Among other things, the Amazon Prime Video lockdown production Wakaalat from Home taught Kubbra Sait to use Google Drive.
The 10-episode comedy series that will be streamed from September 10 has been directed by Rohan Sippy and written by Anuvab Pal. Sujin (Sumeet Vyas) and Radhika (Nidhi Singh) are going through their divorce proceedings over a video conference. Joining them are their lawyers played by Sait and Gopal Dutt. Akarsh Khurana plays the judge.
Sait, who says she is the “worst” when it comes to technology, had to shoot her scenes by herself with her phone camera. She couldn’t see her own face or that of her co-actors. The audio cues were provided by her co-actors over Zoom simultaneously. Then she had to be guided on how to upload the videos to Google Drive over remote screen-sharing.
“I had to shoot with my phone because I wouldn’t get footage in 4K resolution otherwise,” Sait told Scroll.in. “So all the while, I just looked at the phone camera and did my scenes while hearing my co-actors deliver their lines on Zoom. We were instructed to shoot wide so that the editor had room to cut from the frame. Acting in this was like literally playing in the dark, but it felt just as exciting.”
After the Malayalam film C U Soon, Wakaalat From Home is the latest Amazon Prime Video release that was shot remotely over digital devices during the lockdown. Rehearsal and preparations for Wakaalat From Home took a month. Each episode was shot “straight like a one-act play each day” continuously for 10 days, Sait said.
All the actors had to style themselves and pick their own costumes. “I thankfully had a black and white shirt which made me look like a lawyer,” Sait said. “Gopal Dutt had a black coat. Sumeet had to look a little casual, while Nidhi had to look prim and proper.” Even the bling she lends a moment in the trailer came from her wardrobe.
“In regular shooting, you have some kind of a sensory aid, even if there is an actor to respond to,” Sait said about the uniqueness of the experience. “It can be the set, for example. Or your costumes, hair, makeup, or you wear a particular perfume for the scene. Here everything was flat, a 2D screen, and voices on Zoom. But I must say that putting all of this together into a show must have been a tech expert’s dream.”
Through the first half of the 2010s, Sait was a regular fixture on television as the host of the celebrity food show Stars Ka Tadka. She had been an anchor on the sports programme Star Sports Pro Kabaddi and the 2016 Filmfare Awards.
Her performance as the gangster’s moll Kukoo in the first season of the Netflix crime series Sacred Games (2018) brought her fame. “When Kukoo became big, I realised that that kind of fame comes with a responsibility and you can’t screw around anymore with the opportunities you are getting,” Sait said.
As the transgender Kukoo, Sait got to play a character who was equal parts flamboyant and moving while holding her own against Nawazuddin Siddiqui. What made Kukoo so endearing to the Indian streaming audience?
“I think nobody judged Kukoo because the writers didn’t judge her,” Sait explained. “That’s why the character stayed in the hearts and the minds of people. If earlier queer people were treated as shit, made fun of, or seen as evil, then those characters were being treated or seen that way in our films. The minute you write them without judgement, you encourage the audience to see them with respect.”
Sait is also writing her memoir, due to be published next year by Harper Collins. “Between being an anchor and an actor, I also became a storyteller,” Sait said. “The difference between narrating an incident and telling a story is that you need courage to flesh out an incident, take note of what was there before it and what happened after the incident.”
The two things Sait can do best are “talking and writing,” she said. “You give me a word, and I will write 300 words on it. The book was a way to channel my inner thoughts out during the lockdown. I thought why not put them out instead of keeping them inside?”
Citing the example of her Sacred Games and Jawaani Jaaneman co-star Saif Ali Khan, who is also writing his memoir at 50, Sait said that age is not a factor when it comes to writing autobiographies.
“I believe you can learn from anyone around you, from a four year-old to a forty year-old to the ruins that existed in the fourth century BC,” Sait said. “For me, it’s all good if you observe someone’s journey and it makes sense to you. What is the need to be 100 to write an autobiography?”