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Why everyone's going ga-ga about Sacred Games' Kuckoo

Last updated on: September 06, 2018 12:39 IST

'The best response I received was a 'thank you' letter from someone going through a sex change operation -- and I felt wow,' Kubbra Sait tells's Archana Masih.

Kubbra Sait

IMAGE: Kubbra Sait at her home in suburban Mumbai. The young actress holds her own opposite Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Sacred Games. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/

"What happened?" Kubbra Sait asks, looking at my walking stick after a warm welcome at her front door.

I tell her I broke my ankle four months ago.

"How? Where did you fall? You better heal soon!"

Kubbra talks fast with an exuberance acquired from having been an award-winning emcee before becoming an actress.

Leading me to a comfortable couch, she asks the maid to make some tea.

A framed vintage cover of the Vogue 1937 issue bought from a flea market in Japan hangs above the blue sofa.

The curtain of flat shells by the open window makes music when the monsoon breeze blows through it.

A pair of journalists are inside the house taking photographs for a feature on her home. A couple of staffers from her public relation agency tell me Kubbra has to leave for an event in an hour.

"I have gotten busier since Sacred Games."

"There was a time I was buried under a debris of rejection," she says, wrinkling her nose which makes her grandmother's nose pin shine in the light.

"My strategy to fight back rejection was to work on the nos. I became a good emcee. I have always been busy. But two years ago I was done trying -- exhausted -- so I went alone to Japan, a brand new country."

"Sacred Games happened after that."

WATCH Kubbra Sait on Sacred Games, Nawaz and much more. Video: Rajesh Karkera/

The role came to her after Ankur Tiwari, a writer on the show, suggested her to Director Anurag Kashyap. She was called for an audition and got the role that has fetched the Bengaluru native excellent reviews.

The Netflix original series based on Vikram Chandra's novel is a racy thriller where Kubbra plays Kuckoo, a sexy transgender. She is the significant other in the life of gangster Ganesh Gaitonde, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

"To me Kuckoo was the lover, the dancer. The last thing of all was that she was a transgender. It did not make a difference. I was playing a human being."

One of the best responses she received for her role was a letter from someone going through a sex change operation.

'Thank you for giving me courage,' wrote the person.

"And I felt 'wow'," she says, with a look that reveals she feels very good about it.

Playing a beautiful dancer with languid grace, one of the shocking turns in the series is when Kuckoo, wearing a shimmery dress, is shown using the men's toilet bowl.

To get a 'feel' of the character, Kubbra wore a prosthetic penis on the first day.

"I walked with it, had lunch with it. We literally hung out together -- me and mine," she laughs.

Kubbra Sait and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Sacred Games

IMAGE: 'Jiski Kuckoo uski Mumbai -- Kubbra Sait as Kuckoo with gangster Ganesh Gaitonde, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Kuckoo was able to cast her spell because of the magic that was Nawaz and the script, says Kubbra.

"I only delivered," she says.

Almost all her scenes are with Siddiqui whom she had first met while hosting a show six months ago.

"What I love about him is that as a co-actor he gave me respect."

"Whenever I told him, 'Sir, lines karte hai na?', he'd say 'baitho, baitho, let' do the lines together'."

"He's super shy, super centered, he'll blend into a wall, a couch -- and all that conserved energy just comes out on screen."

Eight years ago when Kubbra moved to Mumbai, the day would begin with slinging her bag and doing the rounds for auditions.

One day she came to know about an audition for the second lead in Salman Khan's Ready.

It was for a maid's part and she went wearing a salwar kameez.

"Then I was told she is a hip maid. I had a short dress in the bag and quickly changed."

Three days later, they asked for her passport and she was off to Thailand for the shoot.

Kubbra Sait

IMAGE: The wings on the living room wall are a big hit. She also collects cat miniatures and has a white cat called Shifu. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/

Sacred Games has got her noticed, yet Kubbra says she never really struggled in Mumbai -- "but at the same time I am a self made person."

Her next film is Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy with Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt.

The day we met she was going for the launch of Law and Honour, a Web series on Voot she will be seen in with Neha Sharma and Piyush Mishra.

That day was also her mother's birthday, a woman she admires greatly for her "I won't fail attitude".

Mrs Sait was in vipasana at that time and is a single parent. The family lived in Dubai before moving to Bengaluru.

"For a woman who used to wear a sari, sit in the house and wait for her husband so that they could walk to the corner store and pick up groceries, to be running a chain of grocery stores is huge," she says, glowing with pride.

Many of her childhood days were spent on the floor of the grocery store with her younger brother Danish while her mother ran the store.

Danish Sait is a popular radio host in Bengaluru.

"Our mother always raised the bar and believed in us. I am glad she made the sacrifices she did and we honoured her sacrifices."

A corner of the home is devoted to family pictures. The family cat called Shifu Sait is lounging around and Kubbra picks her up off and on.

On the wall is a pair of wings.

"This is a favourite spot," she says as she stands in between the wings, something she clearly enjoys doing a lot.

After Sacred Games, Kuckoo is surely flying.

Archana Masih