EXCLUSIVE: Nimrat Kaur gets candid about her struggles: People felt I looked too modern, didn't look homely
While many remember her as the Cadbury girl or the pretty lady who made everyone swoon in Tera Mera Pyaar, we all loved her as Ila in The Lunchbox. Here's Nimrat Kaur talking about her entire journey in the film industry; watch video.
Earlier this week, The Lunchbox completed 7 years of its release. The Ritesh Batra directorial turned out to be a major sleeper hit of 2013, breaking all pre conceived norms about concept driven films. It also established Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur as powerful faces in cinema. When we spoke to Nimrat about the journey she has had in the industry, she opened up about the different struggles she's braved through all these years.
Coming from an army background and an academic set-up, taking to acting was an almost forbidden call for Nimrat. She says, "I come from an army background and people there don't really consider acting as a profession. It was such a random, bizarre thought that I didn't even want to admit to myself. I didn't have the courage to say it to myself. Plus, I was studying B.Com Hons in Shree Ram College, Delhi University. After that, to be an actor, it was considered a professional suicide. People were like, "Are you nuts? You want to waste that degree." In the defense background, it's not even a profession. People frown upon it but there's no malice. So I gathered a lot of courage to tell my mother I wanted to go to Mumbai and my parents supported me. I gave myself six months and told them if I can't survive those six months, I'll come back."
Talking about her struggles after landing up in the city of dreams, she shares, "It was 2004. There were multiple breakdowns. I had saved up a bit of money from a few odd jobs I did back in Delhi. So it saw me through the first six-seven months. What happened was that I got some photographs but you just don't know where to go, what to do. Where do you even start? Nothing is on the internet and wasn't easily available. So I used to download names of production houses, agencies. I figured that inko jaake photographs de dete hai aur dekhte hai ki kya hota hai. I gave my pictures to 100s of agencies and banners; I would go physically. I marked out areas, travel by trains or buses and autos. I couldn't afford cabs at that time. Everything was so expensive. Mobile phones, calls were so costly. So I used to go to a PCO and call mom, cry for hours and be so sad about things. IT was pretty daunting and scary."
But little did Nimrat know that things will soon start to turn in her favour and she would become the go-to-face for several ad campaigns. She recalls. "The first ever job I got was an ad film by Asian Paints which I cracked after giving 85 screen tests. There were times you would do your make up and you're sitting in an auto, with water splashed all over your face. There would be days I'd just be crying because it can be too overwhelming for someone who's just out of college. Then, I used to do these music videos too called Tera Mera Pyaar. That's what set the ball rolling for me. It got me the rent and the ad films."
As an industry, every actor who's struggling to make their mark has to be ready to face rejections and sometimes, they can be humiliating too. Nimrat speaks of incidents where she felt that people weren't kind to her and tells us, "I did a lot of ad films and there, you just don't get the job. That's it. I would never feel discouraged because I didn't get it. I'd rather look at the one who got the ad and try to understand what I can do to better myself. It wasn't easy. I remember giving 85 auditions because I maintained a diary where I used to write What I did, where did I go and what I had to play."
She adds that the criticism would usually be about her appearance. "Sometimes, they would say you don't look Indian, you look too urban and modern. You don't look homely at all. We needed someone more homely looking. Then, when I did The Lunchbox, everything just changed. Clearly, that taught me one thing: that what people think you can or cannot do is their limitation and not yours. I was told by my international agency that I was roped in for Homeland in an ISI agent's role because of my performance as Ila in Lunchbox. So you see, not everyone thinks that way or boxes you in a particular way."
Watch Nimrat talk about her inspirational journey right here: