Kubbra Sait: From Dubai to the science fiction world of Foundation

The former city resident spoke to City Times about her role in the Apple TV+ series.

by Enid Grace Parker

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 2:37 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Dec 2021, 5:47 PM

Actress Kubbra Sait - most famous for her role as Kukoo in Sacred Games - is somewhat of a chameleon, when it comes to her career. The once Bollywood hopeful is now making a mark in Hollywood, through the Apple TV+ series Foundation.

She’s been in the limelight from a young age, hosting shows since her early teens. She also won a personality title at a beauty pageant and a Best Female Emcee Award in 2013.

The Bengaluru-born star lived and worked in Dubai for a number of years before heading to Mumbai to try her luck in films. And when you interview her for the first time, you can just see why this livewire personality was never destined for a corporate job that tied her down to a desk - she had to be somewhere creatively exciting - and what better place than the entertainment industry?

“I think I was always taking potshots… trying different things; I really never was the person who put all my eggs in one basket,” she told City Times over Zoom.

She added that the Dubai stint was a period of “personal growth”.

“Every big change in my life has been because of prolonged boredom. I realise that not only am I bored but I’m also replaceable. And the minute that happens I’ve switched my jobs or switched my career - whether it was Microsoft, hosting events or trying to be a storyteller or trying to be an actor.”

The moving on (which may have been deemed impulsive by some) seems to have done her career a world of good, however. Landing a role in a series based on epic novels by renowned science fiction writer Isaac Asimov is no mean feat.

Being the first actor from India to have been finalised for the job is a matter of pride for Kubbra who has been part of films like Ready, Jawaani Jaaneman and Gully Boy, among others. “I just cannot even stay calm or chill,” she exclaimed in excitement.

Kubbra was pumped to talk about her role as Phara in Foundation, a series that she believes has many parallels with today’s reality. “Asimov’s writing is so contemporary, considering that it is 50 years old,” she said, crediting David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman for creating a script that was “so deeply personal and relevant”.

Blurred lines of fact and fiction

She talked of how the dystopian world in the Foundation series hauntingly reflected the present. “There is a line in (I think) the third episode where Brother Day asks ‘how many bodies are floating in the atmosphere’ and Demerzel answers ‘127,000’. And that just sent a shiver down my spine because when the second pandemic came which was not too long ago we had bodies floating in the Ganga. Tell me how far is fiction from reality!”

She called Isaac Asimov (one of SF’s most prolific writers who is known to have written/edited over 500 books) “not just a writer but a philosopher”. “Look at our reality today … it is stranger than fiction. It’s scarier than fiction,” she said.

Her own character Phara seems to possess some complex shades that would appeal to the more contemplative viewer. “She is somebody who is out there to seek justice, for all the injustice that has been done, not only to her, but injustice as a whole that has been done to her planet, to generations gone and to generations to come. There are so many parallels.. when you think of (something like) the Bhopal gas tragedy and people who are dealing with it till today - imagine what happens to those people! I’m not saying her anger is not justified but as Kubbra I have come to know better - that two wrongs don’t make a right. But that’s for me and not for Phara to know.”

Kubbra admitted it took time for the entire text, and context, of Foundation, to sink in. “I remember reading the first two episodes at least ten times, for all the characters to settle in my mind. The writing was superb… it was motivating, thrilling, layered, textured and there was a sense of completion for every character.”

A learning process

Having been a part of Bollywood for a while, Kubbra stepped into her first Hollywood role only to realise there was a stark contrast between the two industries. “I don’t mean to put anybody under the bus but I just love the fact that every artist’s time is valuable (in Hollywood). Everybody is there on time and they leave on time! They have enough time to recover and come back and perform the next day. There could be a scene with 10 people but every single artist is there for rehearsal and that for me was beautiful. Because there is such a mutually shared respect.”

She was greatly inspired by the calibre of the actors she worked with. “Everybody is not there because ‘wow, I am here to prove a point’ but because ‘it’s my job and I have to do it well.’ Now, I would love to learn and train myself in the craft even further. Because I’m someone who has been working on instinct but most of my co-actors are trained actors. They’ve done theatre, they’ve done Broadway; they are thespians! They have lived with the script and absorbed it into their physicality.”

Describing the experience as a “huge learning” she joked, “I think I got paid to go to school!”

Fond memories of Dubai

Kubbra is a homegrown celebrity - someone who went from partying in clubs in Dubai till 3am and being photographed for ‘party’ pages in magazines, to becoming an actress “who deserves this moment, because I did something that was out of the ordinary.”

She fondly recalled her favourite place in Dubai, where she would hang out with her friends. “There is this incredible chai joint in Satwa, and it was attached to a fuel station. I would go there for egg roll and chai and I swear I do that even today. I grab my food and tea and drive out, stand in a parking lot and chit-chat with my friends over chai. I’m also still that kid who wants to come to Dubai and walk into a cinema hall, not so much to watch a movie but to pick up the corn! And I know how I like my corn - so it has to have extra butter, it has to have extra chili - my mouth and stomach are burning but I am loving it!”

She concluded our chat with a shout out to fans in the UAE. “Thank you for rooting for me and please watch Foundation, because I don’t think too many people have. The ones who have watched it are loving it. This is not because I’m in the show but because it is a great show! It’s one of the greatest adaptions of a book series.”

Enid Grace Parker

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