Nakuul Mehta: “At heart, Shivaay wants to do good for people”


After ‘Pyaar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyaara Pyaara’ (PKDH), TV heartthrob Nakuul Mehta – who is celebrating his birthday on 17th January – seems to have struck gold with his show ‘Ishqbaaaz’ which has gained much popularity since it commenced last year. His character Shivaay Singh Oberoi is aloof but also hugely likeable in some aspects, almost in contrast to Adi from ‘PKDH’. caught up with the actor earlier this month to pose questions from his fans from across the globe.

(Photographs by Shyama Sudra)

Nakuul Mehta, London 3 - 400x

If there is one piece of advice you could give your ‘Ishqbaaaz’ character, Shivaay Singh Oberoi, what would it be?
Stop being an Male Chauvinist Pig. I have too many problems with how the character behaves on screen; those are some personal issues I have with it, but having said that I think it’s a lot of fun playing that because most Indian men are exactly this guy in different forms, and who live this life. I just wish he could be slightly more empathetic, and a bit more of a feminist than an MCP. But otherwise I’m good playing him.

So what was the appeal of the character when you were first approached to play this character?
I think it was interesting for someone to offer me something that was so different from the last show they saw me on. Adi was a boy next door, lover boy, quintessential television hero. I think it was interesting because all the offers that came to me post ‘PKDH’’ were repeats, and I was trying to stay away from that kind of television. When this came this was something I wanted to do personally, and I also thought it would be interesting for people to see a show that is based on the lives of three brothers. There’s already too many sisters and bahus and saans’ and all of that. So I thought ‘Ishqbaaaz’ is a fresh take.

As the role is so different from your first, do you see a personal change in your own self?
Yes, there were some conscious changes which I brought about. There were also some sub-conscious changes that happened while playing this character. There’s a certain body language which he has and I don’t have in real life at all, I’m very easy going. I get to be this kind of uptight guy and have that type of strong body language. It was initially a little draining because there was so much effort required on my part to do it. Also there were some scenes which I had issues with in terms of how Shivaay would react. So it was emotionally disturbing for me initially, and I’ve had long chats with my creative producer and producer Gul, having arguments about it and more often than not she said to me “Look women are going to love this.” And she was right (laughs).

We often see you tweeting about your long shifts. What would you say are the best & worst things about being a TV actor?
I think the best part of being an artist on television is the audience you get. I might be working in a small studio closet to Madh Island near Mumbai which is a small suburb. And working as hard as anyone else like you are in your city, but the kind of reach an Indian TV show that does well has is fabulous. And my last few days in London have just been incredible. We’ve had fans literally chasing us. Jankee (wife) and I were at the Breakfast Club in Soho, and she put up a post on Instagram, as we had a 20 minute wait she put up a story on how we’re had to wait in the queue. There were these girls who found her story and found us while we were leaving which was incredible. Also, at Winter Wonderland, I ended up meeting a few fans, and when I got back I saw at least 15 direct messages on Instagram saying “Listen we searched for you for a few hours and we couldn’t find you.” I felt terrible about it and that I shouldn’t have even mentioned that I would be there. So it’s all incredible because I don’t think I deserve any of that. It’s just the roles I play which deserve this or may not even deserve this. I think people are happy to meet that guy but TV does that to you. As for the filming side of things, I really try and look for some balance in my life because for me life isn’t just about acting or being on TV. It’s a lot more than that, so I’d love to be more invested in my friends’ lives, and my family’s lives – much more than I am. There are birthdays I’ve missed, anniversaries I’ve missed, there have been kids who have been born and I haven’t seen them in a year and it’s sad. But such is life I guess, as these are sacrifices that you have to make.

You’ve been in London for a few days and, as you mentioned, you have met quite a few fans. Did you expect ‘Ishqbaaaz’ to get that much love from an international audience?
To be honest, ‘PKDH’ was very very popular. When I got the airport when I arrived in London, out of 15-20 people who recognised me, about 90% of them recognised me from that, despite that show ending two years back. Jankee and I were talking about how amazing it is that people still remember you because there have been too many shows that have come and gone post that. There have been four shows that have come in the same slot on Star Plus alone. For people to still remember you is pretty incredible. Now there’s a different kind of audience I think, ‘PKDH’ was more of a family audience and I had a lot of love from mothers and nanis and dadis. For ‘Ishqbaaaz’ is has shifted to a younger audience, aged 14-24 I think. I’m happy that I’m able to cover the entire market of 14-60.

Surprised? No, because I thought it was a show that would appeal to NRI’s especially with the way it’s very larger than life, very glossy, we speak a lot of English. I’m not surprised but it’s still very heartening to know that people love the show and it’s fun.

