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"Film, web, TV… as an actor, I want it all"

Nimrat Kaur has explored many platforms in her career. From being part of acclaimed movies like The Lunchbox and Airlift, she has gone on to do web series and strong international projects. As she returns to the sets of her American TV show, Homeland, the actress talks to Team Box Office India about it and her journey in the entertainment industry

You have done very few films but, be it The Lunchbox or Airlift, you were prominently acknowledged in both films that you did. Is it a strategic decision to not overexpose yourself?

No, it is definitely not a conscious decision to not overexpose myself. I do not think there is anything like over-exposing in the work that I do. If you are loved by people and if your work is appreciated by them, then the audience will definitely want more of you. As far as my work is concerned, it has been a bit of a combination of me not wanting to take up some of the work that came my way, and of some of the work that I wanted to do not coming my way, as it were.

Also, I have a few projects internationally that I am part of and the thing is that when I go abroad for these overseas projects, it takes away a big chunk of my time. Many months, sometimes even half a year, goes there. And then, when I do come back, I am some bit out of the loop. It takes me some time to get back into the environment, get used to it again. Of course, I would love to work a lot more than I have been able to so far. I am going to promise myself and the audience that this year, moving forward, I will make some decisions and some changes in the way I look at stuff, perhaps.

You have been in the industry for a while and explored projects here. What was your journey like, from here to being part of the international scene, especially in a show as loved and as critically acclaimed as Homeland?

Well, for me, The Lunchbox gave me that strong push to start my career overseas. People watched that film in more than 75 countries. By virtue of that, I landed a part in Homeland. I was part of the fourth season, where I play a Pakistan-born ISI officer, Tasneem Qureshi. Since this show is, as you said, so acclaimed, it helped me to get a role in another show, Wayward Pines, and now I am back to being part of Homeland as the makers wanted me and my character back in its last season.

It has been a very big gift, a very big project for me. Shooting for the series will start soon. It goes on the floors this week and I will be leaving in the next three days to join the team.

What’s the headspace you’re in right now? Is there excitement or nervousness about going back to the Homeland set, getting back into that character again?

Yes, I am excited but I am also quite anxious. I want to get back into the character of Tasneem and explore it in this final season. It will be great to see the crew again too.

What was it in the personality of Tasneem Qureshi that drew you to the character?

She is a bad-ass, in a word (Laughs). She is a rule-breaker, a glass-ceiling-shatterer; she is a heroic woman thriving in a man’s world. Tasneem Qureshi is pitched as the antagonist in the series but I love her strength and I love her guts. She is really made of some other metal. I have really enjoyed playing the part.

The digital world is exploding right now in India and you were one of the first few actors from the film industry to be part of it. Your show, The Test Case on ALTBalaji, garnered much appreciation. How do you see the web space right now?

The changes that the web has brought have been great. What I have abroad is not web because the two shows are basically network shows that first air on TV. Homeland, Wayward Pines and The Test Case are very different projects and I cannot compare one with another. The Test Case is of course very close to my heart because of the character I played in it. Shikha Sharma was a fauji girl and that was a great experience because, in real life too, I come from an army family. That’s why I have a certain fondness for Shikha.

A lot of actors who work in different industries mention small differences as well as similarities between what they find there and the Hindi film world. Was it the same for you? Did you find any differences in the Western culture of entertainment?

Not much. It’s the same kind of difference that you will find when travelling in India as compared to when travelling abroad. Culturally, yes, we are different than the people overseas, in our work ethic as well as our work culture. But working in India for me is very special and will always be so. Here, you are speaking in your own language; your sentiments, your actions, the way you talk, the mannerisms that you have, they all belong here because of our upbringing and the environment we live in. Apart from this, the fact is that you are an actor and you just try to give of your best wherever you are.

Do you have a preference when it comes to platforms? Is there one where you feel more comfortable as an actor?

Honestly, there is no comparison. Films have, and always have had, this novelty that nothing can touch. As far as my preference is concerned, I love the experience of going to the theatre and watching a movie as part of the audience. I love the experience of buying a ticket and being in the same dark room with 400 people, all experiencing the same emotions. It is a unique thing to be able to laugh with strangers and cry with strangers. I treasure that experience. So the novelty of being in a movie will always hold. I don’t think anything can change that.

However, the pleasure of being able to tell a story in the long format, in a web series, is completely different. As an actor, I get to essay a part, a character, for four or five hours in the online space, which is something that I will not get to do in a movie. You can never have that kind of time given to your character in a film. So, be it the web world or films on the big screen, everything comes with pros and cons and, as an actor, I want it all.

Your two films in Hindi were both critically acclaimed. Did something change for you after that, professionally?

Everything has been added to my life experience, my resume and my take on how something should be approached. You learn something new from every environment you are in, every co-actor that you work with, every director you have, and you learn from all the mistakes too. Not just these two films – The Lunchbox and Airlift – but in all the things that I have done, whether an ad film, a short film or a play, I am always careful to observe what I could have been better at, what I could have done better. That is my journey.

Just like the audience, we also appreciated your performances in the Hindi films you’ve done. So when do we get to see you be part of Bollywood again? Is there something in the pipeline for you here?

Well, it will be as soon as you wish for it. (Laughs) I hope to come back after shooting for Homeland and get into something as quickly as possible. For now, Homeland is the only thing I am getting into. 

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