Movies & TV / Columns

Kabir Singh On His New Film Aiyai: Wrathful Soul, Working in Genre Films

April 5, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Aiyai: Wrathful Soul

The 411 Interview: Kabir Singh


Kabir Singh is an actor and writer who, according to imdb, has been working in the movie business since 2010. Singh has appeared in movies such as Newton’s 3rd Law, My Cornerstone, and A Dusty Town, and he write the screenplay for the movie Damaged, directed by Maha Wilson and which came out in 2015. Singh’s latest movie is the supernatural horror flick Aiyai: Wrathful Soul, directed by Alan Ilanthirayan Arumugam. In this interview, Singh talks with this writer about making Aiyai: Wrathful Soul, working with director Arumugam, and more.



Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved in Aiyai: Wrathful Soul?

Kabir Singh: An old make-up artist friend saw the casting call and sent it to me and said I should apply so I did. At that time I was living and working as an actor in Mumbai, India. Alan called me a few days later to have a chat which lasted 3 hours and he was super excited about this project. He narrated the script to me and ran me down his vision and ideas for the film and the character. For some reason even if he had other options for casting the role of Kiran he believed from the beginning that I was the person to play this role. I didn’t audition, but we had loads of long chats over the phone and video consisting of a year as he developed the script with the writers and kept me in the loop with all the drafts for my feedback. After a year, when the final draft was ready, I was flown down back home to Sydney to start prep and the rest is history.

BK: How did you approach your character Kiran? How did you prepare for the many weird things Kiran experiences, like the whole body contortions sequence?

KS: Preparing for something like this requires a lot of research and physical and mental focus. I started off with understanding the story of Alan’s friend who this happened to. There is no better material to draw from than the truth. After speaking to multiple psychiatrists and specialists and doing countless hours of research online, I tried to figure out the mental state of someone who is possessed. In technical terms no doctor could agree with anything other than science, but my conclusion after all my discussions with psychiatrists was that Kiran was experiencing a shock to the system so vivid that it resembled symptoms of Cotards syndrome and Catatonic Schizophrenia. There is limited video and information of these topics as they both are quite rare, but I had taken screenshots from videos for visual reference and stuck them in a scrap/workbook of sorts to look back on when required on set. By this point I had already started to lose weight for the role and had lost 10 kilos already. In total I lost 20kgs for the role by the time we started filming. Being a method actor and getting my education at the Lee Strasberg theatre and film institute in New York, I believe in my work being authentic and my process being organic, hence why I decided to lose weight in an unhealthy way so I could physically feel exhausted and look gaunt in real life requiring little make up to look possessed. My diet consisted of a can of tuna, a fruit juice, 15 cups of black coffee plus countless cigarettes a day (smoking is injurious to health and I don’t smoke in normal life). I got to a point in my weight loss where my ribcage was protruding, I had deep eye bags, I had chapped lips and I practiced sitting in a chair catatonic for hours a day. I also practiced my contortions several hours a day and avoided sleep as much as I could. It was a strenuous process but well worth it in the end.


BK: What was it like working with Aiyai: Wrathful Soul director Alan Ilanthirayan Arumugam?

KS: Working with Alan was an amazing experience. He made sure I was his top priority and my health and well-being on set was always catered to as I was very weak due to my prep. Alan is a very passionate director and filmmaker who somehow put together an incredible crew. With this being his first film it had its challenges and hurdles. We had some communication problems at times on set because of the language barrier but somehow we always understood each other through the language of filmmaking and at the end of the day we are friends and I can’t wait to work with him again. The man is an enigma and his films are rollercoasters, but I promise you you’ll enjoy the ride, and it will never be boring.

BK: What was it like working with your fellow cast members?

KS: I enjoyed working with every single cast member. Working with a seasoned actor like Richard Huggett was a blessing. He makes acting look easy, quite frankly. My on screen girlfriend, Tahlia Jade Holt, is an incredible human and an actress and she gave me so much to work with on and off set and it’s rare to find someone as dedicated as her in this field. My closest friend and co-actor William Wensley was an absolute delight to work with on set. A lot of our conversations are improv and that takes two good actors who are in tune with each other to do so. He was also my acting coach and without him and his guidance and support throughout the film I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

BK: Was the funeral home as spooky in real life as it appears in the movie?

