Kaleem Zafar is an actor from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. His journey in the arts began by doing children’s theatre with the street theatre group Sanket Rangtoli.
Kaleem graduated from Madhya Pradesh School of Drama with a Diploma in Dramatic Arts and completed a year-long internship where he conceptualised and directed numerous original works. He has been involved in various national festivals in India as a performer and coordinator, and taught acting at the National School of Drama in New Delhi.
Aside from theatre, Kaleem has experience in acting on screen. His credits include Before Life After Death and Delhi Crime.
After graduation, Kaleem plans to continue acting on stage and screen. He also intends to work as an arts educator and continue finding himself through theatre.
Kaleem is a beneficiary of the Möbius Fund.
What were you doing before coming to ITI?
I worked as an actor teacher in the Theatre In Education Company of India’s National School of Drama (NSD) and also worked as an actor for films and theatre.
Tell us how you came to know of ITI. What made you choose to come here?
One of my colleagues from NSD, Nidhi Sastri, told me about ITI. She knew that I was looking for something different from the Indian theatre training system and I was already trained in India. I felt that I needed more training to open up my mind for the acting world and to understand it deeply. I thought ITI was perfect for that.
Think back to your first day here: what were some of your thoughts and emotions then?
I felt like I am a new animal in this new world. And I felt very nervous.
What is it like to train here at ITI?
I already have some prior training experience but in ITI I got the chance to refine my skills. ITI is a place where you can experiment with yourself. Trial and error. Here nobody is going to judge you, whether you are right or wrong. The people of ITI will help you to develop your research, sometimes in a different direction. And also in ITI, you can learn a lot from each other because everyone comes from different backgrounds, countries and cultures. You just need to open yourself to receive from everyone. I feel there is still a lot to know. It's not the end, just the beginning. I also have the confidence now as an artist to explore more in any situation and circumstances.
What have you learnt from working with your international group of classmates?
One very interesting thing about my class is that everyone has their own mindset and style. Sometimes it's very contradictory but that's the beauty of it. When you have such a diverse batch it becomes challenging to find the right direction to pick. But through their different mindsets and styles, I’ve come to understand different body languages, thinking patterns, acting approaches, ways of imagination and so on.
What are the most memorable experiences you’ve had at ITI?
When I failed the Taiji module. It's good to fail sometimes. So I’d like to thank my Taiji teacher for helping me realise that ups or downs as well as pass or fail are part of life.
How has what you’ve learnt here shaped or changed you as an actor?
I know my weaknesses now and I’m still in the process of shaping myself. But I can say that this shaping process began at ITI and I’m excited to see where it’ll go from here.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I feel that all jobs are actors' jobs. I am open to any opportunity to work as an actor. I’m always hungry for opportunities and open to trying new things to give me a challenge.
What would you say to a new student or someone considering joining ITI?
Think thoroughly about why you want to come to ITI before enrolling. When you feel ready, take that leap of faith.
Any special thanks?
I want to thank everyone who made my ITI journey possible, especially in this pandemic.
Thank you to my mom who has been waiting for me these last three years and taking good care of herself; my father and siblings for supporting me; my theatre teachers back home; Nidhi Sastri for introducing me to ITI; Sasi for accepting me as a student; Khalid, Ruz and Hannah for helping me get settled in Singapore in the beginning as well as all ITI staff; my landlord Xinhui; my teachers — Simon, Chin Huat, Wan Ching, Karen and all — for guiding me and continuing to be with me; my classmates for all the help as well as understanding and tolerating me; and to all my well-wishers.
Profile photo and ASYLUM production shot by Bernie Ng