There are not many one-film-old actors you meet in the industry who manage to leave quite an impression with both their on-screen and off-screen attitudes, yet Nakuul Mehta manages to do both. He chooses to travel his own path come what may and is determined to prove his talent in an industry where getting noticed sometimes seems very much impossible. However getting noticed just happens to be his inherent trait because regardless of the fact that his debut film didn’t fare as well as it was hoped to have, the model-turned-actor left an impression on all those who witnessed his talent. Now he returns for his second film and an unconventional choice it is indeed making him stand out of the crowd even more! As he gears up for the release for his Ajay Singh directorial, Avant Garde Pythagoras Sharma, I once again catch up with Nakuul to chat about this exciting film in the horizon. Read on to get all the details!
Was it a conscious decision to do something so different in your second film or a work of fate?
“It was fate. Fate brought us together.” Sounds dramatic, eh! Would have loved to start with that line but that wouldn’t be true!
But what is true is that, it was a conscious decision to do good work and work which challenged me as an actor. Something different. I am not so sure, because at the end of the day, AGPS is still an Indian film, made by a bunch of crazy boys.
Since your debut film didn’t perform as well as hoped did you ever fear that doing an Indie short film as your second film would further distance you from the audiences or did you merely give importance to the fact that this was something ‘you’ wanted to do?
First thing, I would have done AGPS irrespective of the box office failure or success of my debut film. I started with a commercial romantic film but that doesn’t mean that my sensibilities in cinema lie only towards run of the mill stuff. As an actor, that was something which appealed to me at that point in my life and I did it with complete conviction and am proud of my work in Haal-e-Dil. However when I read AGPS and met Ajay, our director, I loved his vision and his writing particularly and did not think of where the film could take me or how would it look on my resume or whether it will find me newer audience. That’s the great part about not being part of a legacy or a having a filmy last name. I feel liberated by not having to live to a certain image of a Khan or Kapoor and thereby having the freedom to create my own path and make my own mistakes. AGPS is a step in that direction. And just for cheap thrills, I must mention that the trailers of AGPS have not only got me some very interesting feedback personally but also a lot of compliments for going out there and doing my thing.
Could you relate to Pythagoras Sharma in anyway?
Pythagoras is everything I am not. Escapist, idealist, pseudo intellectual, pessimist and shit scared of his father.
I love my father and am the eternal optimist. But where I could relate with Pythagoras was his struggle. The struggle within! That is something I face everyday. A struggle to stick to my guns, to defeat the fear & doubt which crops every now and then and a struggle to retain the self, which can be very easily corrupted in today’s times. The only difference being, unlike Pythagoras, I relish struggle.
I’ve read that the amount of research and preparation you did was quite enormous, for a short film as you say, so you think this has now changed your perspective towards how actors should approach roles?
Pythagoras Sharma required the research because it was far removed from anything I had ever experienced. Honestly, I quite enjoyed the pre-production phase of studying to play the part, watching some very interesting films like a clockwork Orange, Un chien andalou & videos of Syd Barrett. Ajay also wanted me to sound the part. You will hear a very distinctive difference in Shekhar from Haal-e-Dil and Pythagoras from AGPS. But again that was the requirement.
However I feel sometimes Indie filmmakers & actors get carried away and intellectualize everything. Cinema and acting to me is spontaneity. I totally enjoyed all the prep, which was wonderful, but eventually you need to get on set and think on your feet, which no amount of research or prep can give you.
Hence, my research and prep for any role will depend on the requirement of that particular character and the director.
How different was the approach you took to that of mainstream Indian cinema or say the approach you would have taken for a normal, commercial Hindi film like Haal-e-Dil?
Not different at all. I would put in the same kind of effort or research in any other project. Though every director works from a different space and eventually I would look to my director for his vision with the character. In this case, Ajay wanted all of the prep work to be done and I chose to be an obedient actor. It was new style of working for me and I loved it. The only difference being that in this case, I wasn’t particularly worried about how I looked or how my hair set. I felt absolutely great going without makeup and not looking at the monitor post my shot. I learnt to let go.
You’ve said that both Ajay and you had very different influences when it comes to cinema yet you saw a merging of them when you came together to work, so do you think that perhaps the divide between different lines of cinema(art house, mainstream, etc.) may be lesser than what is perceived?
I feel a bias still exists amongst both; the so called categories of filmmakers. To me, cinema is an art and every artiste will paint a different canvass and visualize something which is unique to him. Having said that, the newer generation of film audiences, makers & actors are accepting and loving a Raju Hirani as much as a Dibakar Banerjee.
When I first met Ajay, I had only recently begun watching Entourage (the American TV series) and absolutely loved it. I totally imagined him to laugh at my choice but strangely I shared it with him and he is now a huge entourage fan and even downloads the latest episodes of Entourage and sends it over.
Honestly speaking, how much did you enjoy quashing the stereotype that good looking actors and also act? (Please also mention why you think such a stereotype may exist amongst some and do you think it’s changing, if not, what do you think it’ll take to change it?)
Honestly, who cares! But I’d like to thank you for the backhanded compliment nonetheless.
As long as the looks are not coming in the way of performing varied roles, it doesn’t hurt to look alright on the screens.
The film has been a huge learning experience for you, I hear, so tell us a couple of things you take away from this experience?
I absolutely agree. I take back lessons in humilty, which I learnt from senior actors like Joy Fernandes and Benjamin Gilani. It’s a pleasure to watch them ‘be’ the way they are on a set and also a constant reminder to keep yourself on check at all times.
The passion quotient is something which is very infectious and will be synonymous with the boys (hopefully a few women too – in the future) from the Fully Underground Cinema Korridor. I hope to build on that and keep working on pushing myself on every project hereon.
Do you think doing such a piece of cinema so early in your career will prove beneficial to you?
You make it sound like we have won an Oscar already. I don’t know how the film will turn out but I can promise that you will hear more of our team in the future.
Honestly, I enjoyed working on it and it doesn’t matter where it goes from hereon. It will only be a bonus.
Expectations from the film (i.e. do you think it’ll bring you new brand of work in cinema, and also expectations of how it’ll be received by viewers)?
I am quite sure that this film has taken me a step ahead as an actor and provided me with enough fuel for thought on the kind of work I would like to attempt. I hope it generates sufficient interest and we are able to go out and do the kind of work we want too more freely, with more resources at hand.
I hear a Spanish film is in the horizon (a very exciting opportunity indeed). Tell us a bit about when and how this happened.
I am working on a Spanish production next, titled Flamenco en Bollywood. Mystically, I heard about this project on the phone just before I was ready to deliver my climax scene for AGPS. It’s mucho exciting and I look forward to traveling a lot on the film. It’s a romantic film set against the backdrop of Bollywood and will have gorgeous faces on screen. Not giving out more
What’s next for you on the Hindi screens?
As soon as something equally interesting comes up, I would gladly jump on and share it with all of you. Though if you watch Indian television regularly you can watch me doing some cool stunts on new bike campaign for Mahindra and taking beauty tips from Srk on a sin cream campaign.
I’m not quite sure why he’s the receiving end of the beauty tips rather than handing them out! That aside, the actor sure has some much more interesting opportunities grasped including this Spanish project that certainly has me intrigued! But for now keep your eyes out for Avant Garde Pythogoras Sharma!