Saba Azad is a musician, actor, voiceover artist, dancer and performer, rolled into one. One half of the music band Madboy/ Mink, Saba loves to pursue the things that challenge her abilities and doesn’t think multitasking is a novelty anymore.
Saba spoke to The Telegraph Online on improvising with her co-actor Jim Sarbh in the Sony LIV show Rocket Boys, how the series celebrates independent women and what’s keeping her hands full.
The Telegraph Online: Rocket Boys is being widely appreciated. How have the two seasons been for you?
Saba Azad: I think we knew that the script was unlike anything. Anyone who read it was like, this is something I have never read before. The kind of research that went into it and the detailing in every department, we knew it was good, but we didn’t know it would be received this well. For the second season, everyone was happy to be back on set. It was one of my favourite sets to come back to. We had done the prep, the rehearsal and the readings, so when we came on the sets, it was time to play. It didn’t feel like we came on set as Ahbay (Pannu, director) created a brilliant energy on set. Once he has worked with the actors, he is like — you do you. It’s liberating for a performer to trust the director. We loved being on the set, it was sad to say goodbye.
Your character, Parwana Irani (also known as Pipsy), brings out nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha (Jim Sarbh)’s other side…
Saba Azad: You see the humane side of Homi Bhabha through Pipsy. He’s a genius, a meticulous scientist who works with the energy of a madman. The other side of Homi was that he was a musician, he loved art and enjoyed his drink. Pipsy was a lifelong companion of Homi, so their story carries on in the second season.
Both Jim Sarbh and you have a background in theatre. How was it to collaborate?
Saba Azad: People who are from theatre are in the profession for the right reasons. You are not there to be famous. Acting as a craft excites you, which he is very clear with. Jim is very happy to act. We had so much fun prepping that we were improvising.
We loved your look in Rocket Boys. How long would it take you to become Pipsy?
Saba Azad: We had Uma Biju in costumes and Goswami Soamaa in makeup. They came with so much well-researched stuff. It took an hour and a half to become Pipsy. Costumes were everything to me. I loved it. Personally, that’s the kind of clothes I wear anyway.
The time and era shown in Rocket Boys is when India was a young country. From their lifestyle to clothes, their choice of food to ideas, people were very progressive. You must have had a ball doing research for the character.
Saba Azad: I did, I really did. I am a history student, so going into the research is all the fun. We were a lot more progressive back then. We were bent scientifically. We were looking forward to every possible way. We weren’t driven by patriarchy and religion. We were driven by secularism and progressive thoughts that somewhere along the way have been lost. Those were way more progressive times than they are now. One can learn from the past.
My friends who are a little older told me that when they were young, the possibilities were endless, and the world was an oyster. The women’s movement and progressive writer’s movement happened during that time. A lot of it has wilted away. We still have the ability to get inspired by the past and look to the future. I really hope Rocket Boys is a mirror of a time when we were a progressive nation in every way, be it political, social or scientific.
Especially women were very liberal….
Saba Azad: Yes, absolutely, especially working women. If you look at Mrinalini’s (Sarabhai) character, she was a dancer. Perhaps it was in a time when it was not looked upon as a favourable career. She was making a living out of dance. She was travelling. She had set up her own institute. Parwana Irani was a lawyer. I loved how Rocket Boys celebrated independent women.
You have been a stage performer. Now that you are acting in front of the camera, how do you feel?
Saba Azad: I have been on age since the age of four. The stage feels like home in every form. It’s very familiar. I have trained as a dancer. I took it up as a profession, then as a musician, and then as an actor in theatre. Live performing arts is something that I grew up around. That’s obviously second nature to me. I have been on stage for 15 years. Now, when I am acting in front of the camera, I find joy in the technicalities. Initially, the interruptions (cuts) bothered me. I can’t say I like one more than the other. If I was asked this five years ago, then my answer would have been different.
You are an actor, singer, voiceover artist and so much more. How do you get time to fit in all that you are so good at?
Saba Azad: If you love what you do, you always make time for it. It’s what keeps me alive and keeps me ticking. If you take away one of them, I will be so sad. Multitasking is no longer a novelty. It’s no longer you can do only one thing. I am thankful for having so many parallel career (options). It keeps my mind fresh.
Is there anything where you want to see yourself in the next few years?
Saba Azad: Hopefully doing the things I love. Projects where I can apply and challenge myself as an actor, touring for music, creating, and making more music. I hope the quality of work increases and gets my creative juices flowing.
You had a busy last year; where are we seeing you next?
Saba Azad: Yes, a lot! I have been very busy last year. I have done three films this past year. In Songs of Paradise, I play Raj Begum, the first female singer on Kashmir Radio. It will be starting with the festivals. Then I have another film, Minimum, where I play a half-Belgian girl and I speak French in it. Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) saab is directing again, so I have done a short with him. I am currently shooting two series as the lead.