Pals in love
Nakuul Mehta and Anya Singh chat about fame, friendship and their zee5 show Never Kiss Your Best Friend
- Published 17.02.20, 12:07 AM
- Updated 17.02.20, 12:07 AM
- 6 mins read
In Zee5’s latest offering Never Kiss Your Best Friend, actors Anya Singh and Nakuul Mehta are former best friends who meet five years after their fall-out. The rom com is based on a bestseller of the same name by Sumrit Shahi and produced by Sarita A. Tanwar and Niraj Kothari. t2 chatted with the show’s lead actors recently at The Club in Mumbai about shooting in London, Nakuul’s fans and shows that they are bingeing on.
When this show came to you, was there anything specific that got you interested?
Anya Singh: I think the first time I tested for it, I instantly took to the character. It’s why Arif (Khan, director) liked me, I think, because he thought I was the character. I do relate to her a lot in life. Also, the last two projects I’ve been a part of have been very heavy... in one (Qaidi Band) I was a jail inmate and the other one (the Telugu film Ninu Veedani Needanu) was horror. Just to be able to play a relatable young girl facing life with confusing emotions, was wonderful. It was a lighthearted show, and for the first time, I get to break the fourth wall. That, for me, was a challenge and an experience because I had never done it before.
Nakuul Mehta: Over the last seven years, I’ve done most of my work on television, where you are also catering to the masses. That means the drama is larger-than-life, and it’s more juiced out. Also, I’ve done romantic shows. I’m not sure what it is about me but people like to give me love stories. Although some of those were pretty epic stories for TV... I just wanted to play something that was absolutely without frills, was relatable, spoke the language of the milieu the show was set in. Never Kiss Your Best Friend is a millennial, zany friendship story. Typically, this is not what I’d have picked. I was thinking of doing something in the intense, dark, crazy space because those are the kinds of stories I get attracted to. But when I read this, I thought it was a breath of fresh air. So, I wanted to explore this and I’m glad I did because it’s been the most refreshing experience I’ve had in the last few years of working.
You hadn’t worked with each other before. What were your first impressions about each other?
Nakuul: As soon as we read together, I knew she was right for the part and that gave me a lot relief. Until now, I’ve worked with experienced people who come with their own frills and stardom. Anya was just regular and normal and that’s how I am in personal life and that got me connected to her. I think it was on the second day of the shoot that it was raining intensely and we didn’t think twice before hopping into a rickshaw. Something about her felt real and that was a good beginning for me.
Anya: The first time I met him, he didn’t talk much. He just did his reading, ate his food and was very proper. I put it down to his being older than me and I tend to talk a lot. He’s way senior to me and has done a lot of work. But he’s a really genuine person, he’s so simple and real and that’s what got us to click together.
The show is set in London and you filmed there last month. Was it a fun shoot or super hectic?
Anya: It was both. It was super hectic because we were shooting at least 16 hours a day for the first week. Also, we were living a little far away so it would take us an hour to get to any location.
Nakuul: Any rom coms you’ve seen or grown up watching have all been set in London. The city itself lends so much, it’s like a third wheel. Weirdly enough, it also gives you so much... I felt so much freer. The city has an artsy and open vibe, and a culture of its own. I like New York, but there you’re still slightly in awe. London’s a very open sort of place and beautifully helps you get into this show where you’re supposed to be no-holds-barred sort of friends, which you’re not in the beginning. I think the city adds an element which makes it easier.
Nakuul, it’s been almost a year since your TV show Ishqbaaaz ended. You’ve been trying your hand at different formats, like the short film Sunny Side Upar...
Nakuul: I had the best time working on it. It was an all-women crew and cast. I felt like the female item number from Bollywood! (Laughs)
After seven years of television, did you feel a need to step out and experiment?
Nakuul: The need has always been there. I’ve been doing theatre while I was working on television all along. I was part of a play called COCK, written by Mike Bartlett. It’s a popular story and has been done across the world. That did really well and I was doing it while shooting 12 hours a day for TV, and rehearsing four hours every night. My ambition is far more than wanting to limit myself to the medium I’m working on. The idea is to grow and evolve, not just professionally but also personally.
I’ve also hosted a cricket- based show with Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar and it comes from my being a huge cricket fanatic. That was the most fun I’ve had on any set because I was being paid a lot of money to do what I really love doing. I went to Pondicherry to do a two-month theatre residential programme because I wanted to see life beyond what you know. I went to Indonesia and did some local television there for a bit. I travelled too and did 12 trips last year... that makes me so proud because I could find the time to do it. And all of that, I feel, becomes a part of your work. I read a lot, which I’ve not been able to. I’ve been developing a show which we’re looking at producing this year... I have a production company. So, being away from television has enabled me to create a lot of value in this time. It’s been a year of just recharging, refreshing, learning and working with different people. And every experience just gives you new things.
Ishqbaaaz gave you some very zealous fans!
Anya: There were so many people who would look at his Instagram stories and then come looking for him. They would spot where he was in London and land up. People would stop him and tell him that they named their child after him.
Nakuul: (Shrugs) I didn’t grow up wanting to be a television star. I wanted to be a film icon, but you find your way and you find yourself. I’m so glad I made that move and took up that first TV show, because it opened up doors. A lot of the people I started with have now stopped acting and I’ve been able to create value with the work I’ve done and an audience base which is worldwide. That’s predominantly what I’ve always worked for. I’m selfish... I work for experiences. The fact that those experiences now reach out to people and touch their lives is just a bonus that TV’s given me.
For the last few years, creators in Hollywood have been divided over whether shows on digital platforms should be binged or not. Which side of this debate are you on?
Anya: From the audience’s perspective, obviously bingeing. There are days I just sit at home and finish an entire show. From an actor’s perspective, maybe the reveal is better, I guess.
Nakuul: My mother is used to seeing me every week on TV, so when I told her that she can watch this show in one go, she asked me what she’d do after that (laughs). So, she’s decided to watch one episode every day. There is excitement and anticipation with a TV show, people would wait for 10pm. Walking around the streets, I could hear my show’s soundtrack playing and honestly, that’s quite a high.
What are you bingeing on now?
Anya: I just finished a show called Don’t F**k With Cats. It’s such a brilliant show and it’s interesting to see how people are. It’s frightening as well, people’s psyche.
Nakuul: The last piece of OTT content I watched was Marriage Story and I was blown away. I’ve had experience as well, being married, and I could relate to a lot of it. There was separation but there was so much love and compassion. Revolutionary Road is one of my favourite films, around just two people and when I watched this one, I saw another side of it. You can’t be with each other but yet there is so much... it really tore me apart and made me feel emotions. I found myself crying alone. It would be great if we could attempt stories like that here, and if we could get to do stories like that.