Nakuul Mehta, London - 400x

Is there anything you love about Shivaay Singh Oberoi?
Oh, there are lots of things I love about him. I wouldn’t have been able to play the character if there wasn’t anything that I liked about him. Despite of all the surface level issues he has, at the core I think he’s a family guy, He’s just emotionally challenged, that’s his problem. He doesn’t know how to deal with people, and especially this woman in his life (Annika). But at heart you know he wants to do good for people. I think the way he is with his brothers and grandmother is beautiful. As an artist I think it’s very challenging to play somebody who’s nothing like you at all and I enjoy that. It’s challenging because once ‘PKDH’ ended, a lot of people used to meet me and back slap me and hug me, and used to say “This is Adi, this is our guy.” With Shivaay, people are scared of me. They meet me and ask, “Sir can we take a picture? I didn’t want to disturb you.” I’ve realised now that it’s because they don’t know me because in normal life I’m ready to meet anybody. I think that’s the effect the character has, which I think is interesting because a lot of people don’t disturb me when I’m eating anymore, because they’re scared and think “How is this guy going to react? Is he going to throw a mobile phone or the next thing in his hand?” (laughs).

You have great interaction with your fans on Twitter. Do you ever “stalk” your fans on social media and check out who they are?
Of course I do, every normal human being does that, right? If someone has an interesting question to ask me then I would want to know who that person is. But having said that, have I stalked or followed what they’ve done, no I don’t think so. Also I don’t have the bandwidth to do it even if I wanted to, because there are so many things happening when you’re shooting a daily show, it’s just too hard. Even my mother… When I pack up after a day’s shoot, my mother would want me to bring her groceries when I’m coming back, and I don’t even remember the list she sends me. I remember some people by their IDs; especially the one’s who’ve been in touch with me since ‘PKDH’. It doesn’t feel like a fan-actor relationship. I treat them like friends. Some actually run my fan club account – these young girls; Pari, Pariksha, there is Mansi, Mansi’s in Canada Pariksha’s in Amsterdam. There is Alia, there’s Mauri she’s in America. There are a few of them and they’re just very sweet girls who are studying in college, and I, once in a while, check how they’re doing. But it’s the ones who have stuck around for a while. I haven’t had a chance to check out everyone but maybe I should.

If there was a time in your life that you could go back to, what time would that be?
I don’t remember the time of when I was born (laughs). I’d love to live that memory of what the nurse thought when she saw me. Like I would want to know those things, like what was her reaction.

What is the one thing that annoys you?
Actually, I’m very patient with most things in life, very rarely things get to me, but disrespect to human life is something I do not like at all. That happens at different levels, at the place we work and other places especially in India there’s a lot of hierarchy and things we do and that’s something I’m not OK with.

Which part is tougher; acting or being a celebrity?
Honestly neither. Acting is like any other job. It’s about how good you want to get at your craft and how much you’re willing to work. I don’t know if it’s hard because, honestly, no job is easy. Being a celebrity isn’t something I’ve ever thought about. You know I live my life on my own terms and how I want to live it. If being a celebrity means you’ve got to keep a distance from your fans and behave quite ‘hoity-toity’, then I don’t care about that. If the fans want to meet me and they’ve been waiting three hours and come to Winter Wonderland it would be stupid of me to not even say hello because that’s what I work towards. Why would I run away from that? I don’t do anything by the rule book. I address it as a human being.

Would you ever leave ‘Ishqbaaaz’ for a Bollywood film?
No, not at all. That would be stupid. There are many Bollywood films which release every week and I don’t know how many people actually go and buy a ticket but people watch ‘Ishqbaaz’ irrespective. I have an audience. For me, I think the audience is important. I could be doing theatre, film or TV and as long as there’s an audience liking the work you’re doing, I would never leave something for another medium, no.

Nakuul Mehta, London 2 - 400x

Have you ever thought of being a writer?
I don’t think I’m equipped to be a writer honestly but I like to pen my thoughts down and I do it very often, whenever something touches me. But I don’t think I’m a writer. I am more someone who pens what’s in my heart. I think being a writer is much more than that. It’s like today anyone who has an opinion thinks they are a writer or critic or they’re an actor. We all have opinions, all of us are on social media but that doesn’t make us writers. I don’t think so. But at some point I would like to write about some areas of my life but just for myself. I don’t think I’d find an audience at all.

Do you watch TV?
Very rarely. If it was up to me I wouldn’t have a TV in my house. Me and my wife have fought about it, but we finally got a TV. She wanted it in the bedroom, I said “That’s not happening.”  So we have a TV, but honestly I’m not a TV fan at all, I would rather be outdoors and meet people, watch movies and theatre.  

Will there be a second season of ‘i Dont Watch TV’, your web series?
Yes, there will be eventually. The thing is, as I have the commitment of a daily show, a second season can’t happen because I need to be in it (laughs). However, right now the team and I are working on a different show and that’s caught our attention. But a second season of ‘i Don’t Watch TV’ will happen at some point.

Finally, will we ever see Shivaay in jeans & a t-shirt?
No! I don’t think that will ever happen. would like to thank all the people who tweeted questions for Nakuul Mehta (so sorry we couldn’t fit them all in) and the actor himself for taking time out to talk to us.

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