Saturday, October 5, 2013

Nimrat Kaur

I’m known as a cinematic theatre actor”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview has been published in the September 20, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Nimrat Kaur is one of those few actresses who is changing the perception of a quintessential Hindi cinema debut. Her maiden project, ‘The Lunchbox’, which is a different kind of love story all-together, sees her as a simpleton, who is loveless and lonely, yet not docile. That’s Ila for you! But, with this interview, I bring to you, Nimrat. Over coffee, I try knowing this newbie, her thoughts, her dreams and what makes her the person she is!

Films like ‘The Lunchbox’ generally have a perception of being niche. What do you think of it?
I don’t consider it as a niche film, because it’s a film that is so easily relatable, it’s a story that’s about two people, who are very easily found anywhere. So, it’s not something that’s trying to be intelligent. It reminds you of the old-world films which were devoid of any cosmetic help in any way, whether it’s how your actors are looking, or it’s the surroundings.

I’m sure you must be tired of answering this question, but how did ‘The Lunchbox’ happen?
Trust me I can’t tire of saying this, because every time I talk about it, it’s music to my ears. Because I’ve been working for a while, in the sense that I’ve been associated with performing arts for about eight years now, I know what it takes a lot to be able to land a part in a film that starts somewhere and get here. So, it really is a blessing and I don’t take it for granted any day.

In Hindi cinema, there’s this perception about a quintessential debut. But with ‘The Lunchbox’ you’re completely changing that norm...
I have stopped thinking about this career as something that I need a break with. I gave up that idea which seems more notional. When you’re a complete outsider, there are these things you read about, and then you have preconceived notions about things because you see someone’s career and you hope that something of that sort happens to you too. So, I got a little bit more stable in my thinking. I didn’t want to pin my hopes on a break that may or may not happen, because a lot of variables have to be worked for anything to come your way. It’s about the journey, and genuinely about the process and you’re ready to take on something that comes your way. ‘The Lunchbox’ to me is an ideal film that I could have done at any given point in my life, and I think I’m more so blessed because it’s come to me as my first. The point is, whenever whatever has to happen, happens. You find yourself around people who are like-minded, whom you want to work with, and whom you want to attract in your life, with the kind of work aspire to do.

But wasn’t there any apprehension of being typecast?
It takes a long time to be typecast in something, and this is a first for me. I’m more than happy, with the whole transition from being a face that somebody may or may not recognise, to now being associated with a film of such great merit, to people knowing me by my first name. You know it’s such a beautiful transition, that I can’t, in my right mind, take this in any other way, but, be thankful for the blessing that it is.

So when did acting happen?
I have been associated with the stage since a very long time. I was always a ‘nautanki’. I was quite an extrovert, and you know that about yourself. I think it’s about that one seed and being awake to that seed. I’m from an army background, so that automatically gives you no comfort zone. You become a people’s person. You enjoy new places, new people, you enjoy the discomfort of new places. I finished my school, graduation from Delhi, then I threw the bomb on my mom once I had the courage to admit that myself. In 2004, I came to Mumbai. It took me just 2-3 years to understand the texture of this city. It sucks you in completely, and in a beautiful way. I couldn’t have had this life anywhere. There’s always that urge to keep moving, but I’m never leaving Mumbai.

Tell me about your transition from advertising to theatre to films. 
I’ve made a conscious choice to attach myself with the stage, so I’ve done about 6-7 productions over the last 6 years now. I started watching plays. Literally, I marked down people in my head that I wanted to work with. And the theatre community is a very small place. I’ve learnt a lot. The big transition for me was from advertising to theatre, because I didn’t how do you read a script. Acting is all up in the air. Acting can be very notional, but how do you go deeper, I needed to understand all these basic things. See I can articulate all this very well right now, because I see that difference from where I started to where I am now. But back then, there were a whole lot of doubts. Advertising was a great stability, a good grip, it didn’t quite transcend much beyond that. Films were only an extension of what I did. For me it was just a difference in the mediums. I keep saying this, or I read it somewhere. It’s like swimming you know. You’re swimming, you may be swimming in a sea or a swimming pool, you just have to change the technique a bit.

Because of theatre, you must be having a knack of being spontaneous and loud in terms of your body language... 
I actually find myself more spontaneous on camera. I feel like I have a bigger responsibility when I’m on stage as an actor, because what happens is, for many actors, stage is a medium they flourish in. But I don’t really call myself a spontaneous actor. I think I’m a little bit curbed when I’m on stage, because there’s more responsibility on me, because there’s no room for re-doing stuff. I really enjoy the fact that you can do very little on camera and get over it. I’m not really an over-the-top actor. I’m often ridiculed for underplaying it, among my theatre buddies (laughs). People who follow my work, tell me, I’m known as a cinematic theatre actor. I don’t know what works, but it’s not something you consciously do, it’s your personality.

So, as your film’s tagline goes, can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met? 
I’m open to it, only I might get a little scared, because it’s hard to find good people, like-minded people who enrich you, not just for a relationship, but as friends too. People are in for a ride, good times, people are really in for a part of your life, but I don’t know how many really are up for the entire journey you’re on. I’m emotional, I get attached easily. I end up getting hurt equally fast, but the recovery time is also equally long. But for the time it lasts, it does take its toll.

But you seem pretty strong emotionally... 
A lot of who I am comes out of a time period which was very difficult on me and my family. I was eleven, my younger sister was 7, and we lost my father in Kashmir to an extreme act of terrorism in 1994. So our world really turned upside down from that point. My parents had a blissful marriage that I’ve seen all that while growing up. Like any girl, I was extremely attached to my father. Suddenly, I had to grow up, be there for my younger sister, I needed to somewhere subconsciously be there for my mother, she had to be there for us, we had to shift to Delhi, which was different from the small towns I’d grown up, until then. That was the trickiest part of growing up. You’re also rebelling, finding yourself, but somewhere I feel I’m living all of my teenage years today. Since I’ve come to Mumbai, I’ve genuinely enjoyed and lived life more, than I could at that time. So my teenage years were somewhat subdued in that sense. There wasn’t much allowance for failure or for trying stuff or just being crazy. That was a tough phase, and that’s become my brain somewhere. No matter how adverse the circumstances are, you don’t let it discourage you. You manage to find some way or the other.

When you have a debut film like ‘The Lunchbox’, what is it that you look to do next?
It just has to be a right story one has to be a part of. Not necessarily a bigger film and an art film.

Success changes people sometimes. Do you see yourself changing too?
The thing about this profession is that everything lasts for as long as it has to last for. If you don’t have work, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to have work. If you’re immensely popular, apple of everyone’s eyes, you’re not going to live that phase forever. That’s something I’ve learnt on my own. My mother keeps a great check that my feet are on my ground. I want to be a new person tomorrow. My struggle is also to find a bigger, better reason for being here at this point of time. It can’t just be acting, making a lot of money, buying cars. Your driving forces have to keep changing. It can’t be just one thing. I’m very greedy that way. I’m almost never satisfied, and that will either be the breaking of me, or making of me, I don’t know! But that’s something I want to constantly be able to feel, I just don’t want to settle down.