Naveen Kasturia has been the poster boy of good content on OTT. From Pitchers to Aspirants, he has been part of some path-breaking shows, and the recent success of TVF Aspirants, also featuring Shivankit Singh Parihar and Abhilash Thapliyal, has strengthened his position. Recently, he also brought his quirky side on screen with Runaway Lugai and in an exclusive conversation with Spotboye.com, the actor gets candid about Aspirant’s success, friendship with Shivankit, Abhilash and Sunny Hinduja, and more. Read excerpts from the interview:
From the studious Abhilash in TVF Aspirants to quirky Rajini in Runaway Lugai. You have taken a 180-degree turn for your viewers in just a span of a few days…
Actually, when you work on a script, you don’t know about the time of its release. Runaway Lugai happened about a year before Aspirants. The latter was shot in Dec 2020-Jan 2021, but Runaway was shot in 2019 end. Also, as an actor, you are always looking for different parts. If TVF is offering something to me now, I am just going with that. I don’t care about my character or the script as I have that kind of trust on TVF about the quality. As for Rajini, it was a very whacky character and something I had never done before. The way Abir Sengupta narrated it, I really enjoyed it. I was getting to be a judge in Patna who tries to portray himself as Rajinikanth in front of people but at home, he is this submissive person whom his father dominates. I really liked the world it was set in and I latched on to it.
Tell us something about Runaway Lugai that would appeal to the audience.
The cast there is very impressive and Sanjay Mishra sir was a big reason for me to say yes as well. I am in a very different avatar in the show and that was appealing to me. Also, it is a very light-hearted show suited for this time. The audience doesn’t need to think much to see it. At some places, it might seem logically incorrect but it is a simple and easy-going show. There is no vulgarity and you can watch it to have fun. Aspirants is inspirational and motivational and will strike a chord with you, but Runaway won’t do any of that. It’s a very surface-level story and character but it should be an easy watch.
You have been a part of OTT, even before it became the monster it is today. What changes do you see on the platform from then to now?
The audience was limited earlier, but now OTT has emerged like a dinosaur. There are lots of players and content. Even our parents are addicted to their phones now and everyone is accessing OTT all the time. The consumption has increased and so has the production. Every show has an audience. A good show will obviously have a wider reach but even an average show gets its section of audience since we are so much and taste is subjective. There is something for everyone. I still feel that the demand is greater than the supply and I think it has benefitted Aspirants and Runanway Lugai.
Your character Abhilash in Aspirants had a kind of a pessimistic point of view. Are you like that in real life?
Abhilash wasn’t pessimistic as such, but how his attitude was, he sees problems everywhere. He doesn’t see how it can be solved and that is something Dhairya implants in him. Even as Naveen, I am sometimes in this zone. When I read the first three episodes, I felt that Abhilash was ranting a lot and was always being sad because of something. I was doubtful if he will be likeable as we wanted the audience to empathise with him since it was his story. But going forward we saw that he was selfish, egoistic and arrogant as well, but that is what made him human and attracted me too. I think there is a lot of Abhilash in me and that’s why I connected with him. Although, I am not completely like him since Abhilash cribs about any issue without thinking about the solution, but I think about some positive side as well.
What have you learnt from Abhilash?
I have learnt to apply the positive approach from this character. There are a lot of things that we fear or feel conscious about in life. I fear calling people or asking for work, it makes me feel odd. But I think that if we look at it from a positive approach, there’s nothing much wrong with it.
As from the story of the show, I learnt that success has no value unless you have family and friends to share it with, that Sandeep Bhaiya talks about in the final episode. Usually through our stories, we motivate to follow dreams and passion, but we don’t show that they mean nothing if you don’t have your family by your side. You don’t understand this in your 20s, you get this realisation a little later.
How did your friendship with Abhilash, the actor, and Shivankit flourish during the show?
The deepest connection that I formed while working on the show was with Sunny Hinduja. We were shooting in Delhi and Abhilash was living with his family. Even I am from Delhi but due to fear of spreading Covid infection, I wasn’t living with them. Sunny is from Mumbai so he was also with me in the hotel and thus we spent a lot of time together. After shoot, we would talk till late at night. We developed a deep friendship and that kind of reflected in our scenes. When you trust each other so much, it becomes an involuntary acting exercise. That helped in our scenes as well and I enjoyed those scenes a lot.
As for Shivankit, I had known him from before. We have worked together and I have been a fan of him. So, we had an old friendship. Namita is also an old friend. I met Abhilash for the first time on the show but he is someone who becomes anyone’s friend very easily. So, off-camera, we had very good chemistry with each other and our director Apoorv Singh Karki had a big role to play in that. There was no vibe about discriminating between seniors and juniors, so we made the show very happily.
As you mentioned your friendship with Sunny, it really reflected in the finale scene that you both had…
Not just the finale scene but in every scene that we shared; I think reflected that. He was so good that I was genuinely listening to him. And on camera, we would both try to help each other. It’s not just about the lines but exchanging energy and in such give and take, many magical things happen that are not written on paper.
So, when is Aspirants 2 happening?
I think Abhilash’s story is incomplete for now. We haven’t seen how he became an IAS, so ideally there should be a season 2. When and how it happens, that all depends on first writing the script. I just hope TVF is keen on doing a season 2 and they should as season 1 worked so well. But then, you can’t say anything as Pitchers also did well but it has been six years since it ended. I am the last person to talk about season 2 actually. (Laughs)
You have been a part of films as well, but on OTT you have created a niche for yourself. Do you plan to return to films?
I am still a part of films, and I feel that lines have kind of blurred now. When I audition, I am auditioning for shows as well as films too. The medium is different but you are trying to tell a story at both places. A show would probably need more time from you, but I am just treating them as just stories. When I am offered anything, I don’t look at the medium but the story. Initially, people might have had their doubts about web, but I didn’t.
As far as films are concerned, why wouldn’t I want to do that? Any actor would love to be a part of films, and now the lines have blurred as films are also being made for OTT. It’s all for web right now. Even some of my films have come out as web shows. I did a movie called Man to Man which came out as a web show as Pati, Patni Aur Panga. But it was made as a feature film. There was another film called Aapke Kamre Mein Koi Rehta Hai, which also came out as a series. Even though I wasn’t sure of that idea since they were shot in a film format and should have released that way, but that is the producer’s call. I am doing films as well as series, but it just depends on the story now.
Image Source: Instagram/naveenkasturia