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Nimrat Kaur: Irrfan Khan cried after the screening of The Lunchbox at Cannes!

From music videos to theatre to advertisements, Nirmat Kaur has done it all. But now it’s time to make a mark in Bollywood. And going by the praise that has been pouring in for her performance in The Lunchbox, wethinks it won’t be tough for Nimrat. We caught up with her and found that she is nothing like her onscreen avatar. While she plays a demure wife (Ila) in the film, in real life she is chirpy and confident. She talks about her Cannes experience, working with co-stars like Irrfan Khan-Nawazuddin Siddiqui and much more….


How did acting happen?

After my college, I consciously moved to Mumbai because I wanted to act. I got some photographs shot by a family friend and then I started doing music videos. I did an album called Tera Mera Pyaar for Sony Music and that was my first break. I started my career from there. I did theatre also, but that’s a luxury and you don’t get much out of it monetarily. It is only to enrich your experience. I started doing advertisements and that helped me earn good money. Once I knew I could sustain myself financially, I wanted to become richer in my experience. I wanted to see how it is to be an actor.


And The Lunchbox is your big debut…

Yes, it’s the first film that is being released here. But before that I did Peddlers with Anurag Kashyap and we had gone to Cannes with the film last year.


Of late, a lot women-oriented films are being made. Would you like to do such roles?

I think it’s a great time for Indian cinema. We are in the 100th year and we are truly evolving. We are embracing films like Ship of Theseus. As far as films are concerned, the way I am viewed is more important. Also, when I read a script I think, ‘Do I want to see this girl onscreen or not’. So that’s the deciding factor for me. And I am grateful that a film like The Lunchbox came to me. I got to work with actors like Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. So I think anything that comes my way – it’s welcome.


Would you do typical commercial movies?

I am open to anything (smiles).


The Lunchbox took you to the Cannes International Film Festival for the second time. How was the experience?

Being in Cannes for the first time was absolutely mindblowing. It hits you like nothing else. It was fantastic for Peddlers to be there, coz it was a small film and it was suddenly sent to Cannes in the same category that The Lunchbox has. So that experience was very unique and dear to me. But this time around it was different, because the film garnered a reaction that was overwhelming. After the film ended at the screening, there was deafening applause for ten minutes. We stood up and look around and people were just clapping. I looked at Irrfan and he had tears in his eyes and Ritesh Batra was smiling. So it was a dream-like screening.


What was it like working with Ritesh, Irrfan and Nawazuddin? You don’t share any scenes with Irrfan in the film – do you regret that?

Ritesh is a wonderful man and a very intelligent guy. I am just stating the obvious here (smiles). But he has got a very sharp sense of humour that comes through in the film. He gave me the script and I said I would love to do it. But I didn’t know whether I was confirmed for the film. So one day I was discussing some scenes with Ritesh and he said, ‘Okay, I will see you’. So I was like, ‘But am I in the film?’ and he said, ‘Ya, you are on’. We had wonderful times together. He is young, he is fun and he is somebody with whom you can be yourself. I hung out with Irrfan during our travels and it was great. And I have grown up watching him. He is so awesome and such an engaging man. What eyes and what presence he has! My mother was more excited that he is in the film (smiles). So it was fantastic just to know that I was going to fall in love with Irrfan Khan! And we all know Nawazuddin is a great actor. Both my co-stars are stalwarts. About having no scenes with Irrfan – I think that’s the mazaa of the film. Ritesh has created that space in the script so cleverly.


You have been to Cannes twice. How are Bollywood movies being perceived in Hollywood now?

I don’t know how much Cannes represents Hollywood, but I think the scenario changed when Lagaan came into the picture around 2000. And it was the film that Sony Pictures picked up before The Lunchbox – ours is the second film. So things have really changed since then, I think. It’s a great time for Bollywood movies. You just have to have the right story and right ingredients to make it globally.


Do you think The Lunchbox will make it to the Oscars?

I want best for my film; everybody wants that. I really want this to happen. Not just because I am in the film, but it is a special film. And when you are close to a subject, you can be more in love with it than other people. The reactions have been so encouraging. So I really hope the right choice is made.


Any compliments from industrywallahs?

Vikram Motwane and Vishal Bhardwaj messaged me after watching the film. So that was amazing.


You met Karan Johar, who is also a part of the project…

Besides being a magnanimous producer and a director, Karan has got such a good heart. He is such a thorough gentleman. And then I had a coffee with Karan (smiles).


Food is such an integral part of the film. Do you cook?

Yes, I cook. I have been cooking for myself for some time. I love making rajma and biryani. I love making food for my friends. I love the attention to detail that goes into cooking. But my favourite food is my mother’s mutton biryani.


Dabbawallas are part of the film – have you ever eaten dabbe ke khaana?

Never… but I really want to try!

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