With ancestral roots in Pathankot district of Punjab, actress Wamiqa Gabbi was born and raised in Chandigarh in a Punjabi joint family, including her grandparents, paternal uncle, aunt, and two cousins. She talks to Ribha Sood about her love for theatre, forthcoming OTT projects and working on inner peace.
Her father Govardhan Kaushal, a civil engineer-turned-businessman, owns a private educational centre in Chandigarh. Kaushal is also a noted Hindi and Punjabi writer with several books published under his name. Wamiqa’s mother Raj Kaushal is a teacher who runs her own junior high school in Sohana, Mohali. Her younger brother Hardik Gabbi, an arts graduate from SD College, Chandigarh, is presently working on his first album.
An Alumnus of Chandigarh’s St. Xavier’s Senior Secondary School, Wamiqa joined DAV College, Sector 10, here and completed her graduation in arts.
How It Began
I was only two years old when I first faced the camera for shooting a music video. However, I never got to watch that video as it is not available online or anywhere for that matter. Later, in school, I got involved in theatre and performed many plays.
Her Biggest Influence
My father. Since always. Interestingly, my dad told me that the way I had looked at him with my big green eyes when he had first held me in his arms after my birth, he had known I would be an artist. Being a writer himself, my father was associated with theatre and arts, and he used to take me to Tagore theatre and Kala Bhawan along with him. My father’s faith in me, his contribution to my theatrical learning, and his never-ending support has made me the artist I am today.
School & College Life
During my school days, I was actively involved in theatre and drama, and I started working quite early. If I talk about my college life, I don’t think I ever got a chance to enjoy it the way youngsters do. During my grad years, my collegemates looked at me as an actor and not a fellow student. This was because I had already worked in Punjabi cinema and people knew me. Sometimes, I miss the experience of making friends in college and hanging out leisurely with them.
On Friendship & Love
Even though I am comfortable talking to anyone and everyone, I have a limited number of friends. I believe friendships and love take time to develop. A lot of time. You might call me reserved that way, but I am careful and selective about who I let into my inner circle.
Works Till Date
A versatile actor, Wamiqa has worked across Punjabi, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam film industries. She has a long list of films in her kitty, which include ‘Jab We Met’ (2007), ‘Love Aaj Kal’ (2009), ‘Mausam’ (2011), ‘Bittu Boss’ (2012), ‘Sixteen’ (2013), ‘Tu Mera 22 Mein Tera 22’ (2013), ‘Ishq Brandy’ (2014), ‘Ishq Hazir Hai’ (2015), Telugu film ‘Bhale Manchi Roju’ (2015), Tamil film ‘Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam’ (2016), ‘Godha’ (2017), ‘Nikka Zaildar 2’ (2017), ‘Parahuna’ (2018), ‘Nine’ (2019), ‘Nadhoo Khan’ (2019), ‘Dil Diyan Gallan’ (2019), ‘Nikka Zaildar 3’ (2019), ‘Doorbeen’ (2019), ‘Galwakdi’ (2020), and ‘83’ (2021). She has also acted in web series like ‘Grahan’ (2021) and ‘Mai: A Mother’s Rage’ (2022) and appeared in various Punjabi music videos.
2022 is going to be quite an adventurous ride for me as there are many new projects in the pipeline this year. My web series titled ‘Mai: A Mother’s Rage’ has recently been released on Netflix. Soon, I will be seen in an episode of the Indian adaptation of the popular American series ‘Modern Love,’ which will be streamed on Amazon Prime. Besides, there are two Punjabi movies coming up. One is ‘Kali Jotta,’ with Satinder Sartaj and Neeru Bajwa, scheduled to release on June 17, while the other is a horror film, the details of which will be shared soon. Meanwhile, I am also shooting for a Netflix film and a web show with Amazon. So, you can expect more releases in the future. (smiles)
I am a huge fan of old Hindi songs of the 1940s-50s, especially ones that featured actresses Madhubala and Nargis. However, these days, ‘Atrangi Re’’s ‘Tumhein Mohabbat Hai’ is stuck in my head.
There are so many! Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’ (2002) is my all-time favourite. I am fond of watching movies such as Michel Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004) and Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’ (2019). I love human dramas and enjoy exploring characters present in everyday lives. Also, good fantasy films intrigue me.
Claim to Fame
It is yet to come. Hopefully, this year! Even though my journey has been slow, I am proud of it as every project that I have worked on has taught me something valuable. However, I know that there is more to me as an actor and that I will soon be able to show off my craft to the audience and get the recognition I deserve. And that will certainly be my claim to fame.
My Secret Sauce
Ah, there is no secret sauce as such. In the last two years, I have consciously worked on myself, my inner peace, and my craft. I no longer think of things that are not under my control. Since the time I started giving more importance to my personal life, I have seen things changing for the better for me. Believe me, it’s like magic unfolding in my life.
On Punjabi Music & Film Industries
Well, the Punjabi music industry is doing amazingly well. However, I do have a problem with the kind of lyrics that are used in Punjabi songs. At times, they are too misogynist and not called out. I don’t listen to such songs and never share them with others. Despite this, our industry has the likes of Satinder Sartaj who takes listeners on an exhilarating journey with meaningful lyrics and soulful melody.
About the Punjabi film industry, I would say that it has a long way to go. We need to up our game when it comes to content. Artists should stay away from industry politics and focus on their craft. Even though the Punjabi and Malayalam film industries are of the same size, and the former has richer literature, it is the latter that aces the art of filmmaking. Another thing is that the Punjabi film industry is filled with artists from the Punjabi music industry, and this needs to be separated. I am hopeful that the change will come. Our industry’s internal politics should not ruin the skills of our talented artists.
I don’t want to think about the future. It just creates expectations, which further leads to disappointments. Life is unpredictable and nothing really happens according to plans. Therefore, I don’t make future plans and just live in the present moment instead.
There are many generic problems faced by everyone. All these are petty battles we all fight on an everyday basis. However, the bigger challenges are the ones that happen inside of us. There were times when I had to deal with situations where I was made to feel small or invalidated. However, I decided to shift my focus and started working on myself. By practicing a lot of acceptance, I helped myself remain unbothered by people and situations around me. This changed everything for me, and I attracted better things my way.
Mantra of Success
It’s simple. Fall in love with the art. This is what works for me. I am so much in love with acting that I enjoy the whole process of it and not just the outcome. Sadly, a lot of people today opt for acting with the intention of becoming famous. I think that’s the worst reason for choosing this beautiful art.
It was in 2019. That year, I was so unhappy with my work. I didn’t enjoy being on sets and constantly felt like I was not doing something I had always wanted to do. I almost decided to quit. It was a low point. But then a miracle happened. I got shortlisted for a Netflix series. It changed everything for me. It gave me validation for my craft and restored the confidence I had lost. My whole perspective on life changed. It was in that moment of letting go that I got everything I wanted. It was a huge turning point indeed.