Kubbra Sait's transgender character in the Netflix first India original series Sacred Games managed to win the hearts of Indian and international audiences. In an exclusive interview to Filmibeat, the actress talks about her unconditional love for Mumbai while being a South Indian and what its representation in the series means. Kubbra also opened about playing the character Cuckoo and how Sacred Games has gone ahead and created history! Currently, Kubbra has a series of projects in hand and is looking forward to anything exciting to work on.
In what ways do you feel, depiction of so much of Mumbai/local cultural aspects, can appeal to a bigger international audience?
I think anything that's close to home or anything that's close to the heart is a flavour. I am a South Indian right? If somebody tells me to try a Dosa here, I'll always compare it to something I am familiar with, something I am known to. Then I'll talk about in comparison. And that is how you know your connection with a place, a geography and little culture.
I am a traveller and for me cultural nuances are very important. How someone says something. How someone feels about something. And all of this is based on the amount of worldview you have. And the world required the taste of Bombay. It's one of the most visited cities. Everyone loves it. Everyone compares it to NewYork. There much more to Mumbai than just that. Flavour in the ethos, flavour in the fabrics.
So I am glad we were able to bring that out in Sacred Games and make it appeal to the international audiences who do not know Mumbai. They used to know the history of Mumbai. They need to know where it came from and you know, why did, for example, Slumdog Millionaire do so well? Because it had the fabric of India. India has always been a mystery to so many people. Now we have gone and up that level and shown them what Mumbai is all about. Why I live in Bombay? Because the city never ceases to impress you. It never ceases to shock you. There is so much more flavor in every aspect of Mumbai. I am glad we were able to bring it out in such a large fashion through the series.
In reference to local cultural aspects, Shantaram, Maximum City and Mumbai Fables to name a few, are stories like Sacred Games that talk about Mumbai as Bombay and its times. How does Sacred Games typically stand out in this aspect?
First of all Sacred Games is fictional. When we look Mumbai Maximum city, it is not fictional. It is what it is. Shantaram is a perspective of a traveller from outside. But Sacred Games is a story about Mumbai from the locals and is fictionalized so you can take so much liberty to tell the story. That much you can push the boundaries. So, I think that is one reason or one aspect why Sacred Games stand out. Everybody likes a new story, a new suspense, and everyone likes to know about what happens next. Sacred Games allows us to tease and play with that aspect.
The show has received positive reviews so far, do you think it has set a high benchmark as India’s first Netflix Original?
Of course it has! I think we have created History. You know when you travel, people will have the head nod. They shake their head and ask "Are you from Bollywood?". But, they don't know there is much more to Bollywood. And this being essentially a Bollywood team, has been able to raise the bar so much higher. And there can only be one first.
Once you've created a good impact by being the first, you've opened the doors to so many more. I mean, one great stride by Priyanka Chopra has put Indian talent on the world map saying. "Wow, she can act so well!". Imagine how well her peers can act. There can be only one first and that's how I think we've set a higher benchmark as Sacred Games, as India's first Netflix original.
Apart from Cuckoo’s role as a transgender, what makes the character stand out?
Her vulnerability. Her sense of pride and her sense of joy. Her uniqueness is the fact she embraces what she is. She is aware of who she is without an apology. That's what makes Cuckoo stand out. That's why I am so passionate about Cuckoo.
With no previous reference or similar source material for a role like Cuckoo’s, how did you prepare and get into character?
It was like getting into my dive suit! Kind of tricky at times and even more tricky when it's wet. And I say this with clear conviction because there were times when you lose sight of who you are and who you can always stay in focused and balanced. Anurag did that for me. He chalked out the boundaries in which Cuckoo could play and honestly to many large extents those boundaries were also blurred. So you could step out and step back in. And still he made it so believable, so desirable and so respected. That was the reason why Cuckoo was special for me and preparing for Cuckoo required me to go down layers and layers. As to who I am as a person, feel pride and embrace the respect that one needs to have for themselves. And, I am not talking about Cuckoo alone, but any other perspective. But, as a person by itself.
The term “Sacred” isn’t new in India, considering how there are previous movies made on the topic and it is has a sensitive touch to it, how does the show in this context appeal to the Indian audience??
Anything sacred, anything mythical, anything that is magical has a sense of curiosity around it. And the name by itself seems to tease that aspect of it. And also sacred is very personal. So everybody wants to compare their personal beliefs to the social beliefs and you always want to make comparisons as to how you look at the world, India and culture. The reality for me in terms of Sacred is myth, mythology that came from real people and real aspects. It was all created with understanding of how they saw things and you know, like dragons that could fly or birds that brought death. Things like that made it easy to understand mythology. We don't know if they existed. But it was the depiction of this to people. No matter which geography you belong to in the world, you'll always have that sense of wonder and this wonder will never cease until you're a human and you've the desire to grow. That way, Sacred Games and the term Sacred builds curiosity from the beginning. This is not just for the India audience but for anybody who has a childlike wonder.
What is your take on the Congress and Hindutva members’ reaction towards the scene that involves statements about the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi?
I am no expert in politics, I've never been. I would refrain from sharing my views on this purely because I think the writers and the Sacred Games team have more conviction with what they've done and they are the right people to answer this question.
Could you share one of the most memorable moments from the sets?
There are many. I think one of the memorable moments that stand out would be the kind of reception I received after the breakdown scene. We were shooting and it was my first day of the shoot. We finished the scene. We had to shoot it seven times to get it right! We got that and I was so in my skin and in that moment I did not realize there were cameras around or where they were. We just did what we had to do. At that moment we had captured it and when I was lying on the floor crying, Anurag picked me up and said, ‘Thank you! Thank you for the scene'. When we walked out of the door, everyone was clapping. That for me will definitely be one of the most memorable moments.
What are your upcoming projects? Will we be seeing you on a big or a small screen next?
I've got a web series and a film in the pipeline and I am just excited about everything new that can come to me. How well I can do it and be honest with it. Once we've struck that cord, we are going to be good. We are going to grow from there.