Kabir Singh has proved his acting prowess and versatility in a very short span of time. Having appeared in more than 20 films, the young actor is gearing up for another challenging role in his upcoming feature ﬁlm ‘One Less God’ which is based on the Mumbai bombings and kidnapping of hostages in the Taj Hotel in 2008. Ahead the film’s release Indus Age caught up with the ever optimistic actor, where he gets candid about his acting career, his inspiration and his forthcoming film and a lot more.
When was the first time you decided that you wanted to get into acting? Or you were bitten by the acting bug?
That is pretty random actually. I was always involved in acting (called it drama class then) since I was a child. It was like a hobby, I enjoyed those classes, performing in front of others, getting applauded and the pats on my back. Never had I ever thought of making a career out of it until the time I had to leave a shoot for a short film for an exam at the University. While I sat there with the answer sheets clueless about most of the questions, I realized how badly I wanted to get back to the shoot and it was that moment that struck me with the question “What am I doing with my life? I walked out of that exam hall finally aware of myself and what I was supposed to do.
Acting is a challenging field. How far do you agree with that?
Yes, it is a challenging field. I believe that I have done a good job at acting only when the audience takes a part of me back home with them instead of just leaving it on the screen. Now, that is not an easy thing to do. Storytelling is easy, making them feel emotions through the story is difficult. So the director’s perspective of the emotions needs to be conveyed and convinced by an actor to the audience.
That’s the main challenge and then there’s the hustling to get there. Everyone is a hustler in this industry, trying to make it to the 1 percent. Becoming an actor is not making an attempt for a few years and quitting if nothing comes to avail. Acting is performing. Performing is storytelling and telling stories is everything to me.
You have done theatre; do you think acting becomes easier for the ones who have theatre as a background?
Doing theatre most definitely builds a strong foundation upon which you build your talent and your life’s work. But acting is never easy. Acting from the core of your soul and telling the truth under imaginary circumstances takes both extreme courage and skill. I studied method acting at “The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute ” in New York City and consider myself a trained method actor. For me, preparation for a role can take months and no role is easier than the last. I learned that giving life to a character takes months of first shedding your own skin and then putting together the pieces of the character like a jigsaw puzzle. It is a delicate process of tricking your mind psychologically while building the physical appearance until your imagination becomes your reality.
Your upcoming film, ‘One Less God’—is based on Mumbai Bombings at the Taj. What motivated you to take up this project?
When Lliam Worthington the writer/director of One less god first approached me to audition for this film I was immediately intrigued. It’s a story that is a never healing wound of all Indians and I knew as soon as I had read the script that this is story has a heart and that it deserves to be understood from all sides of the spectrum without pointing fingers. As Paulo Coelho once said, “You must ask yourself, Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.” I used the same wisdom when approaching this project.
Tell us about your character in the film.
My character “Yaaseen” is loosely based on Ajmal Kasab aka “the baby-faced butcher”. The writer/director Lliam Worthington set out to explore how a harmless child who was once at the gentle mercy of the beautiful city of Lahore found himself in the midst of a 68-hour bloodbath siege with the eyes of the whole world on him. Yaaseen is much more than just a monster and nothing more than a kid caught up in the beliefs someone else has made him believe to be true. Most of the dialogue is taken directly from real transcripts of the actual conversations that happened between the terrorists and their handlers.
What is it that you want the audience to takeaway with ‘One Less God’?
I can’t decide how the audience reacts to the film. It is a heavy piece of cinema and it speaks miles for a person willing to go the distance. It is the simple yet gripping story of the hunter and the hunted and I would hope that the audience doesn’t go into the film with a preempted judgment of where to point their fingers. But I do hope the audience comes out of the film with a deeper understanding of both sides of the spectrum and asking questions. All we can ask for is raised awareness among the audience of the issues presented in the story. For people to talk about these issues using their social media platforms and challenge people’s narrow mindsets on such problems that are plaguing the hearts of our children and our world.
Any special moment during the shoot of the film that you recall and would like to share?
I specifically recall the first day of the film shoot. I remember on my first day of the shoot I had a 3-page dialogue scene to deliver, which is one of the most crucial scenes for my character. After months of preparation, I was ready but nervous because all of a sudden it had all become very real. I had an Ak47 in my hand for the first time and understood the huge burden an actor must carry of telling the story with integrity and as truthfully as Lliam had intended. After the first two takes I wasn’t feeling it and neither was the director. So he called a timeout and took me to a secluded room and we talked out all my fears and nervousness and I remember him saying, “Trust yourself and let go”. I don’t know why but those words resonated with me then and do until this day. After that it was smooth sailing from there onwards.
‘One Less God’ has been shortlisted at AACTA, how does that feel?
When I had first heard the news I was elated beyond words. Being a brown actor in a whitewashed industry and growing up in western suburbs of Blacktown, you seem not to hold too many expectations in those odds. So I feel grateful.
Who has been your inspiration, that keeps you going?
I believe as an artist you will constantly have your doubts about yourself and feel uninspired from time to time.
If we are attuned to see it, inspiration is all around us. It is in plants, in trees, in animals and in the everyday struggle of the common man. But through my constant self-exploration of myself as my craft demands I feel inspiration must start from within and be fueled by our own desires to achieve greatness. We must be self inspired or at least hold the seed to be inspired to be able see inspiration all around us and then it doesn’t take long to want to inspire others through our work that we are here to do in our very short time on this planet.
One piece of advice you would give to aspiring actors.
Cherish and be grateful for having the privilege to be an artist. Yes it can be frustrating facing rejection everyday, the feeling of not feeling worthy, not hearing back after all the work you put in, not getting work or the roles you want due to industry politics or something as minute as the mole on your cheek. Or even when you do get cast and your film does get made but doesn’t get a release. There are a thousand things at play that are out of your control and only one thing that is in your control, your audition/performance and how truthful it is. Focus on that. Forget the rest and don’t complain. It’s not everyday that dreamers get to pursue their dreams in this world. Most people’s dreams die with them. You have already taken the first step to put yourself out there in the world to be judged and that alone takes courage. Give yourself credit and don’t be so hard on yourself. You are one of the lucky ones. Believe me. And most of all don’t give into your fears. Failing is part of succeeding and a simple formula that works for me can be summed down to three words; Patience, Persistence and Perseverance. Be patient and wait for the right opportunity. Be persistent by always being prepared and learning from your failures and in result you will persevere in achieving success.
Which is your favourite Hindi Film? : Hera Pheri
Which is that one actor you admire the most?: Daniel Day-Lewis
One film, you wish, you were a part of: Pulp Fiction
Your dream directors: Steve McQueen / Darren Aronofsky / Quentin Tarantino
Any dialogue that is close to your heart: (Michael Caine) Alfred’s quote in The Dark night by Christopher Nolan- “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”