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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Actress Seerat Mast on being cast as Hrithik Roshan’s fiancee in Fighter

A former squash player, Seerat will be seen in the Amazon miniTV show Rakshak: India’s Braves Season 2 with Barun Sobti

Sameer Salunkhe Calcutta Published 19.02.24, 04:17 PM
Seerat Mast

Seerat Mast

In Siddharth Anand’s Fighter, Seerat Mast plays Squadron Leader Naina Jai Singh aka Enjay, the ex-fiancee of Patty (Hrithik Roshan) and sister of Rocky Jai Singh (Anil Kapoor). The actress from New Zealand shares with us how life has come full circle for her with Fighter, and her switch from sports to acting.

When did the feeling of getting cast in your debut feature film alongside Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone sink in?

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Seerat Mast: Mukesh Chhabra’s casting team got in touch with me in May 2022. By July-August, they told me that I was finalised but I didn’t think too much about it because in the past I had been finalised for a film but got replaced at the last minute.

I think till March 2023, no paperwork was done. I didn’t hear back from them. Finally, the contract came when my mom was here visiting from New Zealand. They needed her signature too. Even at that time, it didn’t sink in. I think it didn’t fully sink in till I was on set, which was in May-June 2023. I was anxious because my first day of shoot was with Hrithik Roshan. I was very overwhelmed. I think I cried a little in my vanity also.

You and your family moved to New Zealand around the time Hrithik Roshan’s debut film Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (2000) released…

Seerat Mast: My family is from Punjab. My parents and I were supposed to be moving to the United States. A few months before that, my dad bumped into one of his friends who said, ‘Why don’t you come to New Zealand? It is a beautiful place.’ Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai released shortly after and my dad saw the film, which was beautifully shot. So, that was actually a trigger point for us to move to NZ.

We had a VCR and in the first few months of moving to New Zealand, I saw Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai 50 times because it was the only film we had. There was a problem with our VCR, it would cut at a point where Rohit (played by Hrithik Roshan) dies in the film. I told Hrithik sir about it when I worked with him on Fighter.

So, life has come full circle for you.

Seerat Mast: Yeah, that’s what I thought too. I was telling my mom that this film is why we sort of went to NZ. And then to be able to work with Hrithik Roshan in my debut film, it’s quite a full circle like you said.

Naina Jai Singh was a brief but significant role. What were your expectations from this role and the film?

Seerat Mast: I have been around for six years, so I understand the process. Initially, Naina didn’t have a scene. When I was called by Mukesh sir’s office, I was told that there would be only photographs of Naina. I said okay because it was a big film and I got to work with good people. Naina’s scene was added later. Even then, I didn’t tell a lot of people. I didn’t even tell my family till very late because you don’t know how much would be retained in the edit.

Four-five days before the release, I got in touch with the ADs and the writers I knew, and asked them whether I should tell people that I was there in the film. When I watched the film, it was so much more than I had expected. I didn’t know anything about the film other than my part because the scripts were not shared. When I saw the film, I saw my pictures and the reference to Enjay is part of the plot right till her end.

What kind of changes have you seen in your life after the release of Fighter?

Seerat Mast: The feedback has been good. It’s been quite overwhelming because even people I haven’t been in touch with for a very long time saw the film and reached out to me. My family is very happy and proud.

In terms of work, I think it’s a little too early to say. I am giving auditions as usual. I’m hoping maybe once the film is on Netflix, it will reach more people. I have a show coming up on Amazon miniTV, Rakshak: India’s Braves Season 2, with Barun Sobti. Maybe when both the things are out together, they will push things forward.

You were a professional squash player in New Zealand. When did the transition from sports to acting happen?

Seerat Mast: My Nanu, Balkrishan Singh Grewal, was an Olympian who won a gold medal in hockey for India (Melbourne, 1956). My parents met on a squash court. So, sport is a very big part of my bloodline. My dad always had sporting dreams for me. And part of the reason he wanted to move out of India also was because he wanted his children to be athletes and squash was not a very popular sport. He thought the chances would be a little better for me overseas.

I still remember the day I found out that acting is something people do for a living, which my mom told me when we were having a conversation one day. She said, ‘Like your dad is a farmer, Shah Rukh Khan is an actor. He does what he does for a living.’ I think that day it was fixed in my head that you can act and dance and entertain for a living, and that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to become an actor and didn’t want to pursue sports. Initially, they didn’t take me seriously but soon they understood that I was not joking.

How do you make contacts with the right people in the industry especially when you don’t have a film background?

Seerat Mast: I visited India as a child but coming and living here was an entirely different scenario. I knew only one person in Bombay — my cousin who had been in Bombay for studies. She gave me one or two phone numbers saying, ‘These people take auditions, see how it works.’ I think for the first two-three years, I didn’t really have friends because it was a big culture shock for me.

I knew the language but the lifestyle was so different. Connecting with people and understanding the business itself was very difficult. Luckily, I got signed by a modelling agency (TFM) and it helped. It was only after the pandemic that I started meeting the right people and people started knowing me.

You did a TVC with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. What did you learn from him?

Seerat Mast: I look up to athletes more than artists, so obviously working with MSD was a very beautiful moment because I had watched a lot of cricket with my father when I was growing up. Two things about MSD stood out for me the most. First, his humility. He was so gracious, humble and sweet to everyone. Second, the dedication with which he did his job. He would ask questions and was open to learning something he had not mastered yet. That was also very inspiring.

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