There are certain actors who can leave a huge mark even with limited screen time. Navneet Nishan is one such actor, who featured in Karan Johar’s recent release, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, in just a scene but managed to grab eyeballs, despite the presence of so many other actors. In an exclusive interview with Bollywood Hungama, Navneet Nishan spoke about this film, her journey and a lot more.
EXCLUSIVE: Navneet Nishan talks about her Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani co-star Ranveer Singh: “Meeting him is like meeting an angel who has been sent by God”; also says “Shah Rukh Khan itna tangg karta tha sab ko. Yet, he was so lovable”
How has been the feedback to your scene in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani?
I am quite overwhelmed by the feedback as I thought I won’t even be noticed. I have received so many calls and messages.
How was it to shoot for Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani?
It was one of the best days for me. After COVID, there was so much sadness around. Shooting for the film was quite an uplifting experience. Meeting Ranveer Singh is like meeting an angel who has been sent by God! He especially came to my van out of the blue. He just went on and on about how much he liked Tara. He asked me what preparation went into it. I was at a loss for words as I didn’t expect this (laughs)!
He clicked selfies with me. He hugged me 5-6 times and kissed me 8-10 times. Zindagi mein kisi hero ne itna pyaar nahin dikhaya jitna usne dikhaya.
Then I knew Alia since she was a baby. I had seen her at birthday parties, dancing away to glory at the age of 5 or 6. On the sets, I saw a mature actress, who is in control. She’s also one of the finest actors we have right now. Jaya ji was also there. I mean I might be from the industry but even I also get star-struck. I am in awe of these people.
With Karan Johar, you don’t even realize you are working because there’s such an easy environment on the set. Some directors get very wired up. As an actor, you also catch that energy. But with him, it was so relaxing.
The night before the shoot, I didn’t sleep a wink as I was nervous. I was wondering will I be able to deliver amid such great actors in that scene. Imagine you go to the set with such a state of mind but then everyone in the unit showers love on you and makes you feel special. I also met old friends. I met Ibrahim Ali Khan, who was assisting Karan. He’s my friend’s son. I had never heard him speak Hindi so clearly. I was taken aback (laughs)! I came back ten notches higher with my happiness quotient. I thought, ‘Mera role koi notice karein ya na karein, lekin mera din toh bahut khoobsurat tareeke se guzra hai’. By God’s grace, my role got noticed. Hence, I am grateful.
Did you visit cinema halls to check the audience’s reaction? The reaction to your scene is insane…
I haven’t gone to the theatres yet. I am thrilled that the film is doing well. The industry needed a hit. The kind of effort that went into this film, the makers deserved to be applauded and acknowledged.
How did you bag the role?
Shanoo Sharma contacted me. She sent me a dummy scene. I was made to sign a contract, forbidding me from disclosing the contents of the scene. This was during COVID times. I self-auditioned.
I had previously worked with Karan for My Name Is Khan (2010) for which I had shot for 45 days. And I realized Karan’s is the only shahi (royal) set you’ll ever get to go to! Everything is mounted on a large scale. Aisi baatein hum sunte the pehle. Dekhne ko bahut kam milti hai. So, these are the last few people who do it on such a massive scale.
The iconic TV show Tara must be a turning point in your life. People must have started recognizing you on the streets. Is that correct?
Indeed. Producer Raman Kumar ji and Vinta Nanda, who was the writer-director, had told us when we started shooting ‘Dekhna, ek-do mahine mein tumhara kahin bhi jaana mushkil ho jaayega’. I didn’t believe them one bit. But exactly that’s what happened. I couldn’t believe that people were noticing me. In our residence in Lokhandwala, we didn’t have to see the time to see whether Tara is airing on TV because everywhere in the building, you can hear the tune of the show! It was a little dizzying, to say the least.
Are you still in touch with Vinta Nanda?
Not really. But her mother is also my insurance agent for the last 30-35 years. So I am in touch with her more than Vinta. In our industry, we all live in one part of the city. Lekin yeh badi ajeeb baat hai ki aapki mulakat hi nahin hoti with whom you have worked. I complain about this often, especially since I come from an army background. I have seen friends of my father, who’s known him for 20 years, and they would stay in our house. In our industry, when we are working, everyone is so warm towards each other. Lekin fir bhool jaate hai. At first, you do feel bad. But then you come to terms with it that there are 70-80 people in a unit. Kitne logon ko yaad rakhoge yaar!
