Rysa Saujani, who gained recognition with her role of younger Sunny Leone in in ZEE5’s much talked-about show Karenjit Kaur – The Untold Story of Sunny Leone, has been selected as a wild card entry to the Miss England beauty pageant. LatestLY spoke to the winner of the ‘Face of The Globe Pageant – People’s choice award’ to know her journey so far and many things that occupy her creative mind.
Born in Dubai and later growing up in the UK with the unmistakable Indian identity marker coupled with the ‘English’ cultural and social scenes, what qualities have you inculcated from the varied cultures to be able to be the person and the artist you are?
There is a lot to learn from both cultures, firstly from my Asian heritage I’ve learnt the importance of family, and forming relationships, the respect shared between members of family and those outside your household and to have a warm and inclusive personality. Growing up in England has imbedded some important qualities in me, in particular in my work life, learning how to remain disciplined and staying focused on a task, independence in the sense of being able to think for myself and assess certain situations in order to make the right decision however also understanding that it’s okay to fail. Between both culture the one lesson I learnt was “to treat people the way you would like to be treated”.
You have studied theatre and acting at Sylvia Young Acting Academy, what perspective does the acting school give you that nurtures the innate actor and performer in you?
The one very important thing I learned at Sylvia Young was the importance of vulnerability. Vulnerability is bravery in its purest form. It is the willingness to see and to be seen, a choice to stand in front of the world, in all of one’s imperfect glory and say, ‘take me as I am’, this is so vital in any performance, as it teaches you to be completely open and free in order to tackle any challenging roles thrown at you.
From learning dance to learning acting, one clearly senses that you had Bollywood ambitions in your mind. Would that be a correct assessment to make?
I started ballet at the age of 5 and continued it on for several years. It taught me great discipline, grace and posture in order to carry oneself. In fact, I had never thought of Bollywood as I feel it would’ve been too restrictive to look at just one area when in this day and age we have a huge diversity of cinema and entertainment. For me, it has always been about the type of role I’m playing. I’ve always been drawn towards playing challenging characters with real substance to them.
How did the biopic on Sunny Leone happen? Did you have a clear idea what you had set out to achieve with that one?
I had previously worked in a film, called Dobaara, and one of the members of that team who was also working on this project recommended me for the role. I got asked to audition amongst hundreds of other candidates, and to my delight I was given the part. Before this, I had no clue who Sunny Leone was and they had told us to google her as well as reading the script. Once reading the entirety of the script, I was clear in the role I would be playing I realised this would be a very challenging role but one that had so much substance to it, and that’s what really gripped me to wanting to play the character to the best of my ability.
After playing Sunny, what did you learn about her life that most people just can’t get right.. probably the challenges she faced, the opportunities she grabbed as indeed her psyche. Please comment.
growing up in my household, we’ve always been taught not to judge anyone. After playing the role something that not many people realise is how badly she was bullied at school, which I feel is still an issue in society today, people tend to go off initial impressions without getting to know a person and form premeditated opinions that tend to never be accurate. Playing the role really made me reflect on how upsetting that experience would’ve been for a child to go through and I even spoke to sunny about it as most of my scenes were incredibly emotional, and with a smile on her face she laughed as she herself reflected on her childhood and that’s what the reality of it was. Despite facing many hardships and tough times she definitely came out stronger.
What does it take for one to groom oneself for the beauty pageants. What goes into the preparation to survive the tough competition? How much of it revolves around testing your emotional intelligence and awareness about the world around you?
Due to being very late in the game as a wildcard entry, there is obviously a lot of preparation to do and work that needs to be put in. The important thing I feel is to try and not compare yourself to all the other incredible contestants but instead to push yourself to the best of your ability. Something I’ve come to realise is that there is a lack of emotional intelligence in the school’s curriculum. I feel it’s so important that it’s taught in schools as it’s such a humongous topic that needs to normalised to speak out about, thankfully in the uk this is something that is highlighted, but other countries don’t have the same luxury.
In the day and age we currently live in, the importance of being aware of your mental health and those around you is so incredibly important, and I plan to bring awareness to these current issues that a large percentage of the population silently face on a day to day basis throughout my time in Miss England.
With so much content being churned out on a regular basis, how would you pick and choose your next assignments and projects?
I feel as though all the projects I’ve picked and will pick in the future will solely be based on my role, the one thing I love to do is play characters with lots of challenges and substance as you can really step into their headspace and interpret it as you feel best in order to portraying a realistic and convincing performance.