Can you imagine Kukoo of ‘Sacred Games’ working a desk job at an IT company? Well, that’s exactly what Kubbra Sait, who played the role of a gangster’s girlfriend on the show, used to do before exiting a cushy account management job at Microsoft, Dubai and pursuing her dream of becoming famous.
She single-handedly stole the show in India’s first original series on Netflix, ‘Sacred Games’ by opting to essay the role of a transgender named ‘Kukoo’, the love interest of the protagonist Ganesh Gaitonde, but Kubbra Sait is no stranger to the limelight. Before appearing in films and OTT shows, she was the winner of India’s Best female Emcee Award in 2013. She also won Miss Personality in Miss India Worldwide Beauty Pageant in 2009. Not to mention, a couple of blink-and-miss roles in two Salman Khan blockbusters, ‘Ready’ and ‘Sultan’.
In conversation with the sexy siren, who will soon be seen in Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Gully Boy’ alongside Ranveer Singh, we find out more about her intriguing personality, her bold choices, and the special people in her life.
On life before becoming an actor….
I didn’t always know that I want to be an actor, but I always knew I wanted to be famous in anything that I do. Early on in my career, I was an account manager in Microsoft, but a desk job was not meant for me. So, I had to make that decision of going solo. As a student in college, I used to host at events, which I felt was a good medium for me to explore. I had been Emceeing as early as age 13, and I did it with so much passion and desire to learn that opportunities came knocking at my door when I dove into it full time. I seized the opportunities and large scale events started falling into my lap. Through this medium, there was a lot of exposure and travel and interaction with audiences across the globe. So I had found my calling, until I got a call from a casting director for ‘Ready’, my first role in a Bollywood film.
On life after her first appearance on screen…
Once ‘Ready’ happened is when I realised, not only can I host shows, but I can also build equity as an actor. But it was truly my role on Amazon Prime’s ‘Going Viral’ in 2007 that made me realise that I can actually act! I remember, the first time I received a call from Anurag Kashyap asking to see some of my work, I confidently recommended that he should watch ‘Going Viral’, which was worth my salt as an actor. In fact, it was after he watched that show and a collection of other hosting videos is when he decided to cast me in ‘Sacred Games’.
On working with Anurag Kashyap and risking playing the role of a transgender…
The day I was offered the role of ‘Kukkoo’ in Sacred Games, the first thing I asked Anurag Kashyap was ‘Why me and not an actual transgender? I learnt that they had been casting for 4 months– men women and transgenders, but they just didn’t find anybody worthy of the role who in fact dared to take it up. I of course said ‘yes’ to the role in all of 3 seconds without any apprehensions as I believe in taking risks and experimenting. Nobody wakes up and thinks, ‘hey, a transgender role is going to change my life!’ So I certainly believe that this role found me and not the other way round.
I believe Anurag was asked, “Are you sure you want to cast her because she looks a little masculine’, and he said, “You think she’s masculine, let me show you the beauty in her” and that’s how he shot and made me look and feel beautiful as Kukoo. And you see the result of that in ‘Sacred Games’.
For those who are curious about my sexuality and orientation, I ask them to go check out my Instagram page and voila! They know I am a beautiful and hot woman, albeit not one who particularly fits into the conventional feminine mould. But that does not make me any less feminine.
On family and life while growing up…
The credit of my good upbringing goes to my mother who’s not only been a single parent to my brother and I, but she’s also been ‘our’ manager for the longest time. Our father on the other hand, remained elusive and away from the family for most part of our lives, which left left a certain void, but also made us creative and reflective.
Mum’s always been a go-getter and passed on the same values to us. From starting her own supermarket, to learning new things and staying updated on technology and applications, she’s always constantly learning and growing as a person. So, I didn’t have to look outside the house for a role model because my mum was right there, ambitious and driven. She made sure we got good education and comforts, but growing up, we didn’t always get what we wanted at the snap of a finger. She was no Fairy Godmother, but she always worked hard and showed us the value of earning what we want. That’s a lesson Danish and I kept close to our hearts.
On the frontal nudity scene and reactions to it…
For me, it was not a frontal nudity scene. It was a scene of expression and emotional breakdown, a moment of emotional weakness and desperation. Not nudity. The way I look at it is with a lot of respect and responsibility towards my art.
You see scenes like that in international cinema all the time, but you don’t wince, judge or even question it. You call it art. Salvador Dali painted his beloved wife for the world to see, but that’s called art and not nudity. If it’s nudity viewers want, they can go to a gazillion different sites and books to find it. If a role requires it as a form of expression, I would definitely consider delving into it again.
On working with big stars such as Salman, Shah Rukh, Saif and Nawaz…
Though I’ve shared maximum screen space with Nawazuddin Siddique, the medium of stage has giving me the opportunity to work with nearly all the big stars including Salman Khan, Shah Rukh, Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Ranbir Kapoor.
I’ve had the good fortune of hosting a show with Salman and Shah Rukh and the learning has been immense. Even if you get to spend five minutes of quality time with them you discover how dedicated and giving they are to their profession. A common characteristic they all posses is ‘kindness’. They are forthcoming and giving and cognisant of the expectations of their fans, a virtue they possess notwithstanding their stardom. And I hope to imbibe similar qualities.
On life lessons and sense of humour….
I was reading somewhere that introverts actually make the best public speakers. Sometimes when you look at life really closely and you realise that things are not as smooth or as kind as they should be, then you create a world outside that matches up to your expectations or matches up to your beliefs. That’s the kind of world both my brother and I have created for ourselves through stage and through entertainment. We channelled our energies and eventually discovered that the stage or the camera is where we could release all that we had pent up inside us. That became a medium where we could express ourselves in different forms.
My brother, Danish Sait, was once asked why he always speaks so highly of our mother, but never mentions our father, he quipped and said, ‘Oh my father is a magician, he did one grand trick and he disappeared.’ While it might sound funny to some, that statement speaks volumes about where we find our creativity– a intricate and personal space within.
On love life and what the future holds…
The future is looking very busy and it’s keeping me on my toes. Currently I’m shooting for a project with Balaji. My calendar is full and that leaves me no time for a special man to write home about as of now. God forbid, work doesn’t keep me as busy as I get older, I fancy settling in a little Spanish or African village with my cats, sipping on a glass of wine and admiring the expanse of the universe to satisfy the traveler in me.