For an actor the world is a stage, and for a comedian the whole world is funny. Naveen Polishetty is somewhere between the two: performing funny in a funny world. The actor of All India Bakchod (AIB) fame, who played the typical groom in Honest Indian Wedding and a passing-out student in Honest Bars and Restaurants, was last seen as a helpless grandson in the comedy riot Chinese Bhasad for Viacom18’s brand-new digital platform, Voot. You & I caught up with the actor/comedian who spoke candidly about his journey from Tollywood to being a YouTube star, and about Chinese Bhasad.
Let’s start with how you landed in this field. Tell us about the whole transition from Tollywood to AIB.
I was always into live performances in my school and college days and was gradually moving towards being an actor. Once it was clear that this is what I wanted, I decided to get trained in acting. Meanwhile, I did my engineering, and then took a corporate job.
After quitting my job and taking up theatre full-time, I realised that the money I spent on the after-party for the cast following a play was more than what I actually earned. So I started hosting live events, took up a few sales jobs during the day, and began auditioning in Mumbai. I once participated in a stand-up comedy open mic and won something, after which I got a five-minute slot to perform in a show where AIB was performing. And that’s how we first met. Oh… the first meeting! (blushes).
Tell us about your work with AIB and how different it is from mainstream content, considering they operate on a similar budget.
We love making sketches. Everything is shot just like how you would shoot a proper mainstream film. Of course, the script decides the scale of a video. Working with AIB is my favourite thing to do. I bleed Bakchod now.
Your new web series is called Chinese Bhasad. What’s it all about?
Chinese Bhasad is the story of a Lucknow boy working in Singapore who falls for a Chinese girl. And he brings her home to meet his parents. The madness that follows is the ‘Bhasad’. The whole series is out now, so you should binge watch it instead of me narrating what happens.
What made you decide to do the series?
I loved the idea of having a Chinese girlfriend (laughs). That’s one premise that hasn’t been explored much. And I never dated a Chinese girl in real life, either. I learnt some basic Chinese for the show as well. How the script addresses this clash of a conservative UP culture with Chinese in a humorous way is very novel. And it’s shot like a proper film.
Chinese Bhasad has garnered rave reviews. How do you feel about it?
It feels great. Voot is a new platform so I urge anyone reading this to encourage this show by sharing it if you like it. If you haven’t downloaded the app you can also watch it directly on the website. The whole film is out. So you can watch it at one go.
What’s your take on the recent controversy surrounding fellow AIB mate Tanmay Bhat’s Snapchat video?
We should have released Chinese Bhasad on Snapchat. More people would have seen it!
What are your views on web content? Which one do you prefer: the young and sassy Internet series/videos, or a traditional television show?
Web series is a great idea. Because otherwise no one would cast me in a lead role in a Bollywood film and release it. So the Internet gives middle-class people with no real film lineage an opportunity to get picked in good roles and do good work, and hope that some big director or producer is watching. Raj Kumar Hirani sir: if you are reading this, please watch Chinese Bhasad on Voot.
Traditional television is like revenge time for cinema. In our cinema, women don’t get too many meaty roles; TV is like that for men. Men have nothing to do but look good in saas bahu soaps. So in that sense, an Internet series is much more fun and, of course,there is less censorship and therefore a lot more freedom to create content that you like. --- as told to Augustin