Kaneez Surka is a well-known stand-up comedian in the Indian comic industry. She was the one who introduced improv comedy to the country, and recently, made her acting debut with the short film The Shaila(S) which was showcased in the Voot Select Film Fest.
In an exclusive conversation with SpotboyE.com, the comedian turned actor gets candid about the difference between comedy and acting, getting offered stereotypical roles and more. Read excerpts from the interview:
Kaneez, how different was it facing a camera for a film than for a reality or a comedy show?
It was definitely different from a reality show but I have shot a lot of comedy sketches in the past. So, shooting for a film didn’t feel too different.
What is The Shaila(S) about?
It’s a story about an upper-class affluent lady and her domestic helper. She is throwing an extravagant tea party for her group that consists of other upper-class ladies from her society. She finds a perfect helper and the story is about the nuances that exists between the two classes. It also speaks about the emotional bond that forms between the two but also the boundaries that are formed due to the differences of class and caste.
The subject sounds a bit serious, so how was the transformation from comedy to drama for you?
This isn’t a drama but a comedy movie. We have dealt with these issues through comedy with a little bit of darkness. The 15-minute short film is in black and white. The director, Neha Thakker has made some interesting musical choices as well. Even my co-actor Suman has done an amazing job. My character is on the comedic side. You expect Kaneez, you get Kaneez.
What made you delve into acting?
The first thing I ever wanted to do was acting as there was no comedy industry when I came to India. There was no improv so I thought I’ll get into comedic acting. Even on The Week That Wasn’t, I was mainly doing acting. It was always my dream but then stand-up and improv happened, so my life went in that direction. But I am really excited to start my acting journey now. I want to start doing more comedic acting roles as I really enjoy it. As a stand-up improviser I have to come up with my own content and do my own writing. So, sometime acting is really nice as you are performing someone else’s work. You don’t have to think and perform, but just perform. So, I want to explore that more.
You must get offered a lot of stereotypical roles being an NRI, divorced comic. How do you deal with them?
I understand that it’s not easy to cast me in an otherwise role. I don’t speak Hindi so how will you cast me otherwise, and even when I speak Hindi, it’s with an accent. So, I have to do an NRI character. I understand the limitations I have. I want to explore other industries too and sky is the limit for me. I have had a successful career in India as even for a niche field like improv, there is a considerable audience for that too.
Funnily, on Wikipedia, you are credited as a child artist in the Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Bobby Deol and Lara Dutta-starrer Dosti. What is it all about?
(Laughs) I was 20 years old then, I don’t know who wrote child actor for me. I had just come to India and Dosti was my first film, so The Shaila(S) is technically my second acting debut. I had to play Kareena Kapoor’s best friend in one scene, while the other scene that I did, they cut it out. The one scene that they kept, in that Kareena suddenly sees Akshay and her and I had to act shocked. So, the director shouted at me, “Kaneez, act shocked”, and one shock expression is all I did. I was literally there for one second.
A few years ago, I was sitting with Abish Mathew and Kanan Gill and we were trying to find that scene and it took us so much time as it was such a short scene that we kept missing it. But I wasn’t a child for sure then.
So, are there any other reality show, stand up special or another season of your game show, The General fun Game Show in the pipeline?
The General Fun Game Show’s third season will be happening as soon as things open up and I can do live shows again. This break has given me a lot of inspiration for the upcoming season. I am also working on my vlogs and there is a lot of exciting stuff coming up.
Was there something that you found in acting that wasn’t there in comedy?
In acting, I like that I don’t have to think about the content, perform it and then market it as well. It was nice to just get a script and believe that the director will bring out the best in me. To have my name next to people like Vidya Balan, Neena Gupta, Chunky Pandey and Esha Deol due to Voot Select Film Fest is an amazing opportunity for me. I want people to know that I also want to start acting now.
Image Source: Instagram/kaneezsurka/tahseen029/vootselect