When you talk to Kubbra Sait, you don't see her as an actor or a former anchor. What you notice is her hunger, her desire to do quality work and get better at her craft with every opportunity she gets. That's been one reason why Kubbra was unaffected by the one-scene, blink-and-a-miss roles she kept getting in films before Sacred Games happened. Having become a household name in the digital medium with her work across platforms like Netflix, TVF and now ZEE5, Kubbra still feels she hasn't realised her true potential yet. She calls herself a river that keeps flowing regardless of what happens around it. Ahead of the release of RejctX on ZEE5, Kubbra gets chatty about digital fame and the zest to chase newer heights by the day.
How has life been after Sacred Games? Has it been overwhelming?
You're probably the first person to ask that (laughs). Yes, life post Sacred Games has been overwhelming. You don't know what hits you and when it does, you realise it's just beautiful. I've been revelling in it.
Did your long-lasting anchoring career provide the right foregrounding as an actor?
More than a foregrounding as an actor, it was a foreground for survival. In a city like Mumbai, you better realise that you need to make your ends meet and live up to your expectations and needs. It's a big ecosystem out there and being comfortable doing other things takes a lot of courage. It just happened that I ended up being good at anchoring. I thought till I don't find a person who could truly believe in me, I will continue doing this.
Wasn't it demotivating that no one saw your potential beyond the one-minute, one-scene roles in Bollywood? How did you get the leap of faith in your abilities?
As an actor, I never thought about potential or tell myself 'this is what I could deliver'. I didn't go to a film school where I can decide 'this is what I'm supposed to do', 'this is what I can do'. You can never know what you can do until you're thrown into it. You can't sit by a river and read a book on 'how to swim in 30 days'. You can never know how to swim until you take the plunge. With Sacred Games, I was thrown in the deepest ends of the waters and came through. It was the explosion that I was waiting for. I think when you do certain roles, it's going to be cathartic. I felt that with Sacred Games, the rest was history. And then RejctX happened. That was a good thing. When I was getting these one scene roles before, I looked at it with a perspective that I get to face the camera, I can get better than what I was and enjoy working with different directors. The list continues to grow. Every person treats a character, story differently. The more work you do, the more faith that people will have in your abilities.
You've now worked with two of the best digital platforms in the country, Netflix and ZEE5. How do you see their contribution to your body of work?
With the evolution of digital content, the reach has certainly magnified. Regardless of where you come from, where you stay, the country or the ethnicity you belong to, it all boils down to the content you put out there. With the surge of OTT platforms, especially with the likes of ZEE5, the content also has become equally accessible. It's so diverse that you can't take away from the process of creation or creativity. And that has brought the entire entertainment space together. Whether it's Netflix or an Amazon or a Hotstar or a ZEE5, I think it's the consistency in quality content that has been amazing. ZEE5 has had Rangbaaz, Kaafir or RejctX and every story has been different from the other. Imagine the stories that we put out there and the audiences that are ready to consume it? That's what makes the difference.
In a series like RejctX where there's an ensemble cast, comprising an eclectic mix of young talent and experienced actors, how do you make your presence felt?
I think the script makes the whole difference. You do things as per the diktats of the script. The story is about five rejects who're a part of Jefferson World School. The story will, however, not propel without the cogs in the wheel. Sumeet and I keep moving that wheel forward while the other characters are the spokes in it. We are elements that take it forward/disrupt it.
Because the series is set amid a college backdrop and involves a gamut of characters, it was imperative that you had to share an amiable on-screen vibe. How did that happen?
I was possibly the youngest person in the crew, always jumping and laughing around, high on energy. I kept hearing things like 'Dude, calm down! It's a serious scene'. That being said it was wonderful to work with new actors. Ahmed Masi Wali, with whom I share most of my scenes, is a product of a reality show on TV, cited to be one of its winners. He comes with a background of singing, wanting to be a full-fledged actor. It's incredible to see how any and every bit of training you take can help you do a good job in front of the camera. And, the role of Sehmat is played by Saadhika, we happened to work on a film together in the past.
Sumeet and I have a few moments as well and this is our third project this year. It's amazing to see how Sumeet would bring this amazing texture to every character he does. He brings a lot of consistency to the table with his work. When you see Sumeet, Kumud Mishra, Ranvir Shorey, Konkana Sen or a Nawazuddin Siddiqui, you see consistency. It's about how well you do the part given to you. That's how you get to learn every time you work with a different bunch of people. As a result, you start seeing yourself unveil in different forms.
A web-series involves work schedules like that of a television show but aspires to attain the quality of a film on the whole. Is that challenging?
It is interesting. There were times when I only worked for six hours a day and have done only one scene because it's a film. There were cases where I did six different scenes on the same day and it was a web series. Once you get into the groove of the character, you don't pay attention to the number of hours. I consider myself a workaholic. You can give me as much work and I'll be happy to do it. If you make me wait for long hours, I tend to get edgy. Doing films and web series helps you find that balance. Television content is not on-demand and it only plays when you switch on the TV. You have a fan base for television.
The beauty of the web series is the option you provide to the viewer. If the content is not good enough, my customer won't watch it again. There are web series that I have ended up watching twice because they have been so gripping and beautiful. That's the space everyone aspires to reach these days. So factors like production cost, working hours don't matter much. We are driven by the energy and the spirit of creating good content. We'll realise the results when a few shows reach a certain pinnacle. Eventually, when the audience reciprocates, we will loosen up and experiment more. Until then, it's about having fun what you're doing.
After something like Sacred Games and Tripling, did a viewer's expectations have a bearing on your script choices?
If I sat down thinking what people expect of me and think they'll be disappointed if I don't do something as explosive as Cuckoo, then I'll be sitting at home for the rest of my life. The idea is to do as much work as you can, it's only then you could realise your potential. Right now, I don't have that bank to be choosy. I want to have momentum. Anushka (in RejctX) for me is incredibly layered. If you think the students of Jefferson World School are messed up, Anushka is even more messed up. She's like on-the-ball, speaking to everybody and can make the audience go from 'wow' to 'ouch, it hurt'. That's what I liked about her.
Are you okay being labelled a 'web series actress'?
I am very happy about being labelled. I was labelled an anchor for nine years before I changed it as an actor. How much can you label me? At least, I have gotten to be an actor. So, chalega, anything works for me. I know what I am. The labelling is something I don't do it for myself, the world does it for me.