'All the parts that I have played till now, I have got them only through auditions.'
'I auditioned my a** off.'
Wamiqa Gabbi was still in school when she appeared in a brief role in Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met.
After doing small roles in a few films, the Chandigarh-born actress shifted her focus to Punjabi and regional films, before once again venturing into the Hindi space.
She struck gold with OTT projects like Grahan and Jubilee, and suddenly Wamiqa's talent was re-discovered by Hindi film-makers.
She belongs to that elite group of actors whom Vishal Bhardwaj has repeated in his projects. In fact, as many as four times!
Their latest outing, Charlie Chopra & The Mystery of Solang Valleyis an adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Sittaford Mystery where Wamiqa finally plays her first ever titular character.
"I've been in Bombay for quite some time and previously, it was all about star kids, and how much popularity you have. There were a very few chances for outsiders. Because of OTT, we have got a bigger space," Wamiqa tells Mayur Sanap/Rediff.com.
How excited are you about playing the first titular role of your career?
I am very happy and excited!
Charlie is too much fun, she has been written like that. And the credit goes to Vishal sir and the writers.
You play an investigator in the show. How did you make her different from detectives in other films/shows?
It is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's The Sittaford Mystery. The way Vishal sir has adapted the character is very beautiful. He's made it so much fun.
It's not a regular whodunit mystery. There's so much humour in it.
Charlie is Punjabi, and I'm a Punjabi, so I could relate to that.
Think about giving a Punjabi twist to the Western culture of The Sittaford Mystery , the result is this show. That's what makes a difference.
You are one of those very few actors whom Vishal Bhardwaj has repeated in his projects. What makes this collaboration special?
It's been like a dream.
I was born and brought up in Chandigarh. I don't have any filmi background, there was no one to support me in the film industry.
Despite all that, I'm living my dream right now.
I thought I would have to do a lot of work to finally get a chance to work with someone like Vishal sir.
It's amazing what life did to me and this is my fourth project with him.
Khufiya is also releasing soon. That was actually the first project that I did with them.
Then, we did Modern Love: Mumbai, Fursat, and now Charlie Chopra.
I never thought I'll get to work with him, and I have no idea why he is working with me. (Laughs)
Sometimes you meet people and instantly become friends with them because something clicks. It's the same with Vishal sir and me.
We have this similar artistic and emotional understanding. When he explains something to me about a character, I just get it. That makes it easier for us to work with each other.
You once said that you always wanted to be an actress. How did you harbour this dream?
I was two years old when I faced the camera for the first time. It was for some Punjabi music video.
Both my father and grandfather were fascinated with films. They used to watch cinema a lot. That's the reason I was fascinated with movies too.
My father used to take me to watch plays.
I just knew that this is what I wanted to do in my life.
How did you become an actor?
I was always an actor, you just get the opportunity to showcase it.
I was in Class 8 when I shot for a Punjabi serial.
Then I played a small part in Jab We Met, as one of Kareena Kapoor's cousins.
I made my way through slowly and steadily.
But all the parts that I have played till now, I have got them only through auditions. I auditioned my a** off.
I have also been rejected a lot of times.
The only way not to get rejected is to get better and better, so I keep working on myself.
You started with a small role in Jab We Met in 2007. How tough has it been to get roles all these years?
I think OTT has changed things in the last two-three years.
Before it used to be only TV and films, and that was a much more difficult time.
I've been in Bombay for quite some time and previously, it was all about star kids, and how much popularity you have. There were a very few chances for outsiders.
Because of OTT, we have got a bigger space.
The only challenge is that you have to be very good in your craft because everybody is auditioning for everything.
To bag a role, you have to be so good that they can't reject you.
Did you ever think about quitting?
Yes, I did.
It's been 10 years in Bombay. I moved here when I was 18 or 19.
Even though I used to get rejected a lot, I never thought I don't want to do this.
But in 2019, I wasn't enjoying my work. That's when I thought I want to quit.
I thought I would do one or two more films, earn money and travel the world to see what my passion really is.
I thought maybe acting is not my passion because I wasn't happy doing it.
That's when I auditioned for Midnight's Children for Netflix, which again, was being directed by Vishal Bhardwaj.
I got shortlisted, but I wasn't sure of getting the part because I had been shortlisted for many roles before and nothing had materialised.
Then they sent me to this workshop for three days with Atul Mongia sir. I understood that he is really expensive, and I was going to get to do it for free.
I was like, 'Role toh milega nahi, at least let's just do this workshop.'
When I went there, I really surrendered myself. Those three days changed my perspective towards my life and my craft.
And I got the part.
We started prepping, but just one month before the show was supposed to go on, they put a hard stop on it. And I didn't get to do it.
But I got to meet Vishal sir, and spend time with him and his family.
So many people in the industry, including casting directors, got to know that Wamiqa was finalised. That's how they started having faith in me.
I started getting audition calls for these amazing shows like Grahan and Jubilee.
And that's when the pandemic happened.
I used that time to reflect on myself and work on my craft.
I shot for Grahan after the pandemic, and it was one of the most beautiful, magical experiences that I had. Working with Director Ranjan Chandel, I fell in love with acting all over again.
Then Jubilee happened, Mai, and now Charlie Chopra.
It's been overwhelming how things turned out for me.
What's been that 'pinch me' moment in your career?
I didn't expect Grahan to do that well.
I hadn't seen the show before it came out and wasn't sure what kind of reactions would come my way.
When the show released, the amount of love I received was overwhelming.
I got so many calls from industry people.
Then Jubilee really changed things for me. The amount of love, attention and validation I got for that show was just surreal.
Who sent you those congratulatory messages from the industry?
Siddharth Roy Kapur, Anurag (Kashyap) sir...
I even got a message from Ranveer Singh on my Instagram!
And Vaani (Kapoor).
There were so many sweet messages from everyone.
Even now, after so many months, when I go to someone's success party, they will talk to me about Jubiliee.
OTT brought you success, but do you miss the big screen?
Before OTT, I was doing films.
I've done a lot of films in Punjab and a few films in Malayalam, Telugu and Tamil cinema.
I have always seen myself on the silver screen.
OTT was a different experience.
I am doing this pan-India Tamil film with Jayam Ravi. It's a fantasy genre and will be a theatrical release. I am also doing Hindi films.