By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Providentially, The Lunchbox actress Nimrat Kaur is having her lunch at a Mumbai restaurant when I catch up with her.
Shown extensively cooking in the film I ask her right away if she is a good cook. “I’d like to think I am, though I didn’t cook for any of my cast and crew during the making of The Lunchbox,” she replies with a sunny laugh.
Ritesh Batra’s film has suddenly changed the course of Nimrat’s life and career. “The Lunchbox has given me a lot of positive responses from the film industry. I am getting a lot of appreciation from filmmakers I respect. There’s a lot going on in my life.”
Nimrat has just moved home.
“I got to shift in a home identical to the one I occupied because I live in a colony in Santacruz with identical buildings. The one that I lived in needed renovation. So I am in a new apartment now with my two cats. But it doesn’t seem new…and no, there is Aunty living nearby to advise me. I wish there was . She is such an endearing character in The Lunchbox.”
Nimrat has done another film before.
“I can’t say whether my first film Peddlars would be released or not. In fact I just had a discouraging conversation with the film’s makers. Small films have a tough time being released. In that sense, The Lunchbox has set an example. It has proved itself within the space that was provided,” says Nimrat.
Her journey so far has been fairly unusual. “I never chased the usual. When I came to Mumbai eight years ago, I was told about what kind of space I should seek in cinema. But I quickly got over the stipulated dos and don’ts and did my own thing. I realized that it’s very important to just undertake the journey and not worry about the destination. I wanted to work with people who could teach me how to use the camera space. I did ads because I needed financial stability in Mumbai. It was a great way of familiarizing myself with the camera.”
Nimrat says she only wants to be a part of stories that she believes in. “I want to do the work I believe in. Whether it was Peddlars or The Lunchbox I did them expecting nothing. That’s the approach I want to adopt. To do things I believe in and just see where it takes me.One can’t predict anything in life.Every day is a struggle. Even artistes like Al Pacino and Irrfan have to constantly keep searching for roles. And if such artistes have to struggle then long live the struggle.”
Nimrat comes from a completely non-film background. Her father was in the army. “But I have been acting all my life…and now here I am alone in Mumbai with two cats for company in my apartment. They are my closest confidantes. They know everything about me,” she mock-whispers.
And now the offers are trickling in. “Thankfully, no films about food and cooking. I think I’ve done that to my heart’s content in The Lunchbox.”
Nimrat seemed to play an older woman in The Lunchbox.
But the actress explains, “My character Ila wasn’t older. She was just tired and unkempt .She didn’t look after herself. I made sure I looked tired. Even the lighting was planned that way. I looked the way I thought the character should. I wouldn’t look this way in a chocolate commercial.”
Nimrat hopes to do all kinds of films, including the ones that offer her a chance to sing and dance. “I am a Sardarni, remember?”
Nimrat loves Mumbai. “I am from Delhi. I’ve never lived in any one city for more than two years except Mumbai. This is my home. I don’t feel such a sense of belonging in any city. I am often asked who my godfather is in the film industry. Mumbai is my godfather.”
As for love of the more intimate kind Nimrat confesses, “Love is something you shouldn’t hope to find. Just searching for it makes life meaningful. In all poetry whether it is for God, beloved or the country the search for love is so elusive. I hope to keep looking for it without hoping to find out. I love the mystery of life.”
Oh, by the way, Nimrat has done a popular ad for a chocolate brand where she’s shown enjoying a bar of chocolate at a traffic signal while a man stares at her from the adjacent car.
“That was easy. It’s quite easy for a woman to enjoy a bar of chocolate, “ Nimrat quips.
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- The Lunchbox review: Probably best directorial debut since Satyajit Ray