Nimrat Kaur's back as the baddie in Homeland

Nimrat Kaur is all set to return as the badass Tasneem Qureshi in Homeland season 8

  • Published 29.01.19, 7:20 PM
  • Updated 30.01.19, 8:15 PM
  • 5 mins read
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I do get it that out of sight is out of mind, especially with so many actors doing such good work: Nimrat Kaur Image: Agencies

Antagonist Tasneem Qureshi was one of the top draws of the fourth season of Homeland. Nimrat Kaur now returns to play the character in the eighth and final season of the multiple award-winning American TV series that goes on the floors in February and airs in June. We caught up with The Lunchbox stunner to talk Homeland and why she’s missing from the big screen.

After Season 4, you are all set to come back to Season 8 of Homeland. That’s exciting news!

Thank you so much! I had no idea they were planning to bring back Tasneem Qureshi. I got a message from my manager about it and I couldn’t curb my excitement. I had my fingers crossed… sometimes, you know, you don’t want to jinx stuff. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I really hope this comes true’. I really had my fingers and every part of my body crossed! (Laughs) I was like, ‘This better come through’.

Is Tasneem Qureshi as bad — and as badass — this time as she was in Season 4?

(Laughs) Ya, man! Tasneem’s purpose in that universe is to be badass. I played the antagonist in Season 4 and that’s not going to change. I don’t know the complete arc of the character yet, so I am not aware whether she softens up in the end. I just have the script of the first few episodes in my hand and she’s up to no good, that much I can tell you. (Laughs) I’ve loved playing this mean girl! It’s just so much fun! I’m hoping she gives the Americans a run for their money again.

Being an actor is, of course, all about becoming different people. But how tough is it to play someone who you ideologically don’t agree with?

It does get tough. But people who play against the rulebook… they never think they are doing anything wrong. That’s the first thing I had to recognise about Tasneem. She doesn’t think she’s a villain; she believes she’s serving a purpose and whatever she’s doing towards getting to that purpose is right. For them, maybe the rest of the world is villainous. My inherent belief in life is that no one is born to be a criminal or be anti-system or anti-society. Situations and events push them towards that.

It was difficult for me initially… I won’t lie about that. I am someone who cringes whenever I watch anything like that in the news and here I am causing all the mess and mayhem. But as soon as I found the dignity in her and the trials and tribulations she lives with, it made me understand her. The gaps that I could fill in about Tasneem and her backstory helped me not judge her.

I remember Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) once telling me that you will never see Hamlet eating an omelette in the play (laughs). That’s because it has nothing to do with what he has to do in life. It’s up to the actor to fill in the colours in the character. So after the initial hiccups, I started enjoying playing Tasneem. I was like, ‘When will I get a chance to play a character like this again? Probably never’. Also, while playing her, I kept remembering Mogambo (from Mr. India)!

You also played one of the leads in Wayward Pines. Has this career on American TV happened organically or have you worked towards it?

Well, I feel you do actively work towards everything in life, but sometimes things come to you by virtue of what you have put in at an ‘X’ time in life. Now when I look back, I can say that The Lunchbox made Homeland happen and Homeland made Wayward Pines happen. But the only thing I actively worked towards and which brought about a leap in my life was The Lunchbox. You keep placing a brick on a brick and then suddenly one day, you see a structure taking shape.

It happened very organically; Homeland happened because of the audition I gave. It was quite serendipitous; I was in London and they called me for the audition and it just happened. Wayward Pines just happened over a phone call… I didn’t even have to screen-test it. The part was on the table for me to take it… in the middle of my sister’s wedding, I remember (laughs). When things have to happen they happen, and when they don’t, I feel they weren’t meant to be.

What’s the working style on these big American TV productions like?

They take their scheduling and their deadlines very seriously. I love that because I am from an army background. Everyone is very aligned with their jobs. Not that it doesn’t happen here, but in the industry here, we tend to take on each other’s roles a lot. That’s something that could work or could backfire. What I love about our system is that there is a lot of adjustment and a lot of warmth because culturally we are like that… we look out for each other.

Sometimes, while working abroad, you tend to miss that because you are working in an alien environment in a different language. In Wayward Pines, I played someone called Rebecca Yedlin who was ethnically ambiguous. I chose to retain an Indian accent and I found that interesting but also tricky because I was like, ‘So who is Rebecca Yedlin?’ In that scenario, you are really out of your comfort zone because you are constantly trying to redefine who you are playing. The one good thing about the industry there is that there is no limitations brought on by hierarchy and I feel we can imbibe that here for sure.

Last year, you played an army officer in the Indian web series The Test Case on AltBalaji that earned its fair share of praise. How do you feel about the big boom that’s happened in the Indian OTT space?

You know, the number of people I have seen getting employed in this space in the last few years has been phenomenal. No one’s sitting at home and twiddling their thumbs waiting for that one big film to happen. It’s a win-win situation now — you are able to do the projects you like, make money in some others, and also get your visibility across platforms. The rules of the game have changed.

You’ve always excelled in mixing mediums. Is that the way forward even now?

That part of my life is very organic, actually. Whatever came to me and if the material spoke to me, I took it up. If I do another web series, it will not be because I want to stay committed to the medium but because I like the story.

But we do want to see you in more films!

So would I! (Laughs) I wasn’t fortunate last year. A few things just collapsed. In hindsight, I am glad none of those projects happened, but yes, I did hit a roadblock in my career. I have come out of that bottle neck now, but last year was definitely a forgettable year. It was a tough year to come out of. But thank God that phase is over and fingers crossed, something will happen on the film front.

What did you tell yourself when you faced a lull in your career?

It was tough, ya. I mean I do get it that out of sight is out of mind, especially with so many actors doing such good work. Now, one’s last work tends to get insignificant so quickly. I am aware of it and it would be foolish if I deny that. It did get me down, but I have always believed there’s a big plan. Life has never disappointed me, and that’s what happened. If I had signed something that I wanted to last year, then I wouldn’t have been able to do Homeland. So it’s all good. Positivity is very important in this profession.