Kubbra Sait: A Layout or Clear Marking Will Help Film Sex or Intimate Scenes With Ease
In an interview with News18, Kubbra Sait talked in detail about how Sacred Games crew filmed her semi-nude scene, the measures taken by the director on the set while shooting it and more.
Kubbra Sait and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a still from Sacred Games. (YouTube)
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, News18 recently published an article on 'How Bollywood films intimate scenes and why it leaves a room for sexual harassment' in order to understand what measures Indian production houses take to ensure their actors are comfortable and safe while performing scenes featuring physical intimacy, nudity and simulated sex on set. While we found out that so far there had been no protocol to shoot such scenes, we were also told that the artiste unions were planning to implement Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) guidelines in every production house to negotiate contracts that guarantee safe and consensual working conditions for all the artistes.
At the time, News18 also reached out to actor Kubbra Sait to know her experience while performing a nude scene for Netflix’s first Indian original series Sacred Games (she, however, couldn't get back, citing busy schedule). The actor plays the role of a transgender—Cuckoo, in the critically-acclaimed crime drama, wherein the final “reveal” scene of her character’s sexual identity before Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) involves semi-nudity.
She recently responded to News18 queries in recorded responses. Though the actor said her comfort was always a top priority on the set, she believes a “layout” or “clear marking” would help shoot such scenes faster and with much more clarity.
She also talked in detail about how Sacred Games crew filmed the nude scene, the measures taken by the director on the set while shooting it and more. Excerpts from the interview:
Do you think there should be a transparent discussion about the mechanics of scenes involving nudity or physical intimacy with actors beforehand in order to take care of their comfort? What has been your experience like while filming the nude scene for Sacred Games?
It was very clearly informed to me that it was not a titillating scene. It was not meant to trigger a pornographic value to the show. It was always a narrative of the story. And even when you see it, that’s how it comes across. There’s honesty in the work that has been done and there’s honesty in the work that was shot. There was only one camera person with no assistance and the two actors in the room. In fact, even the director was outside the room post the set-up. Also, the room was set up rigged, clear before we got on to set. These are little things that you care for in terms of comfort and eventually everything else just falls into place.
Were there any particular measures taken by the crew to take care of your comfort?
There were very few people on the set. Nobody was involved. There were no photographs being taken.
There was no offline photography allowed. There was no making of the video allowed. These are basic things which are sensitive not just to the moment but sensitive to the actors on the set and to the project by itself.
Do we have any protocol or on set guidelines for staged romantic moments of sexual intimacy to make sure that the actors are safe? If not, do you think it is high time production houses take initiative to develop standards for scenes involving nudity or physical intimacy?
Both the directors that I have worked with and I have had scenes which require physical intimacy to be considered as an important component of the script, they have actually been extremely sensitive and I’m talking about a man and a woman holding a director’s chair. I personally believe that the protocol basically first and foremost clears every actor’s consent on doing the particular scenes knowing who they are doing it with, the level of comfort with your co-actor; if either one of the actors are not comfortable you should always flag it to the immediate team in authority. But apart from that, every human being has a sense of intuition. Also, you should never have more than 4-5 people on set when you’re shooting such a scene because these scenes require a lot of mental involvement. What comes across as physical or romantic intimacy on screen is not necessarily contained to just that when you are shooting it. When you’re doing something like that there’s so much more mental preparation to do it because sometimes you’re just shooting it with some stranger.
Nawaz for that matter, for me, was an absolute stranger while I was a stranger to him. But at the end of the day, it’s a dialogue that one has with each other. And, at any given point it could be the first day of the shoot or in the middle of the schedule if either one of the actors who are involved in such a portrayal have a discomfort with each other they should always flag it. Apart from this, knowing how many people are actually required, where do you need to end a scene, where do you want to start a scene, may be a layout or clear marking of what the scene would look like would actually help in completing this easily, faster and with much more clarity.
In the West sex choreographers/intimacy directors are hired by the production houses to facilitate simulated sex to make sure that directors and producers are telling the story they are intending to tell. Do you think our industry should also employ professionals to supervise such scenes for the safety of our actors?
It would be fantastic if the production houses can levy that cost in the production. Also, I think for me what’s important is the intimacy of the scene as far as it’s not particularly used for a titillating purpose but rather to narrate the story and take it forward, which is extremely important and that clarity would be solely with the writer and the director. As far as they are very clear about it anything additional is always a welcome change. Anything that makes the environment safe is a welcome change. But I don’t know if it’s mandatory because nobody would be able to envision the story the way it’s to be told better than the director himself or herself. As far as supervision for actors is concerned, I think every person on the set is an adult as far as you’re not having a scene where you have a minor involved, then I think the responsibility lies in the hands of the actors and the immediate co-members of the crew.
Do you think nudity and intimate scenes should be treated with the same sensitivity and vulnerability as action and fight sequences? If our big production houses can afford to hire renowned Hollywood action/stunt directors for fight sequences then why can they not employ an intimacy director/sex choreographers?
It depends on what the purpose is. If you’re making a pornographic film then you must have sex directors because that’s the whole purpose of it. But if it’s a film or a scene that is just required to take the narrative forward then if we do have the budgets for it and if we can incorporate it then yes. It’s a welcome change. But in the same breathe, I don’t see it as me refusing to do a project because there’s no sex choreographer on stage.
Is there any way we can come up with an official association of professionals whose job will be to make sure that there is consensual and safe work space for everybody on the set? Would you lobby for it?
I would lobby for anything that is good and sounds and spells comfort for the carrying forward of the job on the set. I think it’s the clarity between professionals. While you do have professional people who can help you conduct this clearly it is still up to the two actors to give best part of their performance. And, their comfort and mind which is at complete rest is what is most important and their safety and consent is something that needs to be signed and agreed upon before you start filming for a scene of a show and you don’t wait for it till the last day. I was asked to sign off my nudity scene before I did it. So, I knew what I was getting into and that is what is most important (also, to know who is directing it). There has been a short film that I did which did not have any amount of comfort on it and I still did it because I knew (in retrospect) that the director did not know how to shoot it well. So as far as I’m aware of the kind of work and quality of work a particular director is embarking upon, I think it’s easier for me to make an informed decision of whether or not I want to be associated with this product or story. And, I think that pretty much lays a foundation of a safe, consensual and comfortable experience when you’re shooting sexually and physically intimate scenes.
(This is just an effort by News18 to demand better and nuanced depictions of scenes featuring physical intimacy, nudity and simulated sex on screen to ensure the safety and comfort of both male and female artistes).
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