After being one of the most sought after models in the industry for years, Namit Khanna dived into acting three years back with a digital show. The Vikram Bhatt produced web series was followed by two popular TV shows that endeared him to the family audience. In this interview, the actor, who has his roots in Delhi, talks about the ordeal he went through to get back home during the lockdown, studying advertising, eventful journey as a model, aspirations as an actor, getting back to music, importance of a healthy mind and more.
After four cancelled flights, you finally managed to travel from Mumbai to your parents’ home in Delhi. That must have been a relief.
Absolutely! For two and a half months, during the lockdown, I was all alone at my home in Mumbai. Everything had stopped and after a point, I started feeling a little lonely. The only thing that kept me busy was doing household chores (laughs). Getting back home and being with my parents during this time is definitely a blessing. I think people like us are quite privileged that we are within the confines of our home. I have been watching news channels and feeling terrible for all those who are not able to get back to their families during this time of crisis.
At this moment, it is mandatory for people travelling in flights to wear safety gear and follow certain precautions. How different was it for you to fly this time?
I have travelled a lot but I had a very different experience this time. We had to get inside the aircraft after wearing all the safety gears. There is a lot of fear as no matter what you do, if there is just one person inside the flight who is infected with the virus, there is a chance of others being affected by it too. I followed the prescribed safety precautions and boarded the flight with a positive thought. Under normal circumstances, we are not very cautious about sanitising ourselves. I used to be a little careless too in that regard but the current scenario has made all of us a little disciplined. This was my first outing in a public space since the lockdown. The situation is bad everywhere and it is important that we do not step out of our home unless absolutely necessary.
On a lighter note, did you get to have your favourite butter chicken at home?
I did, actually (laughs). The joy of eating ghar ka khanna is incomparable. Even when I am in Mumbai, I ask my friends to get me some homemade food. Having said that, the food that you get at your own house is always the best.
‘Sanjivani’, your last show, went off air a while back. The show got a lot of love but some felt it could not match up to the original. How was your experience of being a part of the show?
For me, it was an important step forward in my career. ‘Sanjivani’ was an iconic show but I made a conscious decision not to get burden myself with the expectations that the fans of the show had from our version. I broke it down into a practical thing. I was hired to do a particular job and I wanted to give it my best. Doing a TV show is not easy. You have to put in long hours and when you are the lead actor, you are expected to shoot for 12-15 hours a day. I did not want to burden myself with thoughts like whether the show is getting high TRPs or not. There were people to look into these things. When the producers or the channel felt the storyline needed to be changed to get the numbers, they did that but I had no role to play in it. I was simply doing my job as an actor. The experience of working on ‘Sanjivani’ is something I will always cherish.
‘Sanjivani’ was produced by Siddharth P Malhotra’s Alchemy Films. He is an accomplished producer and a filmmaker (‘Hichki’, ‘We Are Family’) too. How was the experience of working with him?
After my last show got over, I made a trip to Leh. Siddharth was trying to call me up but there was no network. I got a message from him stating that “Hi Namit! This is Siddharth Malhotra. Please call me back.” I saw the message and I thought it was Sidharth Malhotra, the actor. I have known him from modelling days and he is a family friend too. His mom and my bua are school friends, so we knew each other. Later, I figured out that it was a message from Siddharth Malhotra, the producer. He later called me up and said “come down, I want you to audition for this role.” After meeting him, I felt very comfortable and connected with him not just on a professional level but on a personal level too. I have not been a TV buff and thus, had not seen the first season. But, I knew that ‘Sanjivani’ was a cult show. I gave a couple of auditions and was finalised for the role. After that, I did some screen tests with actresses who were shortlisted to play the female lead. I waited for six months for the show to take off. It was difficult but that is how things work sometimes.
You have been a supermodel but before you stepped into the glamour industry, you had enrolled yourself for a BBA programme in Kingston University. How did the shift to modelling happen?
A couple of months before I was supposed to go to abroad to study, my dad asked me to meet his friend’s son Vishesh Verma, who was a fashion photographer. I got some pictures clicked by him and that is how my modelling career started. I was always passionate about advertising and I had a great time learning about marketing and branding during my BBA programme. After I came back, I worked in advertising for three years. I was working in client servicing. I had done very little modelling before I went to London. At the end of the day, for a day’s work I was getting more than my month’s salary. Slowly, big opportunities started coming. That is when I decided to quit my job and move to Mumbai.
You worked as a model for several years before starting out as an actor. You took a bit of a time to take the plunge.
Modelling is a female-centric industry. I felt I had reached a point when I needed to something different. I started doing acting workshops and theatre. I believe if you really focus on achieving something, the universe will make it happen for you. I started auditioning. For a long time, I did not get any interesting opportunity. I did get a lot of opportunities from television but I would always say a no to those offers. I started with a web show called ‘Twisted’. It was an erotic thriller and after that, I was getting similar projects. At this point of time, when I was offered a TV show, I decided to take it up as I believed that would help me break my image and show my versatility as an actor.
Music has been an integral part of your life. You were a part of your school band.
I have been very passionate about music. There was a time when I used to practice for hours. After college got over, I realised there were musicians who were far better than me. Also, I did not see a career in it at that point of time. When I left Delhi, I left behind two things – tennis and guitar. I did bring my guitar along with to Mumbai but I never really spent much time on it. I want to get back to tennis as I love that sport. I bought a classical guitar a while back. I have got back to music now. I never thought I could sing and I think I have a terrible voice (laughs). I am taking vocal training from a teacher and I hope I will get better at it someday.
You have also been passionate about adventure sports and travelling. Does your hectic schedule allow you to indulge yourself in these anymore?
Yes! There was a time when I realised that there are two things I am most passionate about. One is travelling and the other is photography. I have always tried to make time for things I am passionate about. Everything falls into place at the right time. Till then, you have to just keep working towards it. I worked on Sanjivani for months without taking a break. But, I had decided to go on a trip to Sri Lanka during my birthday and I did that. When you do a TV show, you really need to find things to relax yourself.
An incident that occurred in the Hindi film industry recently started a conversation around mental health. It is a well-known fact that it is not a very stable profession to be in. As an actor, how do you deal with the stress associated with it?
A couple of days back, I had written about the importance of mediation or doing some kind of a spiritual practice. A lot of people come to Mumbai to work in the entertainment industry but unfortunately, not everybody gets the opportunity to prove himself. Everybody goes through rejections. The important thing is to have that belief in yourself. I would advise actors to stay grounded and not to be overly ambitious. Your wants and demands will never end. That is how all humans are. We have to be grateful for what we have. We cannot compare ourselves to anybody else. All of us should look within. There is no problem that one cannot overcome. I would suggest everybody to take up some form of exercise or spiritual practice. We lead busy lives but it is important to make time for these things. I love being in the nature. Just lying on the grass or breathing fresh air in front of a beach should be good enough to re-energize yourself. Apart from keeping our body fit, we need to keep our soul healthy. We need to do things to uplift our life.
What is the next step for you as an actor?
I have got some calls but nobody is sure as to when production and shoot will start in full swing again. It is important for all of us to remember that safety comes first and ideally, we should get back to the sets when things are a little more stable. I, anyways, have come home after a year and happy to stay here for a while and spend some quality time with my parents.
Namit Khanna’s official website: https://namitkhanna.com/