?’
Inside Edge is about cricketers and scandals. You will expect – and you will get – a lot of intimate scenes and scenes that will shock you.
It is completely inspired from real life stories. There was a time when people were arrested for match fixing, all that is there in the series. That’s the story. Who wants to see a normal story? The Indian audience has evolved so much. There’s Netflix, there’s Narcos, there’s so much.
One of the most lavish sets that I have been on is Inside Edge. That’s because there were so many actors in the series. It was almost like a film. There are so many characters. There’s the Indian team, the other teams, the cheerleaders, so much.
Can you tell us about your role in Guns & Thighs and Inside Edge?
In Guns & Thighs, I am playing a bar girl. As for Inside Edge, it’s difficult to describe my role. In IPL, there are many people who are the face and behind them are people who control them. I play the latter role.
You worked with Raghu in A.I.S.H.A. He has a public character of a rude person. How is he in real life?
Raghu is a very different person in real life. He is very shy. Even in Roadies, I never saw him being rude to someone without a reason. There were men on the show who thought nothing of women. These guys used to to take to task any man who’d say anything rubbish against women.
I think Roadies was the only show that tried to spread awareness among people about how to live life the right way. I think Raghu should return to Roadies.
Do you think the web platform is opening India’s sexuality?
We have been quite open with our sexuality. It’s just that we have been a bit shy in watching sexual content but things are changing There are so many adult jokes going around in Whatsapp groups.
We should tell good stories, stories with content. Tell a story, make it realistic, but don’t make it obscene and vulgar.
Do you think filmmakers are taking advantage of the non censorship of streaming content?
I wouldn’t blame them if they are. People who were restricted by censors got a opportunity to do and say what they want to.
As an actor, if I was doing the typical saas bahu series, if I got a new platform where I can experiment with my roles, I would jump at it.
The onus of everything lies on the audience. The audience tells us what they like and what they don’t like. Our audience is also starved for entertainment. The filmmakers and the audience both face the same issue – and both have freedom now.
RGV’s ‘Meri Beti Sunny Leone Banna Chahti Hai’ raised a controversy. What’s your take on the short film?
RGV accepts that he has done a bad film if the feedback says so. I think he has the right to say whatever he wants to say. I feel that it was something that he wanted to say. The kind of man he is, he wonders why are we so closed.
If you see his tweets, he speaks his mind. He might get trolled or appreciated, but at the end of the day, you know that this is the person who speaks his mind.
If you look at it, he’s tried to say that nobody has a right to tell a woman what to be and what not to be. You can do what you want as long as you are comfortable doing it.
We usually see Indian short films have a duration of under 10 minutes. Do you think Indian film-makers think that that’s the staple duration?
In Maid in India, we have a format. We have only three characters. So we want to make it short, snappy and funny.
We don’t actually call it a webseries, we call it webcapsules. When we talk about the other webseries makers, they might be thinking about various aspects like budgets. The Internet is the best platform for them to tell a short story in their style.
The story might lose it’s flavor if the makers make it longer just for commercials. Some series on TV change and devolve. They start out as a supernatural and go into the family zone and then into something else.
More mainstream actors are coming to the streaming scene and going bold. Do you think that’s good for the medium?
In Power Play, we have Vivek Oberoi and Richa. In a time when Narcos, Orange is the New Black come out, I am happy that mainstream actors are coming on webseries.
Right now, it’s about who enters first, that’s the race right now. I feel that every actor, especially in India, is experimenting. In hollywood, a nude scene is nothing special.
They worship the body, it’s art for them – that’s now they look at it, love is an emotion. Kisses are common in Hollywood, for us, it is a big thing. With the coming generation and educated people coming into the system, it is bound to change. For Indians, kissing on screen is a new thing. We are still getting comfortable with it.
How comfortable are you doing intimate scenes on screen?
I am not comfortable doing full frontal scenes. I don’t think I am that bold. As far as kissing and intimate scenes are concerned, I am blessed that the makers and the people I have worked with have put these scenes only when the story demanded it and not just to catch eyeballs – and they have shot it very nicely. I also have colleagues who have been open minded about the whole thing.
What genre would you like to explore next?
I would love to explore various genres like crime series. Con jobs is another genre which is a favourite of mine as i am a big fan of the ‘Ocean’s’. If I get to do something in fashion, jail breaks and bank robberies that would be really great. I would love to do such things, that i cannot do in real life.