KS: Yes it was! That funeral home had a lot of moments where I knew this place was haunted. You’d hear kids running around at times when there were no kids living there at all. Strange sounds, footsteps, vibrations, energies and the feeling that somebody is watching you was always there. It was scary to walk alone at night. Also there were a lot of abandoned buildings around the place which the caretaker told was a prison. One night a few of the cast and crew went to the abandoned buildings which were on the funeral home lot and as soon we walked in we could feel the energy was very heavy and had a strange ringing in all our ears. We all sat down in one of the big rooms and we tried to summon a spirit, sitting in a circle. Let me just tell you that things happened and we all ran out of there like Road Runner with our tails between our legs.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Aiyai: Wrathful Soul for you as an actor? What was the easiest?

KS: The hardest part about making this film was starving myself. I love food and to deny what you love is very hard. Also the contortions. They took a toll on me after a while. Contortions are like having an epileptic attack but to the extreme. It just so happens that I have witnessed many epileptic attacks in real life and my travels and I had a very clear idea of what I needed to do to contort. It takes a lot of energy out of you and I had to build mental strength for that. A person after an epileptic attack is completely exhausted from all the muscles tensing and twitching. It’s a similar feeling when you forcibly induce it upon yourself. Also the catatonia. The sitting still and not moving for hours on end. Not closing your eyes and focusing on one point ahead of you. Controlling your breathing and heartbeat to never go above 85 bpm. It gets exhausting!

The easiest part was working with the best cast and crew I have ever worked with and the amount of support and appreciation I got from my fellow crew members and making lasting friendships.

BK: Is it right to call Aiyai: Wrathful Soul a horror movie? If it isn’t a horror movie what kind of movie is it?

KS: I think the idea of Aiyai started off as a horror movie but it evolved more into a psychological thriller with horror elements. Like Hereditary, the film has elements of horror but it messes with your mind psychologically.

Burning man_2

BK: Do you enjoy working in genre movies?

KS: If the script is good and a character is challenging, there is nothing I enjoy more.

BK: According to imdb you have been credited as “Jack Quinn Kings” and “Sidney Quinn” in different projects. Why did you perform under those names?

KS: It was a strange time in my life where I was having an identity crisis. I was in my late teens and very early 20’s and I didn’t see enough representation around me in the Australian film industry and I had felt like my name and skin colour was the reason. So I thought, I can’t change my colour or my race but I can change my name to a more “suitable to the climate of the industry” name (which was white washed at the time). So, I experimented with a few names. I know, it sounds absurd but, truthfully, it isn’t easy being a minority growing up in country where racism was normal and especially in a profession where you didn’t see yourself represented on movie or TV screens besides the odd stereotypical taxi driver or 7/11 worker.

BK: You co-wrote the screenplay for the movie Damaged with Summer Nicks. Is screenwriting something you want to pursue in the future?

KS: Yes. I have written 4 features, and Damaged is the only one that has seen the big screen. It is something I am definitely passionate about and I do continue to write still today.

BK: Any moviemaking heroes?

KS: I have immense respect for fellow friend and actor “Riz Ahmed”. I think he is a pioneer for us ethnic folk and his representation has given me a lot of courage to step into roles and talk about issues and things that need to change for the better of our future generations. He is a filmmaker, an actor, a musician, a writer, and an avid speaker and supporter of our generation and continues to pave the way for other ethnic minorities to change the way we perceive the world and how it gets reflected in cinema.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

KS: I have recently wrapped on a web series called The Comic Timings of Life directed by Mansi Mehta of Knockout Productions. More news coming on it soon. I also have a few exciting web series in line with Melbourne based production company Panorama Films which are in the pre- production stage.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of Aiyai: Wrathful Soul?

KS: I hope the audiences get a good experience from watching Aiyai. I really hope they walk away understanding the struggles and realities of international students working to make ends meet. I also would want them to walk away hopefully feeling for Kiran and also a little horrified by the tragedy.

BK: Would you want to work in a cemetery?

KS: Absolutely not! It’s like asking an actor playing a murderer if he’d like to murder someone 😀 I’ve had way too many encounters with the supernatural to ever be able to work in a cemetery.



A very special thanks to Kabir Singh for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

Check out the official Aiyai: Wrathful Soul website here, official Facebook page here, official Instagram page here, and official Twitter page here!

Check out Kabir Singh’s Facebook page here and his imdb page here!

Check out my review of Aiyai: Wrathful Soul here!

Kabir Singh profile image courtesy of Kabir Singh. All other images courtesy of Film Regions International.