Books: The bold and the beautiful

Published on Aug 27, 2022 12:34 AM IST

Kubbra Sait’s realistic and nuanced portrayal of Kukoo, the transgender woman who becomes Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s love interest, in the first season of Sacred Games, marked the arrival of a powerhouse performer

Actor Kubbra Sait says that writing her memoir was a cathartic process that elicited many unexpected responses
Actor Kubbra Sait says that writing her memoir was a cathartic process that elicited many unexpected responses
ByAnanya GhoshAnanya Ghosh

Kubbra Sait’s realistic and nuanced portrayal of Kukoo, the transgender woman who becomes Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s love interest, in the first season of Sacred Games, marked the arrival of a powerhouse performer. Not only did she play the role to perfection, often prompting people to actually Google her actual gender, but she also had a frontal nudity scene—an audacious decision which promptly earned her the sobriquet of ‘bold’.

But while stripping off your clothes in front of the camera takes guts, baring your soul to the public needs real valour. And Kubbra has now done just that in her latest release, Open Book: Not Quite A Memoir. People who have been following her autobiographical sketches for Kommune India are already aware of her penchant for storytelling, replete with stark and brutally honest monologues. Now, her tales are open to others.

“Always tell a story when you are over it…that is the greatest advice I got as a storyteller from my mentors at Kommune. I was really not re-living any of these stories. I was only sharing, with an updated, aligned perspective. I was done with the proximity to the subjects I spoke about,” she says.

What made the 38-year-old actor decide to write (not quite) a memoir?

“I don’t know if I should worry about how old I am or how young I feel,” she says, adding that she is a person who runs with gut feeling and intuition. “This pandemic was a full-blown full stop in all our lives. I felt pangs of insecurity; I also experienced fear about mortality. Not many thought we’d make it through without a fight or the will to live. I wanted to live past my past.”

Kubbra says, “I wanted fame for one reason: to be seen and accepted. I feel silly now to think that I gave this power to other people”
Kubbra says, “I wanted fame for one reason: to be seen and accepted. I feel silly now to think that I gave this power to other people”

The catharsis

Birthing a book is no mean task. But Kubbra did it on her own and on her own terms. “I did not ask people how to write a book, or take a masterclass. I did it with instinct. The cool part of the process was that I did not reach out to a single family member to check on how they felt about my putting them in the book. I let my voice do the speaking. However, I didn’t want to put anyone on a pedestal or throw them under the bus. It was a balance, almost like yin and yang,” says Kubbra.

The process was cathartic, she says. “The most genuine and unexpected reactions came from the parents. My mum called to ask, ‘Have you healed?’ God! I wept tears of joy when she asked me that. My father said that he started crying while reading the book as many little things reminded him of who I was and how he had a chance to relive all those little incidents. It reminds me that no memory is permanent, not unless you want it to be.”

Past imperfect

In the book, the actor opens up about being bullied in school. Kubbra was lucky because her mother recognised the serious impact the incessant bullying was having on her. She not only took prompt action to get Kubbra out of the toxic atmosphere of her school, but also got her help. And that changed her life.

“I cannot begin to tell you how impactful it was to not be sent back to the school where I was being bullied,” she says. “That advice came from a professional therapist, psychologist and practitioner. In Open Book, I speak about the rashes or hives my body would break into. I would pop Cetirizine like candy for the longest time. I also speak about my asthma attacks which were a result of emotional baggage; it was my body’s defense mechanism.”

Mother courage

Although her mother has been Kubbra’s support system, she could not open up to her about the sexual abuse she endured from a family friend. She didn’t reach out to her even when she had an unplanned pregnancy .

“We fear parents like we’ve been taught to fear God. We need to become a society that is God and parent-loving. It is difficult to not have the foundation of your existence on your side. Our parents must be our allies.”

Kubbra’s book is candid: she details her struggles with bullying, her achievements and failures, being shy, and accepting help
Kubbra’s book is candid: she details her struggles with bullying, her achievements and failures, being shy, and accepting help

The termination of an unplanned pregnancy was the hardest thing she wrote, she says. “It was something I was really talking about in the open for the first time. It was truly baring myself for the world to read me and not just what I’d written. It was a free pass for people to judge me for my choices and my morals. I also felt I had a need to speak about it… we now know how the most progressive part of the world has shown that men and women in an assembly can decide what a woman should do with her body. I am grateful I was able to make a choice for my body for myself,” she says.

Today, Kubbra has a mind of her own; she is fierce. But does she ever miss the vulnerability of the timid child she has left behind somewhere along the way?

“Fierce doesn’t mean the absence of vulnerability. I am not delicate to wilt under pressure and prejudice, which, for me, is a sign of growth. I know my boundaries and I understand the threshold of stupidity I choose to endure. I look at myself as a silly, uninhibited human, I am not afraid to fail, and I am also the person who doesn’t live waiting for desirable outcomes.”

Fame game

Does fame or success bring with it the confidence one needs to write one’s life narrative?

“I did a back cover of a popular film magazine. The caption with it read, ‘I want to be famous’. I was unapologetic about it. I wanted fame for one reason: to be seen and accepted for who I am. I feel silly now to think that I gave this power to other people.

“I wanted to be big (just like the meaning of my name). I wanted to work in the entertainment space. I wanted to put out my craziness for the world to lap up. Today, as I grow older and hopefully wiser, I feel my work has not only created a niche but also given me a space to share my story. I was not brave when I played Kukoo, or when I wrote this book. I was only living my dream of creating, dreaming, and entertaining,” says Kubbra.

From HT Brunch, August 27, 2022

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