Abeer Soofi in historic character of Sai Baba

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Sony entertainments popular series, Sai Baba, which has been on air since September is a story of Sai baba, also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, an Indian Spiritual master who is regarded by his devotees as a saint, however no one knows the religion of Sai Baba. Some people believe he was Hindu and other believe he was Muslim, his religion is still contradicted but regardless of religion he belonged to the people believed in his love, as he cared for human beings.
I had an exclusive interview with Abeer Soofi, who is playing the role of Sai Baba in the series where he spoke about his character in the popular show called” Mere Sai” and the challenges he faced, a very nice and humble person with no qualms of any stardom.
Q: Tell us about your acting career
A: I started acting in 2007 as an amateur then got admission in BNA Bhartendu Natya academy Luckhnow and I got through training there from 2010 to 2012, in 2013 I came to Mumbai. In the early days work, I did episodes in shows then became a lead on national channel, I gradually became better but I am very thankful to God that whatever I did I discovered fun and truth in that character and enjoyed it to the fullest. I was very lucky that I did a range of characters like Captain Prashant Kumar in the show named Paltan; I also did the show Narayan Naryan as Lord Shiv, Dharti ki God Mein as Vikram, Khwabon ki Zameen and many others.
Q: Tell us about your role as Sai Baba and the challenges you faced?
A: The main challenge was to change my personality from a naughty boy to a saint, from a short tempered guy to a person who is always calm and smiling who gave his full life to serve people and the society. The biggest challenge was to imagine the character that is a saint and spiritually enlightened and was still living a very common life in contrary to our materialistic world. My mother, Mrs Rajni Sharma, is a hard core devotee of Sai Baba and I visited Shiridi and got blessings; her moral lessons and the way she brought up me is in my roots, this is why I am able to do this morally high kind of character, by speaking in the right accent and delivering the right emotions, my mother is really so calm as Sai Baba so I got high inspirations and the right idea to design this character of Sai Baba.
Q: Sai Baba is a very strong character, has this role influenced your life?
A: Yes, I was a short tempered person but now I have calmed down, I observe people and listen to them more- I can say I have become a good listener; I started accepting the situation and people around me. This is a drastic change in my life.
Q: How do you detach yourself from the character when you are not shooting?
A: My acting process is my belief and if you believe in something it will happen to you and if you don’t then nothing is there. I accept my character is Sai Baba and I just call the Holy Spirit to help me out and I start doing things like Sai, the way I talk, I am now a calm person, my gestures and the way I look to others- everything has been changed. Even when I am out I used to carry the aura of Sai Baba, but I know how to get in to the character and out of the character quickly.
Q: What research did you do for the role?
A: I research the work of Sai Baba, I went through a number of videos, channel people and the production house suggested that I don’t watch any movies or any other previous presentation. I avoided watching previous presentations because I didn’t want to portray or try to perform the same way the character had been before, I decided to do it from the bottom of my heart.
Q: Did you visit Shirdi?
A: Yes I went there; it is a miracle of my life. The first time I went there with my friends around 2005 when I shifted to Mumbai, I went with my mum and when I was in Shirdi it was very crowded and we just managed for my mum to visit Sai Baba; I was standing next to the temple and in heart I was thinking I wanted to visit this place again and again but the place is very crowded, I prayed “please make me a celebrity”- I did this prayer around April/May 2016 and in a year I got an opportunity to play a character to be as Sai Baba which I was denying because I am not a great person as Sai Baba. It is always very risky to play a character like this, most of the time you can be a type cast but one of my casting director is Neha Singhania and she asked me to come and said she was very sure that I could play this character. They had 1000 people audition and selected 300, out of 300 I got the role. I was thinking I was rejecting this character and refusing to do the role and then suddenly I got the flash that I requested Sai Baba to make me a celebrity standing in Shirdi and now there is no bigger celebrity in Shirdi then Sai Baba and he is giving me his role to play in the show so I signed the contract.
Q: Why did you change your name and religious beliefs?
A: My real name was Vaibhav Sarawat, I was an advocate and was not very comfortable to lie sometimes to a person and I was looking for career change, fortunately one of my friends offered me a character to play and I refused and said I am not interested in acting as it is hard for me to play someone else’s life. He offered me many times and then I did a show called Agnnepath and I remember people clapping for me because they liked my acting and people motivated me and then I thought let’s do this and went to Delhi to BNA. My acting teacher was Muslim and his name is Tauqeer Alam Khan, from advocate to acting it was a new birth for me and I decided to change my name, I was seriously thinking to change my surname as Khan, then I thought I am leaving my name and overshadowing with my teacher surname Khan so I changed my name altogether to Abeer Soofi.
I am philanthropist, I love human beings, my family are Brahman Hindus but I was going to various gatherings from all religions. I am not bound to any religion, my family is very secular and nobody opposed my name change or my decision.
Q: How are you feeling with the response you are getting from the UK and other parts of the world?
A: I have never visited the UK but I am very thankful that the UK audience are watching the show and that it is running first place in the UK. I am again very thankful to UK people and if anytime I visited UK it will be my pleasure to thank the people. I receive many calls and messages around the world, people are appreciating my work and it is a great feeling.
Q: Any future plans?
A: I was working on two films but they were asking me to shave my beard but I am in to my character and I can’t change my priorities, if I am doing one thing I stick to that, I can’t change and my focus is on the show. I am very confident that after the show there will be many opportunities.
At the end thank you all and keep watching the show.