From global film festival favourite The Lunchbox and Bollywood blockbuster Airlift to American TV show Homeland, Nimrat Kaur boasts a filmography that’s rich and diverse. Shuffling between productions in India and abroad, the actor says she often has to press a mental reset button. To behave the exact same way on a set in America and one in Lucknow would be a disservice to everyone, including herself.
While it’s easy to contrast the organised West with the haphazard East (as an army brat she is a “sucker” for the order and discipline you find in the former) Kaur feels there are pros and cons to both. Things are set in stone in the West, whereas, back home, there is more flexibility. And in the US, people aren’t simply tolerated because they are big stars. Nevertheless, she sees a sea change in the Indian film industry, with a steadily decreasing tolerance for mediocrity and substandard work ethic. “It is no longer fashionable to show up late at work or be cool about being unprofessional.”
Speaking of her latest film Dasvi, she is all praise for the “safe, wonderful, and gracious” environment on set, and gives most of the credit to her co-star Abhishek Bachchan, a “lovely, buoyant person”. She says he was mindful of everyone on the set and never let the energy drop. Even during our interview, Bachchan drops by to ensure that Kaur doesn’t miss her lunch.
Kaur, 40, thanks her “lucky stars” for being cast in Dasvi. After Airlift, she was exhausted with the kind of offers that came her way. “Unfortunately, I belong to the breed of people who can’t just sign up for something, where you half love it,” she says. The actor was eager to do something in a genre she hadn’t done before, and Dasvi was the perfect opportunity.
Producer Dinesh Vijan and director Tushar Jalota offered it to her pre-pandemic, in February 2020. She remembers Vijan’s one-line sketch of the character, Bimla Devi Chaudhary (aka Bimmo): a subservient, naïve, simple girl who becomes a circumstantial politician and turns power-hungry. “It was like tulsi going on to become poison ivy,” she laughs. Kaur was sold on the “dream project”, a comedy that required her, among other things, to put on 15 kilos and train in a Haryanvi accent.
She describes Bimmo’s arc as “marvellous” — she goes through the opposite of what happens to her husband (Bachchan), a politician who goes to jail. From someone groomed to get married and take care of the household (a common reality in India’s heartland), Bimmo takes the reins of her husband’s political career and suddenly experiences the freedom of a high-power life. She “goes to town, and realises that nobody is coming between her and her chair”. Playing the role helped Kaur traverse a two-part trajectory: from herself to Bimmo and then to Bimla Devi Chaudhury. It also helped her own the weight and the accent, and not simply “wear it”.
While she doesn’t compare the two roles, Kaur has been fascinated with Tabu’s role in Virasat, which she describes as “funny and demure,” as well as Sridevi’s unintentionally comedic turn in Sadma. Kaur remembers walking away from Maddock Films office after the narration, feeling grateful. She compares the leap of faith to imagine her in the role similar to the one that got her Homeland (based on her performance in The Lunchbox).
Dasvi releases on JioCinema and Netflix on April 7.