The Lunchbox sees Nimrat Kaur navigate deliciously and subtly from woman lost, to woman of dreams and decisions.
When a young actor who’s barely five films old has been to Cannes twice with her films, what would you make of her? Lucky? Talented? Both?
Nimrat Kaur, who’s melted hearts with the Cadbury’s Silk ad, and is now being seen in a new light for her finely-nuanced performance in The Lunchbox, believes it’s really her instinct.
“I think what really worked for me, has been my instinct about these two stories I wanted to be a part of,” says Nimrat, of The Lunchbox, set to release on September 20, and Peddlers, which won critical acclaim in 2012. The Lunchbox is one of the prime contenders for India’s nomination for the Oscar, specially after the voluble love it got at film festivals such as Cannes, Telluride, and Toronto.
“As an actor there are many confusing factors that can make you take or not take a decision. It becomes difficult. Your first and last checkpoint should be the story,” says the articulate actor who looks equally ravishing on and off screen. “I always read a script as an audience,” she says.
The Lunchbox, directed by Ritesh Batra, sees Nimrat play a disillusioned homemaker, trying to save her marriage through the “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” strategy. Ila, her character, elicits such empathy by, well, just going about the drab drill of her everyday life.
“My challenge in the beginning was...how do I just be? How do I do that without becoming a burden on the audience, the bechaari?” How to communicate the story, to be the vessel to take the story forward without having any tangible interactions with other characters, that was another challenge, says Nimrat.
Putting in a restrained performance is much easier, claims Nimrat. “It’s much more satisfying to not have to resort to crutches to communicate.”
While filming her bit took 11 days, she spent a lot of the month before the shoot on location in the Malad apartment in Mumbai where the film was made. “I went there a lot. I worked out everything in the kitchen; it was all at arm’s length. You need to know where your masala or chakla-belan is. In my kitchen I can move about blindfolded. I needed to make that space organic.”
“The Lunchbox has been a blessing — all gift-wrapped and tied with a bow. Life is a lunchbox of chocolates now!” she smiles wide.
A Sikh girl born in Pilani, Rajasthan, Nimrat has been in Mumbai around eight years now, having worked in theatre and advertising. Is advertising then seen as the stepping stone to the world of films, still? “These are stories you hear…of people sitting in a mall and being spotted and you think it will happen to you. And when you’re fresh off the boat, and new in Bombay, you want those kind of things! They are magical fables. You want to, somewhere, be a part of it, something people will read about. But reality is different. You have to believe in your journey a bit more. Thankfully I realised it early on that you can’t keep waiting for that one day, that launch or that break. It’s ridiculous, I don’t think that exists.”
The deal is to keep working on yourself, offers Nimrat. “And understand life a bit better. How can you be an actor and play someone when you don’t get life? Things culminate when they have to. Work comes to you when you deserve to do it.”
Theatre made her a better person, claims Nimrat. “Of course it helps you immensely as an actor. You get to fine tune yourself.”
It gets you in a place where you become more and more non-judgemntal and much more embracing of life altogether, she says. “That has helped me immensely with my approach to what I want to play. I relish playing different people in a different way. It is intoxicating.”