“I want to tell a story through my films,” says actor Kabir Singh

By Neeru Saluja

At first glance, Kabir Singh fits the bill of the next Bollywood star. He’s young, tall, handsome and carries the charisma of an actor. But when you get talking to him, an intelligent man is unravelled who is not interested in becoming the next Ranveer Singh. He has become an actor with one sole purpose ”“ to do meaningful cinema and tell stories.

Australian Indian actor Kabir Singh is currently in Sydney promoting his latest film ”˜One Less God’. Based on the Mumbai terror attacks, it’s an Australian film directed by Liam Worthington with an Australian cast. Shot in Nepal and Australia, the film has won the top awards at the Dances with Films Festival in LA and is shortlisted for the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards.

Kabir Singh, plays the supporting lead actor and has been nominated for the best supporting actor for AACTA awards. In a lengthy and insightful conversation, we come to know more about the actor who has played a very intense role at the young age of 25.

Congratulations Kabir for being nominated as a supporting lead actor for the prestigious AACTA Awards. Tell us more about your role and how did you get into the skin of the character, as the story was from your homeland?

Thank you. ”˜One Less God’ has been a long journey but totally worth it. The Australian premiere is happening in October at the Byron Bay Festival and the film is releasing Australia wide in November. I’m the supporting lead and play a fictional version of Kasab.

I remember watching the attacks on television in Australia with my parents. It wasn’t something random, it was a strategized attack. When this story came to me through Liam, I knew that this is something I want to do. We had tears in our eyes when he heard the story.   As an actor I always aim to get in the skin of the character. I did a lot of research, read about the organisation involved in the attacks. The director had explained to us very early that he did not want to antagonise the villain. It was a very difficult and challenging role for me. My research helped me prepare for my character. I shaved my head and kept a clean-shaven look. I also did some rigorous training and found training for martial arts camp the hardest. I went through the transformation of the boy to a man, which happens in reality. The brains are mush and they brainwash them as propaganda is injected in their brains.

As the role was intense, did you feel that this experience was daunting and emotionally draining?

Yes definitely. My family knows when I need my space, so they did that when I needed it. The director did everything possible to push me to the extreme. I remember on the last days for the shooting where we had to shoot a crucial scene, after that scene I couldn’t stop crying.

In your last two films ”˜One Less God’ and ”˜Shambala’, you play the roles of an antagonist. Do you have the fear of being stereotyped?

I’m open to all kinds of cinema. The next film I’m doing is an Australian film by a South Indian director, a horror film. When I was working in Australia, I was getting stereotyped. The Indian guy in that, the taxi driver, etc. I have come back to Australia as our country has started waking up and breaking out of the box. It’s still a small market but the vibe is getting better.

So does that mean you are also open to Bollywood films?

I can’t visualise myself in Bollywood films. I don’t care too much about Bollywood. It’s a booming industry. In India, there is Bollywood and there is cinema. I want to do cinema and that is where I see myself progressing. I take my art and telling stories very seriously. If I’m a part of the film, it needs to tell a story. Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan last films were a flop. The Indian audiences are waking up to this changing movement. Many recent Indian films are going to international film festivals. I’m not interested in commercial Bollywood. Cinema is a medium to tell stories and if we don’t utilise it, then we are wasting its potential.

To get that break in cinema, did you find it difficult? What kind of challenges and barriers did you face as a newcomer?

Being in Bollywood is a different ball game. It was a whole new world with it’s own set of rules. In India, you hear about an audition and there are 300 people waiting. It can be very nerve wrecking where you are treated like cattle. Eventually you have to get past that phase and make contacts. People do recognise your talent.

We have heard that you have been acting since your childhood! Your mum is also an actress, is it in the genes?

I have been acting since the age of four. It’s in my genes from my mum. She has always pushed me. When I was in Delhi Public School, she pushed me to take part in Ramayana every year and I hated wearing those itchy beards! Saying that, I always enjoyed the experience. I clearly remember performing for underprivileged children and bringing smiles on their faces. I was around 6 years old, and never looked back since then. I continued drama in high school, enrolled in a university but my focus was always on acting. I deferred from university and enrolled myself into an acting school.

So what’s next in the space of acting?

I was shooting for a film ”˜Shambala’ which is written and directed by Summer Nicks and I play a mountain man from Pakistan. I’m a horse riding champion. It’s the story about a plane crash that happens in the mountain and how the plot unfolds. I was herding everyday, talking to the farmers and living with the cows and goats in the mountains. The process of building a character is something what I enjoy. I leave Kabir Singh and then get into the character. And also that Australian film by a South Indian director.

Kabir, what message would you like to give to upcoming Aussie Indian actors?

Don’t have any fear. You have to live your own life. Respect your parents but you have to break out of the norm. Believe in yourself. There will be times when you have doubt, but at the end of the day you have to keep going. Have something to strive for. If work doesn’t come to you, make your own content. Besides acting, I also write and I’m working on my production house to provide a platform to upcoming talent.

On a closing note, Kabir would like every Indian to watch his film. “One Less God’ is releasing in Australia in November and I urge all Indians to support Australian cinema. Support local cinema, this is a film close to home”.



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