Monday, April 15, 2024

‘Working with Sanjay Dutt and Anupam Kher has pushed me to excel in personal and professional life’

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Tejal Sinha

Model-turned-actor Navneet Malik is at his beck and call with his upcoming projects alongside the veterans and experienced actors, whom to date we can’t stop adoring. Well, he, who began his journey with Elite Model, has today gained much traction not only in the modeling industry but also in acting too. Being someone who has throughout dedicated himself to self-improvement, initially had the opportunity to work with major brands including Raymond, Mufti, Spiko, and renowned designers like Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Malhotra. And later, after reaching out to multiple casting directors for his acting opportunity, he finally got his first break with a small role in Love Hostel and then with Heropanti 2. But now, with 2023, he is all set to work on big projects, alongside Anupam Kher in The Freelancer, which is going to stream on September 1, and The Virgin Tree, portraying Sanjay Dutt.

This year to him is no more than a creative year; as he says, “The Freelancer holds a special place for me. It marks my official entry into the Bollywood industry. I’m taking on the role of the negative lead in a series created by Neeraj Pandey, and this is a significant and exciting step in my life.”

Neeraj Pandey’s films are known for their realistic storytelling and cinematic brilliance, and this next step in his journey was beyond anything he had imagined. Navneet will be seen taking on the role of the main antagonist, the negative lead, in the series. However, without revealing much of the details, he shares, “It’s important to note that his character is multifaceted. Throughout the series, you’ll witness both positive and negative aspects of this character. The story takes his character on a journey that creates conflicts and adds depth to the narrative. It’s not a typical one-dimensional villain role; rather, it’s a character that embodies both sides of the spectrum.”

“I approach every character as just that – a character. I don’t categorize them as negative or positive; my focus is solely on portraying the character authentically,” he continues as he talks of playing a negative character and the preps he’d done. He believes that audiences are also evolving in their perspective of characters, accepting them as part of the story rather than just as villains or heroes. Cinema has changed, and with it, the way audiences engage with it. However, taking on this particular character wasn’t an easy task. “It involved a wide range of emotions that needed to be conveyed consistently throughout the role. It was my first time portraying a character with such depth for an extended period of time. Moreover, I found myself surrounded by exceptional talents—the best director, production team, co-stars like Anupam Kher, Mohit Raina, Kashmira Pardeshi, Sushant Singh, Shahid, and more. Collaborating with them was both a challenge and a learning opportunity. Despite the challenge, the support I received from everyone around me was invaluable. Being naturally positive in my personal life, I had to delve into a character with both positive and negative sides. I read the book “Ticket to Syria” and studied related interviews to understand the character’s psyche.”

With the guidance of my director, Bhav Dhulia, co-star Kashmira Pradesi, and even Shahid Latif, he gradually developed a better understanding of the character. Sometimes, a character is relatable and shares aspects of real life, which can make it easier to connect with, and the deft actor couldn’t agree more. However, he believes that there is also a challenge and excitement in portraying characters that are quite different from yourself.

In the case of Mohsin in The Freelancer, he says, “It’s the same kind of excitement. Playing a character that breaks the boundaries of my own personality is both a challenge and a source of fun. I don’t view it as playing a negative lead in a negative light. I hope that as my career progresses, people will see this character as just that—a character—and not something that limits me to a certain type of role. In fact, I have other projects where I’m taking positive leads as well. I’m going with the flow, embracing each character for what they bring to the story, and not letting any preconceived notions define how I approach my roles.”

Talking of his upcoming project that’s already making waves, the film would mark Navneet as the only actor after Ranbir Kapoor to portray Sanjay Dutt. Well, well, well! Huge, isn’t it? And he couldn’t be more grateful to Sanju Baba and director Siddhant Kumar Sachdev for the opportunity.

It all started when the director reached out to him. They had earlier worked on four other projects in the past, and she asked if he’d be interested in a new role. At first, “I wasn’t aware of what it was about. Eventually, he revealed that I would be portraying Sanjay Dutt, and I was truly thrilled about it. During that time, I was already engaged in shooting for another project, and the shooting schedules were overlapping. I discussed this with Siddhant, explaining my situation. He assured me that this was going to be a significant opportunity. I was excited as well. However, due to some changes, the project was postponed. Finally, I got the role, and I had discussions with the team about how they envisioned the character. We delved into the details of how I should approach it—from the walk to body language, even how to speak.”

Getting to work with senior actors during the initial stage of one’s career is no less than a dream, and for him it’s been eye-opening because, “I had a different perspective when it came to working with senior actors. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d feel working alongside them, but it turns out they’re fantastic individuals. Sanjay Dutt, for instance, is like a guiding presence, just sitting there and talking to me in such a kind and supportive way. I’ve never felt that overwhelming “He’s Sanjay Dutt” feeling. Growing up, we’ve watched him in amazing movies, and he’s inspired us. But in person, he’s just a down-to-earth person. People love and respect him for who he is, and that’s reflected in his approachability. Similarly, with Anupam Kher, you don’t feel any discomfort or attempts to make you uncomfortable. They are both genuinely grounded individuals. Their energy on set, especially Sanjay Dutt’s during the shooting of Virgin Tree, is remarkable. Despite having experienced so much in life, his enthusiasm and energy while shooting are contagious. He strives to make each shot better than the last, and witnessing that really motivates me to work harder and break my own personal and professional boundaries. Anupam Kher, too, shares that same authenticity. The experience of working with them has taught me a lot and pushed me to excel both in my professional and personal lives.”

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