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Navika Kotia: Sridevi’s daughter in English Vinglish makes OTT debut with Amazon miniTV’s School Friends

Navika also plays the lead in the Zee TV serial Kyunki Saas Maa Bahu Beti Hoti Hai airing from September 18

Sameer Salunkhe Calcutta Published 18.09.23, 04:22 PM
Navika Kotia stars in the Amazon miniTV series School Friends.

Navika Kotia stars in the Amazon miniTV series School Friends. Instagram

Remember Sridevi’s daughter in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish, the one who would always make fun of her mother’s English? A decade later, Navika Kotia is making her mark, with her OTT debut with Amazon miniTV’s School Friends and as the lead character in the TV serial Kyunki Saas Bhi Bahu Beti Hoti Hai airing on Zee TV from September 18. Navika talked to us about English Vinglish, School Friends, friendships, being a Gen Z girl and her career aspirations.

You were a child when you acted in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish with stalwarts like Sridevi and Adil Hussain. What did that experience do for you?


Navika Kotia: Even then, I understood the importance that English Vinglish held in my life and in my career. Working with Sridevi ma’am was an experience of a lifetime and Aadil sir is also superbly talented. I feel so lucky to have been on that set as I got to learn so many new things. It has helped me grow as an actor and it is an experience that I am going to cherish for the rest of my life.

School Friends on Amazon miniTV is your OTT debut. Tell us something about your character Stuti Sharma and the show.

Navika Kotia: I was almost exactly like Stuti in high school, but I was a little more mischievous than her. I had also worked my entire life to finally become the best student of the year and the president of my school council. I was not the number one topper like Stuti, but I definitely used to pay attention to my academics and score in school. All the first-benchers in school are definitely going to relate to Stuti. She’s a very innocent girl who stays away from mischief. She is very obedient and a sweetheart.

School Friends is a nostalgic journey that resonates with the universal experiences of school life. We explore characters that every school has and the challenges every student faces, from pranks to bunking to the relentless pressure of exams. At its heart, the show revolves around friendship. For everyone, school friendships are among the most cherished and treasured memories. I think the series beautifully encapsulates the essence of those formative years.

What has been your real-life experience with the themes explored in School Friends?

Navika Kotia: I am really close to my school friends even today. They mean the world to me. I understand the importance of the friendships that we develop at that young age and how we cherish them for the rest of our lives.

What is your definition of friendship? Who’s your 3am friend?

Navika Kotia: For me, friendship means having someone with whom I can be myself, knowing they will never be jealous of me or see me as a secret competition. It’s having someone who feels joy when I succeed and empathises with my pain when I fail.

My 3am friends are actually my family, my siblings. Besides them, I only maintain close connections with a small number of friends who mean a lot to me, and I am confident that they will always be there for me, no matter what.

What have you learnt very early in your career in the entertainment industry?

Navika Kotia: Firstly, growing up in the entertainment industry has exposed me to a unique side of life that has undoubtedly shaped my personality. It has not only helped me improve my communication and public speaking skills but also given me a more mature perspective on life. One crucial lesson I have gained from this industry is how to handle rejection. There’s a lot of competition and hard work required to achieve your career goals, but you must be resilient.

You are doing Kyunki Saas Maa Bahu Beti Hoti Hai on Zee TV. How did it happen and why did you decide to do a daily soap?

Navika Kotia: I auditioned for this role and was fortunate to get selected. I am really grateful because this show is quite unique and offers a fresh perspective. It may sound like the typical family dramas we often see on TV, but it’s actually quite different. I am thrilled to make my lead debut on TV.

What matters most to me is the quality of the character and the project. The platform is secondary. I simply want the platform to be large enough to reach a wide audience. I am open to all kinds of work because I believe that as an actor, working on different types of projects across various platforms helps me grow and develop my skills. It’s about expanding my horizons and reaching diverse audiences

Since you are working in different mediums, are you a planner or do you go with the flow in terms of career opportunities?

Navika Kotia: I would like to plan my career but in acting, it doesn’t work that way. You have to be chosen in the first place for the projects you would want to do. So, I go with the flow but make decisions after careful analysis. My simple principle is — I am open to all types of work on all platforms as long as I am happy with the role, the project and the audience it reaches.

You are a Gen Z girl. What is a myth about your generation that you would like to debunk?

Navika Kotia: One myth I would like to dispel is that we are always hooked to our screens. While we are tech-savvy, I believe in maintaining a healthy balance between the digital world and real-life connections. I remember a childhood when we played outside without smartphones. In many ways, I relate to the ’90s kids. Moreover, I have noticed that some Gen Z individuals might treat relationships lightly, given how easy it is to make new contacts and friends nowadays. I am quite old-school in valuing and cherishing our older friendships.

Has getting popularity at such a young age ever messed with your head?

Navika Kotia: I can understand how fame and popularity at a young age can affect someone, but I believe it’s largely up to the parents to guide their children and teach them the importance of staying humble. Fortunately, my parents played a big role in keeping my brother and me grounded. They emphasised that fame is temporary and that life can change. So, growing up in the industry and experiencing fame has only had a positive impact on me.

How important is validation for you as an actor and as a person?

Navika Kotia: When it comes to validation, I seek it primarily from the directors of the specific project I am working on. If the director is satisfied with my performance and I am content with my work as a collaborative effort, that’s what matters most.

In terms of personal validation, I value the opinions of my family, my parents and my brother. If they believe I have done something right, that’s what truly counts. Additionally, being in this profession has taught me not to let others’ opinions define me.

Which actors do you look up to and would like to share the screen space with?

Navika Kotia: When I was a kid, I was fascinated by stories around Mr Amitabh Bachchan. He faced rejection due to his height, looks and voice, but he turned those weaknesses into his greatest strengths. That really inspired me, and I have aimed to not let anything become a weakness that stops me from achieving my goals. Although we were both in English Vinglish, we didn’t have scenes together. I would love the opportunity to work with him in the future.

What are your upcoming projects?

Navika Kotia: I am getting ready for my role as Kesar Rajgaur in Kyunki Saas Bhi Bahu Beti Hoti Hai on Zee TV. This character is quite different from anything I have played before. Her body language and tone are unlike mine; she’s poised, soft-spoken and elegant. However, her principles and values resonate with me, so it’s going to be an exciting and challenging experience to step into this character.

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