In the initial years of her acting career, Kubbra Sait was told she is too tall, had a nose that was too large and hair that was curly — implying that she is not quintessential heroine material. It’s a good thing then that the enterprising young lady never had such goals for herself anyway. Her film career kicked off with her playing a maid in Salman Khan-starrer Ready. “People were like, ‘Are you crazy? This is the worst thing you could have done to your career’,” she chuckles, recollecting the advice she had received from well-wishers.
The winner of India’s Best Female Emcee Award in 2013 went on to play the role of transgender woman Kuckoo in Netflix’s series Sacred Games, winning her accolades and appreciation everywhere. More recently, Kubbra has made her international debut with Apple TV +’s show, Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov’s famed book series of the same name. The sci-fi adventure series sees her in the role of Phara, a huntress from the planet Anacreon.
Having been a part of quite a few Indian acting projects, both in films and OTT, it is natural for us to ask her if the international shooting experience is as organised as they make it out to be. “I don’t think a comparison would ever deem fit. Forget about the shooting, you travel to some places and anything that is seemingly a better quality of life, in general, comes into focus because it’s something you are not used to,” she says.
Having said that, she acknowledges that everyone was respectful of each other’s time. “My only job was to act. I was regimented into a schedule of sorts. I knew that my breakfast will be there at 10 am, costume trials at 11 am, stunt rehearsals at 2 pm, movement classes at 4 pm, and dialect classes at 6 pm. So, I was able to delve into the script and my character in a deeper sense,” she shares. The primary difference between working in an international project or on home turf, she believes is that you end up juggling more things in the latter. “There, it felt uplifting and liberating and I felt I had done a good job,” she adds.
Representation and accent often tend to become talking points whenever an Indian actor is seen in a Hollywood project. However, the fact that she was playing a character from another planet in the show freed her from that baggage. Was that a concern for her at all, when she was readying for her debut? “Absolutely, but the show is so textured and layered that none of these questions mattered,” she recalls.
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The only thing that they asked her to brush up on was her enunciation of certain words. “Apart from that, I was never once corrected for the way I speak or sound. There is individualism and not a representation, so to speak,” Kubbra adds. Referring to Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani, she points out that the comedian is part of one of the biggest series (Silicon Valley), but nobody is interested in his nationality or race. “He is who he is and it is excellent for us actors to be without boundaries and to be embraced for that,” she adds.
Actors of Indian origin, Kubbra believes, have been breaking boundaries for a while now. “Look at the late Irrfan Khan’s international projects, Amitabh Bachchan in The Great Gatsby, Dimple Kapadia in Tenet, Ali Fazal headlining Hollywood movies or Priyanka Chopra who is a global figure today. I feel the doors were always open but maybe we had to push harder and when we did — purely based on our talent — they opened,” she says.
In fact, Kubbra believes that it should be a larger conversation now, including Asian actors. “It’s important that we speak about representation but I think we also need to talk about how much talent there is across the globe. Entertainment is such a soft power that we can change minds with it if we intentionally try to,” she points out.
Memoir, and more
Kubbra’s journey has been enriched with the kind of opportunities and roles that have come her way. “Post Sacred Games, people come to me with the thought that they should offer me something that challenges me,” she shares. In 2019, she played a murderer on death row in a show called Illegal on Voot. “People still text me about it. I think it’s excellent to be in a position where makers in our country are looking at casting me for projects and parts that they consider challenging. I take that as a huge compliment,” she exults.
For the moment, she is happy to bask in the compliments she is receiving for her Hollywood project, but the lively actor is also readying to launch her memoir sometime soon. “It’s in the editing stage at the moment,” she reveals, adding that it is never too early to share your journey. “Every capsule of your life teaches you something. That’s why I call it a memoir and not an autobiography. These are snippets from my life and if these snippets can help someone understand that ultimately life is all about the choices we make, then my work is done,” she concludes.
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