‘The Tourist’ role is game-changer for actor Kabir Singh

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Travel, they say, can change your life. Psychologists have now actually confirmed this, by showing that it leads to increased self-concept clarity. This was certainly true in popular mystery thriller The Tourist (Netflix) in which the lead character, the tourist (actor Jamie Dornan), finds himself in outback Australia suffering amnesia.

For Sydney actor Kabir Singh, the series has brought self-concept clarity in real life.

Although his was but a small role, Kabir says it was pivotal, and in more ways than one.

At one point early in the series, you’re transported to a bustling Indian bazaar. You go past overcrowded shops, film posters, vegetable hawkers, raidis (open carts), sari-clad women, even a cow crossing the street lazily, before you get to Kabir’s character, a taxi stand operator.

Where in India, you want to know.

“Adelaide Jail, actually,” Kabir reveals, laughing. “Took them four days to construct the set! Which surprised me, given it was but a small role.”

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Involving a whole range of characters – African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Greek, Indigenous – The Tourist is refreshing in its diverse appeal.

“For me it is particularly significant, as I’m finally treated and respected as an actor,” Kabir notes.

The role came fourteen years after he first started out, fresh from the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York.

Of course he hasn’t exactly been idle in the interim, even picking up two AACTA nominations (for independent films One Less God and Aiyai: Wrathful Soul).

But the big breaks refused to come. With The Tourist, though, things are finally beginning to look up.

The 30-year-old was drawn to acting as a young child growing up in Delhi. A primary student at DPS, he took to the stage instinctively, perhaps influenced by his mum Lucky Singh, herself an actor and model. He finished school in Sydney with Drama as a Year 12 subject, and knew he wanted to be an actor.

“Sure, I was discouraged, urged to take on a ‘real’ job. But for me there only was a Plan A. I’m an all-in kind of guy, no room for Plans B, C or D!”

Photo credit: Adam Singer

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Two years ago, he fell seriously ill with a rare blood disorder Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), spending five months in hospital.

“It caused a major shift in my life. I’ve recovered now, but have to go in for monthly blood tests.”

Through chemo, as he reassessed his priorities, he decided to give up on acting.

“So much rejection and unhappiness, it’s not worth it, I said to myself.  You’re never treated with the respect you deserve.”

Following a diagnosis of depression, Plan B came into the picture.

“Finding myself in a deep dark hole one day, I got a craving for mum’s jeera aloo jaffles. My roommate went out and got a sandwich grill off Marketplace for $10, and we made jeera aloo jaffles. They were so good I thought I should be selling them!”

Shortly thereafter, he had bought a food truck and his side business Pocket Rocketz was born. It helped that he had worked as a chef.

As he drove around to community hotspots in Sydney, he began to see success.

With significant improvement in his own mental health, he became passionate about talking to other young people about it, particularly in his own community where it is still a taboo of sorts.

“I figured that I must return to acting, as this can be my platform to speak about mental health.”

READ ALSO: Bottled Up: creating conversations around men’s mental health

kabir singh
Photo credit: Sally Flegg

To lift himself up from the feelings of insecurity, he charted out a strategy.

“At audition, my attitude was, I don’t care if I get the role or not. These 15 minutes of audition are what I have control over. I’ll do my best, and then I’ll let it go.”

It worked.

“I got ad after ad – for Blue Bet, Hard Yakka, American Express, brands keen to make Australia look like Australia by casting diverse characters.”

He scored the lead role in multicultural project The Abandoned.

He was at work on it when he got the audition and subsequent callbacks for The Tourist.

Meanwhile, Bollywood has come calling too. While some of the projects there are currently on hold due to COVID, all he’ll reveal is some select names – Madhavan, Jimmy Shergill, Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

“You’ll see me in something soon,” he smiles.

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Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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