Navdeep: Newsense is definitely relevant to the times we are living in
Ahead of the release of Newsense, the Aha original Telugu web series which is headlined by him, Navdeep joins CE in a conversation on his latest and upcoming project
Actor Navdeep, best known for his roles in Gowtham SSC and Arya 2 has had a career filled with interesting, experimental choices. Ahead of the release of Newsense, the Aha original Telugu web series which is headlined by him, Navdeep joins CE in a conversation on his latest and upcoming project
You have acted in web series like Mana Mugguri Love Story and Gangstars way before the OTT boom. How have things changed since then?
I was one of the first actors to venture into television when I hosted the Telugu version of Fear Factor. I was persuaded by producer Swapna Dutt to act in Gang Stars, which was helmed by Nandini Reddy. Thanks to increased budgets, and better manpower, the quality of web series is definitely better now. We also have more freedom of expression with respect to telling different kinds of stories.
In Newsense, you play the role of an ethically ambiguous journalist. The series talks about corruption in media. Could you speak a bit more about your character and the series at large?
Newsense is set in the town of Madanapalle, in 2003. At the heart of the series is my character Shiva and how his worldview is shaped by his upbringing and the ways society treated him. He grows up to be a journalist, hoping to win it over, but he also uses his profession as a weapon against society. Newsense is propelled by corrupt politicians, corrupt police, dishonest media, and innocent civilians. It is quite intense and interesting. There is no cinematic good or cinematic bad in the way the series is presented. Just like in real life, Newsense is painted in shades of grey. I don’t think anybody in Telugu has ever dealt with a story that portrays media with a lot of negative shades.
Talking of negative portrayals and media, you have been at the receiving end of some unfavourable reports in the media, at different stages of your career. Did those experiences help you become Shiva in Newsense?
I see how the parallels can be made, but I don't think whatever has happened to me personally has come out here. Newsense is set in a different era of journalism against a distinct context. There are a lot of YouTube channels and paparazzi these days, but back then journalists were a lot more powerful because they were fewer in number. Setting Newsense in 2003 enabled us to create a slow-burn series with a lot of machiavellian drama.
Were there any other reasons behind setting Newsense in 2003?
The writer (senior Telugu journalist Priyadarshini Ram) conceived Newsense in 2003 because the story is based on a lot of events he saw unfurl in real-time. Of course, the timeline or the incidents might be different, but Newsense is definitely relevant to the times we are living in because news is still caught in the tussle between facts and perceptions.
Will the series be taking a moral position of sorts against prioritising the reportage of feelings over facts?
No, the show does not take any moral stand. Newsense is a character-driven psychological drama based on a boy who wants to take revenge against the society that has wronged him.
What was the kind of homework you have done for your role in Newsense?
I focused a lot on getting a distinct look, alongside learning to speak in a different accent. I like it when actors go the extra mile and try to talk in different dictions. Bunny (Allu Arjun) did a great job in Pushpa with his rendition of the Chittoor accent. So when I got an opportunity to speak my lines with a dialect, I went all in.
You have lately been at the forefront of a beautiful, creative endeavor. C-Space, the Co-working Film Incubation Studio you founded four years ago has slowly branched out into production and you now have two films - Love Mouli and Yevam.
We started before the lockdown so we had a lot of time. We told people to come to us if they were interested in writing or direction. We got around 6,000 applicants, most of whom were interested in pitching me a story. It took us some time to filter out the applicant pool and choose the writers who were in it for the craft over all else. We formed a team of 30 writers after six months, and there has been no looking back since then. Our writers have worked across the industry, in films and series. Love Mouli will release soon. Yevam, which stars Chandini Chowdhary is currently being shot. There is also a third project in the works, which I will be producing.
Love Mouli is billed as a fantasy romance set in Meghalaya…
It is the first-ever Indian film to be shot in Meghalaya for over a period of 75 days. No other Indian film has ever been filmed in Meghalaya for such a long period. It was challenging to brave all the elements while shooting, but the people who have seen the rushes are amazed by it. I am really excited about the film, and audiences would lose their minds once they watch it on the big screen.