In an exclusive conversation with ETimes, Neha spoke about her journey, her small world with husband Amitosh Nagpal and her experience with her co-stars like Ayushmann Khurrana, Kartik Aaryan, Rajpal Yadav and Vijay Raaz.
Kathal has been getting good reviews from critics and audience alike.
It feels good when your work gets good reviews. It always feels good being a part of a film that says a lot of things with lots of entertainment.
What are people’s reactions to your performance?
It’s been good. Almost 70-80% of the women in our country do housework and work outside without complaining. And, Kunti has the same role. So, I’m very fortunate to have this role where I got to show a glimpse of all the women who deal with all these things.
Guneet Monga is one of the producers of the film. Did you meet her?
We were on set together, and Guneet was with us for a long time. And, we were together when we had our premiere. She’s a very good producer, and she always takes care of the smallest and biggest members. She treats everyone very well. That’s a very good quality. After the premiere, we had a small party at Ekta Kapoor’s house and she’s very happy. We had a lot of fun, and we all touched the Oscar trophy. Everyone’s wish is to hold the Oscar someday. And, Guneet is so sweet.
Are awards important to you?
No, the awards don’t mean much to me. But, yes, it does make you feel good when you win an award. But, actually, I came from a very small place. From being a girl from a small city to the big city, with a lot of ups and downs, is itself like an award to me. Maybe getting an award will have a different experience altogether but I’m enjoying this journey. I’m very blessed and grateful that I’m getting to be a part of these kinds of work.
Did you face any kind of problems when you first came to Mumbai?
Not as such. I’m from NSD, so we have seniors and juniors around. So, you get a certain kind of family. A lot of people from the theatre are there, so you don’t feel alone. But, obviously, no matter if you have families here, even if you’re born here, you have your own personal struggles. But, I’m so lucky.
You debuted with Kushti, but that film didn’t reach a lot of people. Did the industry people treat you in a different way post that?
You start with small things. You have hopes that something will happen. This is a part of everyone’s life. But already, I was doing a lot of theatre. I was doing Aao Saathi Sapna Dekhe with Swanand Kirkire, Poha Gone Wrong with Makarand Deshpande, Piya Behroopia with Atul Kumar. As an actor, I never felt that hollow space. I was always on stage and interacting with the audience. So I never felt that way.
So how did you meet your husband Amitosh Nagpal amid all this?
Amitosh is a year junior to me from NSD. He’s from Karnal. I’m from Jabalpur, MP. We met in a different place. We became friends from there. Actually, we were very close friends and we continued to be friends, irrespective of all tags that came our way. He is an actor and a writer. He has written a lot of films and songs. He is also a theatre director. And we also have our own production house. So this is our small world.
What is necessary for a healthy relationship?
For a healthy relationship, you need to fight first (laughs). How do you get along with your friends? You fight, you convince each other on certain things. Sometimes you go against each other, sometimes you go with them. You have to fight, love each other, listen to each other. These are the things I find necessary. Sirf pyaar pyaar pyaar thoda jyada meetha ho jayega na, gadbad ho jayegi (laughs).
So are you planning any projects under your production house?
Yes, we are planning some short films. We also have theatre productions. We are also directing two more plays. We also do small works for children. Children need a circle, a place to play and make friends away from mobile phones and gadgets.
You don’t have a filmy background…
I am the only girl in my family who has come to a faraway place. We are a very traditional family. That’s why I am saying that I feel like I have won an award every day.
Where did you get the motivation to do this?
I have been on stage since childhood. I was probably 3-4 years old since I started singing and dancing. I have a lot of interest in folk singing. I have always been ahead in cultural activities. I always liked to be on stage. I like to get the attention and appreciation of the audience. I was performing in college. I was in a competition and a judge asked me, ‘Why don’t you try for NSD?’ I didn’t know anything about NSD. So he asked me to join a theatre group. The rehearsal used to happen late in the evening. My father was a bit worried but he finally gave me permission. After graduation, I was sitting with 2-3 artists from the same group and they were filling forms for NSD. One of them was like, ‘I am not ready for NSD yet’ and asked if somebody wants to fill it. And I just said, ‘Ok, I’ll fill it.’ And luckily, I got selected in 4-5 rounds of interviews. It was a big thing because they were only taking 20 people from across the country at that time. From there, I got a clear direction, I was enjoying it and I decided that this is what I am going to do.
You started your career in 2007. Did you ever have a low point in your life?
In our life, action, reaction, and rejection are all connected. Sometimes you feel low when you get rejected. I don’t want to say low, but I would like to call it an experience. I don’t want to see it as something dark. It’s a part of my journey and I’m sure it will come in handy as an actor. I don’t know if I’ll be successful. I love my work. I’ve never been able to think of it that way. Maybe, because of theatre, it feels like my desire is being fulfilled.
So you basically love what you’re doing right now…
You won’t believe me, but I love auditioning. When I started working, people used to make fun of me. But I really enjoy it. I’m not tired of auditioning. It’s a different kind of joy.
What is your parameter for success?
Success is when you’re happy with yourself. If you’re not enjoying yourself, if you’re not happy with your work, then it doesn’t mean anything. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, that’s what success is to me.
How was your experience with Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, Kartik Aaryan?
I’ve worked with Vijay in three films. He’s such a great actor. You can learn a lot from his company. He’s so easygoing. He doesn’t look stressed. He’s just happy on set. It’s so pleasant and interesting to watch him as an actor. His every scene, every take is different.
With Rajpal, he’s a gem of a person. I’ll never forget my first film. It was 48-49 degrees. It was the last scene of the wrestling match. We couldn’t even keep our feet on the sand without the slippers but still he gave that shot. In Kathal also, his dedication was still the same. He was wearing a wig and he was literally sweating like a glass of water. It was so hot. But he didn’t have a frown on his face. You don’t get to see this kind of dedication.
With Ayushmann and Kartik, I would say that the current lot of actors is very friendly to work with. They introduced themselves, we laughed and talked. I never felt like I was interacting with a star. They never differentiated between the actors and got involved with everyone. There is no ounce of stardom in both of them.