It was very brave of Vinta Nanda to open up about Alok Nath…
Yes. The #MeToo died a very bad death in our country. My sister, who works in this field and through her, I have seen how aware the corporates have become. They are constantly booked by these companies to acclimatize employees on what they can and cannot do. When I hear about it, I feel that zyada nahin par thoda toh asar hua hai society mein.
You were a part of Time Machine, which sadly never got made…
Yes. It was directed by Shekhar Kapur. It had a fabulous cast, comprising Aamir Khan, Raveena Tandon, Rekha ji and also Naseeruddin Shah. It was quite sad. Even Muzaffar Ali’s Zooni got shelved. Till today, I feel disheartened. It had Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna. We used to be spellbound seeing the sets, made as per Muzaffar ji’s aesthetics.
Another film which got stuck, Jadoo, starred me opposite Shah Rukh Khan. I was looking like a bombshell in the film (laughs)! The director Pawan Kaul had told me, ’15 kilo kam karke aao’. Toh maine marr marr ke 15 kilo kam kiya tha (laughs).
Jadoo was rechristened as Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke and released in 2004, more than a decade after it originally went on floors…
Buri tarah release ki thi. It was a botched-up version. The makers had gone bankrupt. It broke my heart. My director used to call from the editing room and tell me, ‘Aa ke dekho tum kaisi lag rahi ho’. Main bhi hairaan thi ki main itni acchi kaisi lag rahi hoon!
How was it to work with Shah Rukh Khan?
My association with him went back a long way. He used to do theatre with Barry John. I had seen him in plays. He had starred in Mani Kaul’s Ahmaq. That was the first film I did with Shah Rukh. We shot in Goa for almost a month. Woh itna shaitaan tha. Itna tangg karta tha sab ko. Yet, he was so lovable. He was full of spunk. Now he’s quite mature and contained. At that time, he was so naughty.
One night, he played a prank on us. We used to stay in a place in Goa near the beach. You could simply walk from the beach to this place. But he said, ‘I’ll take you guys there through a better route’. He zabardasti made us go round and
After these films, I met him years later on the sets of My Name Is Khan. Even then, he was so warm and a gentleman. Meri aadat hai kone mein chup chaap baithne ki. He noticed me for a long time. One day, he made his spot boy put a chair next to me, put his stool, coffee etc. He settled himself and talked to me for a long time. It was so nice of him. No wonder everybody loves him.
You worked with Aamir Khan in several films. Recently, during the 30th anniversary of Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993), you revealed that you kissed Aamir Khan all day long…
I had told the journalist specifically that for continuity reasons, it was done. The word ‘continuity’ wasn’t mentioned. It seemed like Aamir zabardasti kiss hi karwaha raha hai poora din, as if he’s a weird man! Which was not the case. He’s very particular about continuity.
I met Aamir for the first time on the sets of Time Machine. It’s a college story. He was a stepbrother who was having a hard time with his siblings. I play this pataakha in college. Both of us had a long scene. We worked on it extensively. He must have noticed by a different approach to work. He, thus, recommended me to Bhatt saab. Soon after Time Machine’s schedule got over, I got a call from Bhatt saab’s office. He offered me a negative role in Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke. Mera munh thoda gir gaya. He insisted that I hear the narration. He added, ‘Agar aapko lage ki isme koi galat cheez hai aur aapko nahin karna hai, it’s totally upto you’. Writer Robin Bhatt ji then narrated the plot. I was mesmerized by the script as it seemed funny. Also, for the first time, I got a narration from start to finish. In those days, there used to be no script. I decided, ‘Bhale hi negative role ho, par main iss film ko karne waali hoon’.
How did you bag Dharmesh Darshan’s Raja Hindustani (1996)?
Dharmesh ji told me that when he saw Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke, he asked Aamir, ‘Yeh ladki kaun hai? Yeh ladki Juhi ko kha gayi hai’! He’s so sweet and adorable. He uplifts me as if main hi hoon iss industry mein. Aur koi hai hi nahin. Nevertheless, he found out who I was and came on my set to offer me Raja Hindustani. I was taken by his enthusiasm and the fact that he had no ego. Otherwise, why would a successful director come all the way to my set to meet me? He reasoned, ‘Mujhe aana hi tha as I respect you as an actor’. As an actor, you feel so fulfilled when a director tells you something like this. Of course, we need love from the audience but acknowledgment from co-actors and directors is equally important. Even today, Dharmesh ji and I are in touch. I am not in touch with anybody else.
