by ASJAD NAZIR
IT HAS always been difficult for outsiders to make it in Bollywood and even more impossible when they’re from overseas.
What sets Khatija Iqbal apart from others who have broken through in the massively competitive Indian market is that she is from the Caribbean. Born to Indian parents in Grenada, she caught the acting bug at a young age and moved to Mumbai in 2015 to pursue what seemed like an impossible dream.
She has since then acted in drama serials Ragini MMS: Returns, Jamai Raja and Yeh Hai Chahatein, along with the film Namaste England. She will soon be seen in Inside Edge 3, where she plays a mysterious woman.
Eastern Eye caught up with Khatija Iqbal to discuss her unique journey from the Caribbean to Mumbai, making it as an outsider, inspirations and future hopes.
You say growing up in the Caribbean was like a big holiday, but what made you want to be an actress?
My first pageant show in Grenada changed my life. It’s like I wanted more and didn’t know where to start from. I didn’t know it was acting. But while growing up I never missed a Femina Miss India show or any Bollywood awards functions. Also, whenever I saw Madhuri Dixit dancing on stage, something inside me danced!
What led you towards India?
My curiosity and a family vacation. I never returned after that.
What has your journey in Mumbai been like?
It’s been crazy! It started with the cultural shock, language barrier and lots of food poisoning. But the best of the best experiences and, of course, the love for Bollywood made me want more.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
Language was my biggest challenge, but now Hindi is my best friend. I sometimes feel like I have forgotten English. I did a lot of theatre workshops with renowned artists to get over the language barrier.
There has been a lot written about India being a difficult place for outsiders. How have you coped?
I think ‘outsider’ is only a mindset. If you change your perspective, then you will fit right in and become Mumbai, become Bollywood and become the best version of yourself. You will never feel any less to fit in anywhere.
Which of your projects have given you the greatest joy?
Inside Edge (season 3) and my upcoming web series, which I can’t disclose at the moment.
What kind of characters do you want to play?
My dream role is to be the next Bond Girl or play a bizarre character like Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad or a Kangana Ranaut from Queen.
Which actor would you love to work with?
Honestly, I have never really thought about that, but I think I’d love to be paired up with Hrithik Roshan if it’s a stargazing film, but otherwise, Manoj Bajpayee. In Hollywood, of course, the great Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Cillian Murphy and the list can go on, and on.
What do you enjoy watching as an audience member?
As an audience, I enjoy watching comedies, action thrillers, and rom-coms. I am not picky. I watch everything except horror movies.
If you could master something new, what would it be?
It would be dancing jazz and playing the piano.
What do you most miss about the Caribbean?
I miss the beaches. I miss diving deep down in the ocean and staying there.
What inspires you?
My mother. She is ever so strong and never gets tired of anything. Be it a sweater, if she had to sit there and weave it for hours, she will be at it and never break the flow. She is so patient and consistent.