Spontaneous, witty, relatable - actor and model Kubbra Sait is all these and more. Best known for her portrayal of a transgender woman Kukoo in the popular Netflix series Sacred Games, she had delivered an impactful performance in the role, charming critics and audiences alike.
She’s someone who looks at fear in the eye, just like Kukoo. “I don’t think I was ever fearful of this character. The only thought that came to mind was what my mum would think. But I remember calling her and telling her to wear a bunker because instead of bullets, there was a bazooka coming right at her,” says Kubbra, in an exclusive chat with MAKERS India.
For her, the real challenge was to pick between ‘work or no work’ or to sit on a non-existential pedestal of morality. Kukoo was not just another character; it was a powerful voice that sparked conversations in the right direction.
“I did a service without even realising that it was going to earn so much love, and open so many doors. After a year of the release of the show, Section 377 was abolished; no one knew these things would happen. I think I did the show in good faith, and I feel anything that you do with all your heart and soul always garners the right results,” she adds.
From Microsoft to movies
Bengaluru-born Kubbra (36), who has BBA from the National Institute of Information and Management Sciences, had earlier taken up a job with Microsoft as an account manager in Dubai.
Kubbra recollects, “Over a period of time, I felt like a robot. I wasn’t bringing anything new to the table. When you realise internally that you aren’t feeling good in a place, then it’s time to move on.”
But she didn’t make any impulsive decision – she prepared for the move for a year, and saved money to move to a new city. “I was 27, the stakes were high. I was taking a calculated risk, but acknowledging that and working around it helped me a lot. I wasn’t afraid of starting from scratch,” says Kubbra. In her own words, she did a “SWOT analysis” on herself, and that’s what brought her to Mumbai.
Kubbra has appeared in films like Ready, Sultan, Gully Boy, and most recently, Jawaani Janeman.
Romancing different mediums
Kubbra has played an array of interesting characters, be it on stage, as part of web series or feature films. Her first tryst with limelight was when she was just 12, and hosted a show at the Padmashri Institute of Physiotherapy. She has hosted several Indian and international shows live and on television, some of the most prominent being Star Sports Pro Kabaddi and Stars Ka Tadka. She was also the winner of India’s Best Female Emcee Award.
“I enjoyed garnering instant gratification, you can’t lie about how your audience is feeling when you’re on stage. It’s the same with theatre, you are putting up a performance and instantly receiving,” says Kubbra.
While on stage, she can make eye contact with her audience, acting in front of a camera is a completely different ballgame. “In film-acting, my audience lies in the focus of a lens, so I have to concentrate, I can’t speak too loud. My audience is my co-actor at that moment and that is incredible. Also, the time and duration that one needs to wait for gratification, while you’re working in an art form that is filmed, is much longer.”
As someone who has worked with popular OTT platforms and played powerful characters in shows like Sacred Games, RejctX, and The Verdict, she feels there is a lot to flesh out from a character when it is a long-format show. For her, when it comes to picking roles, it’s all about performing and going with her instincts.
Passion for travel and adventure
One of Kubbra’s loves is travel. Recounting her emceeing days, she says, “When I was doing shows, I would always calculate the number of places I could travel with my earnings. Now, I realise how important it has been in my life.” She feels that one learns about new cultures, flavours, people, and much more, with travel.
She’s also someone who chases adventure. From scuba diving to jumping off a plane, to climbing a mountain, Kubbra has done it all. “I evolve as a person only in the face of fear; I don’t let that fear consume me, I consume it. With every fear that you face, it’s how you condition your mind to overcome it. And once you overcome the fear, at the end of it, you get an adrenaline rush and that’s what I chase.”
Juggling different hats
Besides being an actor, model, and TV host, Kubbra has also voiced an audiobook and is a master at spoken poetry.
“I think there’s a sense of happy nervousness whenever I try something new, or whenever I do something I love. That nervousness should exist – that is your fuel, that is what allows you to have that kinetic energy in what you are doing, and you should never let that go. I am happy about all the decisions I have made in my life, I would not look at one day in my life and wish it was any different. Every day has taught me something new,” she smiles.
Versatile and vivacious, Kubbra is someone who speaks her heart out, without mincing words. She steers clear of playing games, sacred or otherwise.
(Edited by Athira Nair)