Interview: Chinese Bhasad essentially talks about ‘celebrating each other’s differences,’ says actor Naveen Polishetty
Arjun is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who, before stepping into the glamorous world of entertainment reporting, assisted acclaimed filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan.
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Chinese Bhasad is a very apt name for a show based on an Indo-China love story… but apart from that, its generally also a very peculiar and quirky name for a series. Ironically, the lead actor of the show doesn’t feel the same way about his own name.
“Naveen is such a common name yaar. Every second person in India is called Naveen,” he complains as we start our interview with him. Of course when you add Polishetty to it, it certainly doesn’t sound very common.
Naveen Polishetty has made a name for himself in the exploding web content space in India. You may have seen him in one of AIB’s earlier sketches – Honest Indian Weddings – where he played the groom.
Well, he’s continuing the groomgiri in the hilarious and witty new show, Chinese Bhasad – a 7-epsiode comedy web series – where he plays the UP boy ‘Laghu’ (Raghu) in love with Ming, a girl from China. Check out our exclusive interview with Naveen below:
So Naveen, you’re from Hyderabad right?
I am, I’m kind of from all over the place. My mom is from Nagpur actually and my dad is from Hyderabad. I spent a few years in Hyderabad then I was in Bhopal for a few years…so right now when people ask me, ‘where are you from?’ I really have no idea, I’m like a cocktail!
Because on the show, you come across as a typical Lucknow boy – in terms of the mannerisms, accent, etc.
That is just great acting! (laughs) No, I’m not from Lucknow at all. So I kind of got in touch with a few friends of friends who belong to Lucknow. I had this friend who knew somebody in Lucknow…so I call this guy and there’s this awkward pause in the conversation because he doesn’t know why I’m calling. And I’m calling to just listen to how he talks and you know understand those slight Lucknowi things that they have, for example; they don’t pronounce the Rs that much, so if I wanna say ‘kar liya hai,’ they will say ‘kal liya hai,’ you know. That kind of thing.
What’s the best part about shooting with such a big, eclectic talented cast?
I was really excited man. I like ensemble cast projects where there are 7-8 central actors, because then you don’t get bored of the same actors as you’re shooting with different combinations of actors. Like, one day I was in a shot with Yashpal Sharma, the other day, with a different actor– so, it’s a lot of fun working with an ensemble cast because everybody has a different energy and you tend to match and tune in your energy with them. And of course, it was a mad set!
And I used to bug Yashpal Sharma so much. The first day we were working together, I kind of controlled myself but a couple of days into the shoot, I went up to him and I asked, ‘Achcha ek baat batao sir, woh Lagaan mei catch aap hee ne pakda tha?’ (laughs) ‘Just tell me the truth.’ And then we started talking about his Lagaan experiences and stories as that is one of my all-time favourite films.
Did you all have workshops/ rehearsals before starting the actual shoot.
We had readings where all of us got together and… well, we wanted to actually do a lot of reading and rehearsal but we ended up eating chicken biryani! (laughs) Our writer, Rahil saab (Rahil Qaazi), he would get homemade mutton and chicken biryani. So, jaise hi biryani ki baat hui, immediately we forgot about the show and just focussed on the food.
And once the important thing of eating biryani was done, then we discussed some readings and how the director (Saurabh Tewari) wants us to play these characters, and what the general tone of the show is. We approached Chinese Bhasad like a film, a web-film. And we even shot it like a film.
The show takes a few light-hearted digs and jabs on culture and tradition. Do you think it would have created trouble had it aired on a mainstream TV channel?
I actually, secretly wish it would have created some controversy or something! (laughs) that way, more people would have seen it, you know.
But no, because there’s nothing controversial in the show. So, the show tries to do this– it tries to talk about an Indo-China love story, in a funny way, and at the same time, it addresses how some of the people in our country are pretty racist. Like, if you look into your own houses and families, there will always be a mom or an aunty or an uncle who’s pretty racist towards certain other people.
So, the show is not racist but some of the characters in it are. And the show actually tries to address that in a humorous way– that we need to rise above our differences, be more accommodating of each other’s differences and celebrate those differences.
But I wish thodi controversy hoti…par kuch hua nehi hain yaar.
Well, there’s still time.
(Laughs) Nehi! Mei mazaak kar raha hoon yaar, kuch controversy paida nehi karna abhi!
Your favourite scene in the whole series?
I actually like the third episode a lot where I go and bring the Chinese family to meet our family. So, there’s the UP family meeting the Chinese family and then my grandfather walks in, and he doesn’t know that they are Chinese as my mom lied to him that they are from Arunachal.
So, that whole meeting that happens when all three parties (UP family, Chinese family and the grandfather) come together and the chaos that follows. I actually like that whole episode a lot. The whole tension, the humour, the chaos – I like those bits a lot.
Any plans of making a second season?
I hope they make it. I hope they go to China, I want to go to China. I really have to get some branded clothes man (laughs). My mom always complains that I wear shit clothes so I just wanna buy some of that branded stuff in China and come back!
Chinese Bhasad is currently streaming on Viacom 18’s digital platform, Voot. You can click here to watch all the episodes.