Kubbra Sait in conversation with Aakanksha Naval-Shetye about pushing the envelope as an actor and her strong connect with Dubai
Actor-host Kubbra Sait has come a long way since she ditched her cushy job in Dubai to take baby steps in Bollywood more than a decade ago. But it was not until her bold role as Kukoo in Sacred Games that shot her to fame and there’s been no looking back since then for the performer who’s gone on to star in several movies and hit web shows both here and internationally. We caught up with Kubbra in Dubai and over a candid conversation we spoke to the spunky actress about her book, her inspiring choices and her love for Dubai
Tell us about your connection with Dubai…
You know I have so many memories… Dubai has been like a metamorphosis of who I am today and I credit the city with every single learning as a human being or as a professional. There is a deep sense of nostalgia and attachment because I have grown here and I used to work in Microsoft, when I first decided to pursue acting. If you’ve lived in Dubai, you won’t leave this place, it becomes a part of you and this place keeps calling you back. There are so many elements of Dubai that make me so proud of this place. I learnt how to speak with kindness to people because of this place. It has made me a better person and that’s why I like coming back here. I come here with my arms wide open. It’s a sense of embrace. I don’t need big, I need simple things. Like even when I am back here, more than the big mall shopping, I’m like give me my karak and my steamed corn yaar! One more beautiful thing that Dubai has given me is the power of saying ‘Alhamdulillah’ and ‘Inshallah’. There’s a sense of surrender to the Almighty and a sense of gratitude. So I feel like I have gained these two very strong pillars that it will be, it will happen.
“I think my sense of self is what defines who I am. We live in a world where everything is so constantly jarring and stimulus based. So, it’s just such an important space that one needs to develop of knowing who you are and be comfortable with who you are.”
You’ve been a part of Sacred Games, Farzi, Foundation, Gully Boy, Jawaani Jaaneman, The Trial, amongst others. You also have an autobiography that’s been lauded for being very empowering. You’ve come a long way with so many landmarks and having made many brave choices professionally and personally…
And I’m very grateful to recognize these landmarks and celebrate the smaller wins. Because I don’t look at my acting career to be of 13 years, I look at my acting career to be within the last five – six years. That’s when I have had the opportunity to work with Raj and DK, with Anurag Kashyap, with Navdeep Singh. I’ve worked with Suparn Verma who’s the director of The Trial. And I’m just grateful for the energies that I’ve come to work with… Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, I’m working with Kajol, Kay Kay.
What was the game changer for you?
A 100 per cent Sacred Games. Without a doubt. But I feel like every job that I have done has led me to Sacred Games and has eventually become the reason why I got a Sacred Games. The gears definitely switched post that. And people started saying, like “OMG! Ye to humari Kubbra hai!” So, main jinko humara nahi bolti thi, vo log mujhe humara bol rahe hain. And it came with a common shared consensus that no one’s done something so brave. So, this energy of being brave doesn’t come from me. It comes from everyone who has supported me in this journey even without realizing that they were supporting me.
Tell us more about your autobiography, ‘Open Book: Not Quite a Memoir’
I think there’s no greater strength that one can hold than the truth. Because when we fail to recognize who we are and where we are and what are the things that shaped us to be who we are, then I think were living in some sort of a crazy black mirror loop. But you can only progress and make a change when you accept ki jo hua mere saath vo sahi nahi tha. But you voice it, accept it and move on. Rona hai to ro lo, but never forget that you are the captain of your ship, and you are the one taking it forward. So, I feel like writing the book more than a professional endeavour, turned out to be a personal win. And that has allowed me to embrace life for what it is today. Sometimes people were dark allies, sometimes situations were really dark allies. But you always know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. So, there was never a topic that came out to me and turned into a taboo sort of a thing. Whether it was my first role that encompassed nudity on screen or abuse, whether it was me starting, not once, but several times over and over again. There were so many chapters in my life which became chapters in my book wherein I felt that I was never alone. Because these are things that don’t happen to a person in isolation. It happens to us as humanity as a whole. So, there were so many women who came up to me and said ‘you too? Me too’! So, that moment, it normalizes the conversation, it humbles you. Also, when you read the book, you’ll realize that there’s a sense of candour. Like I had my takeaway, you read and tell me your takeaway and have that dialogue open.
Have you thought of starting something on those lines, like podcast or a talk show or something?
I think I’m going to become the Ellen DeGeneres of this country one day. I will. I said it here first! She inspires me.
Are you open to all kinds of roles or do you prefer roles that somehow reflect your own self?
Definitely all kinds of roles, because what’s the fun if I’m only doing things that are an extension of me! I fact, I’m discovering so much of myself through my roles and these characters I play. Which is why writing is so important. But having said that, as an actor there is no role in the world that has been written that is different from you because you always have to find yourself in that part. So even if I find myself in a situation that’s not me, I need to find out how would I deal with it and then make that separation. So I feel like being an actor is such a blessing, I find it so amazing to discover a new facet of myself with every single role and evolve along the way.
“Sometimes you give in because you have to pay the bills (laughs). And I don’t regret any of those choices.”
And there are many more platforms for all these stories to be told today…
Absolutely. You have so many amazing writers today that are telling great stories and we are facilitating their stories. And we’re in such an amazing time that we have so many listeners and platforms both. We couldn’t tell stories if we didn’t have listeners, we couldn’t visualise stories if we didn’t have viewers. So we’re in a fantastic time.
Have you had to compromise and go ahead with a role even if you weren’t convinced of it completely as a character?
Let’s be honest. Sometimes you give in because you have to pay the bills (laughs). And I don’t regret any of those choices. Like I could not have had a successful career in Mumbai if I was still thinking ‘oh what’s going to happen to me if I left a stable job in Dubai?’ So make a choice and stand by it. I feel that is true for any decision in real life.
Besides acting, you are also a celebrated name in hosting. How do you keep stable juggling so many different roles?
I remember in acting class, I was told that there are many people doing many jobs on a film set – there are technical jobs and creative jobs – but only an actor is doing the emotional one. So, to be able to maneuvre your emotions in the right direction, it’s important to keep your emotions refilling and refuelling yourself. That’s what I do in the waiting period. That’s where I host events, that’s where I do yoga, that’s when I travel, that’s when I have new experiences and take my holidays. I do something that fulfils me emotionally as a human being so that when I get the opportunity, I can do it well.
Has there been any role that left you emotionally drained?
Phara from my show Foundation for sure. There was so much change. And I’m not even talking about the physical training and the looks. I was living outside my country, outside my home and in the middle of the pandemic for eight months. I missed my friends my family, my food and familiarity. It was 16 degrees, and endless blue water, and beaches but you can’t go swimming. So, it was a very different conditioning phase for me. I literally started with a blank canvas. And to allow yourself to do something that’s beyond your fear. Like I was in a room with Jared Harris and Daniel MacPherson and Terrence Mann who’s like a Tony Awards winner and to do your own thing. But it was also exhilarating as an actor.
What are your upcoming shows?
I have a show with Prakash Jha. And then I have a show with Navdeep Singh for Amazon Prime.