Naveen Kasturia wanted to become the Woody Allen of India. While his acting ambitions have been realised, he is hopeful about getting the opportunity to direct someday. In this interview, he talks about his new show ‘Happily Ever After’, being on the stage since he was three years old, opting for acting over engineering, days as an assistant director and more.
You wrote your first skit when you were in the sixth grade. That means you were inclined towards creative arts from a very early age.
Yes, in fact I acted in a play for the first time when I was three years old. I was playing a super-bazaar in it. The skit, which I wrote when I was in the sixth grade was about a director who has come to this place where he is looking for actors and different characters are auditioning for it. I also played a small role in it. I played a unix who makes an entry towards the end of the skit.
You studied engineering in Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology (NSIT) and later worked with JP Morgan. When did you realise that you want to pursue acting as a serious profession?
Before going to NSIT, I joined Delhi College of Engineering. When I got ragged, I brought my mimicking skills to the fore and I became popular in the college because of that. After a while, I changed my branch and joined NSIT. There, nobody knew me. Once, they were making a play for a festival and they did not take me. I was very disappointed then. That is when I decided to make my own play and act in it. One thing led to another I realised I wanted to become a professional actor.
Initially, the plan was to become a director, right?
Well, I did come Mumbai to become an actor but I realised it was difficult to get acting jobs. That is when I thought maybe I should direct my own films and act in them as well, similar to what somebody like Woody Allen does.
Leaving a cushy job at JP Morgan and coming to Mumbai to become an actor and a filmmaker – that must have been tough.
At that time, it seemed fun. I used to always romanticise life. Actually, I do that even now (smiles). I was not driven by money or materialistic pursuits. Yes, those were tough days but I was driven by my passion for my craft and thought if I worked hard, I might be able to achieve my goals.
You assisted on films like ‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha’, ‘Shanghai’ and ‘Tigers’. How was that experience?
I was one of the worst assistant directors but I got to learn a lot (laughs). ‘Tigers’ was shot in early 2013 and released last year on Zee5. It is one of the finest scripts I have ever worked on. I worked on ‘Tigers’ with Danis Tanovic, who was an Oscar winning director. Emraan Hashmi is one of the most sincere actors and grounded human beings I have come across. Apart from ‘Tigers’, I got to see him work in ‘Shanghai’. It was incredible to see him play a character like Joginder in the film. He had this image of this massy hero and he left all that behind to play this rugged, uncouth character. On the sets of Shanghai, there was one day, when he was standing at one corner of the set quietly. He did not much to do and could have gone to his vanity van but he was present on the sets and was hanging out like a normal person. I found similar qualities in Rajkummar Rao. I used to give the clap on his first film ‘Love Sex Aur Dhokha’ and then, got to share the screen with him in ‘Bose: Dead Or Alive’.
Amit Masurkar has played an important role in your acting career.
Yes, I owe my acting career to Amit Masurkar. He gave me my first major acting break with ‘Sulemani Keeda’. Acting ka sulemani keeda usi film ke baad jaaga mere andar.
What made you say a ‘yes’ to ‘Happily Ever After’ and playing Roneet Bagchi?
I was very excited about the fact that it was a show which revolved around a wedding. There is always a sense of celebration and joy attached to a show or a film which depicts weddings. It has all that but it is set in a very realistic space. It is a very light show. Working on this show was quite different from anything I have done earlier. Navjot (Gulati, director) wanted all the actors come on the sets unrehearsed. He would ask us to improvise on the sets. In all my earlier projects, I have done workshops, rehearsals and trained really hard for the parts I have played. Here, I was asked to adopt a different process altogether. I had great fun doing that and I hope the audience likes the way the performances come across on the screen.
The one thing common between your co-actor Harshita Gaur and you is engineering. Did you both talk about your engineering days while working on the show?
That’s right! I realised that recently when somebody spoke mentioned it. Since we did not realise this earlier, we never really discussed it while shooting for the show.
You have shot for a couple of films like ‘Waah Zindagi’, ‘Aapkey Kamrey Mein Koi Rehta Hai’ and ‘Man To Man’ which have been ready for a while. Any idea as to when they are releasing?
No, I have not heard from the producers from a while. Each of the three films has a very unique concept. I am about to shoot for a show in Bhopal. It has something to do with start-ups. There are a couple of other projects in the pipeline which I will talk about soon.