Were you scared while shooting the scene where you and Veeru Krishnan are on top of the taxi?
Of course, I was. Veeru Krishnan ji was even more scared. I had to be the brave one. Agar Veeru ji girte, toh main bhi gir jaati. Those days, there were no safety cables. They didn’t even think that in dono ko kisi cheez se baandh hi do! Everytime the car would take a turn, Veeru ji would chipko with me and I would be like ‘Hum marne waale hai aaj’!
Your tomboyish look in the film was unique…
I loved my role. I usually get the roles of a rich b***h. I am capable of a lot more yaar. Tum mujhe naukar bana ke toh dekho. And in Raja Hindustani, we were playing servants and it was so enjoyable. It allows you to do a lot. Otherwise, when you play a rich b****h, all you can do is stand and be snobbish.
You were supposed to play a rich b****h in Dhadkan (2000) as well. You were seen in the song ‘Dulhe Ke Sehra’. But in the later scenes, your role is essayed by Manjeet Kullar. What made you leave the film midway?
I got married and moved to the USA. My in-laws were quite against my career in the film industry. This itself tells you that I was dealing with very unreasonable people. Hence, my marriage didn’t even last. At that time, no one would have understood my plight. But Dharmesh ji understood it completely. I begged him with folded hands that I won’t be able to do the film. It is one of my life’s greatest regrets. Later, I found out from an assistant that Dharmesh ji would keep telling Manjeet Kullar that ‘Navneet would have done this’. Woh bechari bhi pak gayi hogi ki mujhe kyun liya agar Navneet ke jaise karana hai toh. Dharmesh ji was so hung up on me doing that role. Yet, as a friend, he understood that I was in a strange position where it was either I save my marriage or work in a movie. Even today, he talks about the song ‘Dulhe Ka Sehra’ and says ‘Tu kya lag rahi hai woh gaane mein’!
Why don’t we see you more in films?
I guess it is the nature of the film industry. It is youth-centric. Secondly, either the filmmakers or the audience gets bored of the same actors in 5-7 years. So, a fresh batch comes in and they also get replaced. I have been in the industry for 35 years and I have seen this pattern. I cannot sit and complain as I understand how things work. Yet, I wait. And when I get a call from a film like Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, it reassures me that people remember that I exist. I am not aggressive in self-selling. That has always been a minus point. I am the one who waits for work rather than asking for it.
So do you never pick up the phone and call directors?
No. Dharmesh ji scolds me over this aspect. He says that even Mr Amitabh Bachchan asked for work when the need had arisen. However, I have realized you don’t get work by asking for it. The day they need you, they’ll call you. Aap kaam maang kar chhote bante ho. Saamne waala bhi embarrass hota hai. How can he/she offer me a role if he doesn’t have a requirement?
Is there any director you would like to work with?
My biggest ambition in life is to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I am waiting with my mouth open like a crocodile (laughs)! I don’t even know if he knows I exist. I quietly pray for it and hoping someday, it’ll happen.
Which are your forthcoming projects?
I have worked in (Radhika Madan-starrer) Sanaa, which has won awards in several film festivals. Then I worked on a web series called Chamak. It’ll premiere on Sony LIV. It is about the Punjabi music industry. In the world of men, I play the role of a manager of singers. I am called Rocky paaji. They call me ‘paaji’ (brother) as she has earned a place where she’s like a man. I am thrilled with my work in this show. I completed shooting for an untitled Punjabi film, for which we recently shot in Oslo, Norway. It stars actor-singer Ninja. I am all set to shoot another Punjabi film in October. It’ll be shot completely on a cruise ship in New Jersey, USA.
Also Read: Happy Birthday Sara Ali Khan: Navneet Nishan shares EXCLUSIVE picture of 6-year-old Sara dressed up as Kareena Kapoor in Asoka: “I had to make tattoos on her. I tied a scarf around her. Saif Ali Khan was in shock”
More Pages: Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani Box Office Collection , Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani Movie Review
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