On the occasion of the centenary year of Sai Baba’s samadhi, we interact with the on-screen Sai Baba, Abeer Soofi. Abeer plays the character of the Indian saint in Mere Sai- Shraddha aur Saburi which airs on Sony channel from Monday to Friday at 7.30 pm. The show has been thoroughly appreciated by the audience and this gives Abeer immense joy. He talks about his journey in the industry and how Sai Baba has changed his life in an interview with ST. Excerpts::
- This Dussera, Sai Baba’s samadhi will complete 100 years. Since you’re playing the role onscreen, how do you feel about it?
I feel I am blessed by Sai Baba and he chose to play this holy character. The show is doing extremely well and I feel Sai Baba is constantly with me and blessing me which is helping to work harder and make my viewers happy. This is just the beginning and I hope the relationship between me and my viewers continues for a long time and with his blessing, I am sure this will happen.
- Was it because of the character of Sai Baba that you changed your name from Vaibhav Rajesh Saraswat to Abeer Soofi?
My mother wanted to name me Abeer when I was born, but coming from a patriarchal society, the men of the house, my father and grandfather, decided to name me Vaibhav. It is not true that I changed my name because of the show. When I decided to become an actor I thought I should have a name which is secular. Actors don’t have a caste or religion. Keeping this in mind, I changed my name to Abeer. Soofi was suggested to me by my teacher Tauqia Khan. So that is how Abeer Soofi came into existence.
- Before playing the character of Sai Baba, you’ve played the character of Lord Shiva. Do you prefer playing periodic or mythological characters?
Absolutely not! I believe that the characters I play, or have played in the past, have not been chosen by me, the characters chose me to play them. As an actor, ‘concrete acting’ is my comfort zone, not playing a certain type of characters. I have done a lot of cameos on shows, and have played several characters on different shows from a cop to a spoilt brat. Not a lot of people are aware of my work. So for me there is no such preference towards a particular type of character. As long as acting is concerned, I’m going to do it. The reason I am chosen for mythological show or periodic drama is my command over the language, accent and body language. But that does not mean that I will not play other characters.
- What kind of changes have you come across into your personality since you started playing this character on screen?
I used to be short tempered, anything could enrage me within no time. But since I have started playing this character, I have become calm and composed. I have evolved as person, my perspective has changed towards things, and the way I handle things now is very different.
- Tell us about some fun incidents that have happened to you since you playing the character of Sai Baba?
There are so many funny incidents that have happened, but the most common one is that people come to me and ask me to bless them. I have received a lot of love and affection from people who are devotees of Sai Baba. They say that I am the most beautiful Sai Baba they have ever seen on screen. All these little things are extremely funny, but the emotion behind it is completely innocent and harmless. I feel so happy that they have liked my character so much that it makes them feel I am the real Sai Baba. I am extremely obliged.