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Natasha Bharadwaj: ‘When it comes to love, I am an old-school romantic’


This interview was first published in The Telegraph Online by the same author.


After winning the talent hunt show India’s Next Superstars, actress Natasha Bharadwaj made her OTT debut with MX Original Series Pawan & Pooja, but it was the Amazon Prime Video show Mumbai Diaries 26/11 which brought her acclaim. In a departure from the intense world of Mumbai Diaries 26/11, Natasha plays a savage girl-next-door in the series Ishq Next Door streaming on JioCinema. In an exclusive interview, the young actress talks about her character, her chemistry with co-stars and her journey so far.


Before we talk about Ishq Next Door, tell us about how life changed for you after Mumbai Diaries 26/11.


Natasha Bharadwaj: Mumbai Diaries 26/11 challenged me as an actor. I got a lot of love and appreciation for playing Dr Diya Parekh, which was totally unexpected. I remember when I got a call from IMDb. They said that I had won the IMDb Breakout Star Award. I started researching what the award was and didn’t find anybody in India who had received it. Only Priyanka Chopra Jonas had received it for The Sky Is Pink as a producer. It was when I had the award in my hands that I realised that this was real. As an actor, you don’t perform for yourself. You perform for people. And when you get so much love from people, it is the most satisfying thing.


Dr Diya Parekh was an intense part. And I am happy that after playing such an intense character in an equally intense show, I got a part in something like Ishq Next Door, which is of an extremely sweet, kind, bubbly girl and is totally different from Diya.


What do you like about the character that you play in Ishq Next Door?


Natasha Bharadwaj: I play Meher Kaur Sikka, a Punjabi kudi. The story is based in a colony in Delhi. What I love the most about Meher is that she’s extremely savage, the glimpses of which can be seen in the trailer. Being savage is the similarity between Meher and Natasha. Meher is very kind and ambitious. She has a boutique in the colony but she is ambitious about going abroad and studying fashion. There’s a budding romance between Meher and Dev (Abhay Mahajan) and then Meher’s ex (Mrinal Dutt) arrives and things become chaotic.


In romantic comedies or coming-of-age stories that are not plot-driven, everything rides on the moments and chemistry between characters. How did you work on your chemistry with Abhay Mahajan?


Natasha Bharadwaj: This was the first time I was working with Abhay. It was extremely easy to work with him. We had workshops where we would read scenes and try to figure out the tonality of the characters. But once we went on set, Abhay had this vibe of being extremely present as an actor and as a person. I think it’s a privilege to act with such a great actor where you can play off each other’s reactions. That’s what Abhay and I did.


Ishq Next Door is a 10-episode series. I think towards the middle or towards the end, there’s one scene which is extremely intimate, genuine and pure, and that I think was only possible because our director, Akhilesh Vats, put us in the right space and gave us emotional detailing and made sure that both of us were comfortable as actors and as people. As far as working on the chemistry is concerned, Abhay really helped me.


What are your favourite romcoms or coming-of-age films or shows?


Natasha Bharadwaj: We are a country that loves a good romantic story and a comedy. I think the most beautiful emotion is love and falling in love, and I look out for these nice slice-of-life films. My all-time favourite is Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It can lift your mood anytime. Meryl Streep’s It’s Complicated is also a favourite.


Today, people are hyper-connected with the world but they are still alone and lonely. What is your perspective on love and relationships in this scenario?


Natasha Bharadwaj: The dating drama has technically changed in the two years of lockdown and post-lockdown. I feel there’s a lot of communication but there’s no connection. We interact with a lot of people; we find many people attractive but there’s no bond that is created. When it comes to love, I am an old-school romantic. I love the feeling of being connected, being in love and having a relationship.


Social media has become an important part of an actor’s profession. With love also comes hate. How do you cancel that noise?


Natasha Bharadwaj: Every day is different and a lot of things happen in my life on a daily basis. It is extremely chaotic but my mother, friends and family, and my workout and horse riding keep me grounded. I am extremely close to my horses and workout.


I think just taking time off for yourself is the most important thing. I wake up at 4.30am and the first thing I want to do is to go meet my horses and go for a ride. It brings my energy back. When you’re living in a metro city like Bombay, it is extremely important to know on a daily basis what your roots are and where you’re coming from, and what you need for yourself.


Self-care is not just about getting your nails done and going to a spa. Sometimes you have to actively do something, which for me is workout and horse riding. That’s how I try to cut the noise out so that I can deliver between ‘action and cut’ because that’s the most sacred space for me.


What is something that you learnt quite early since joining the entertainment industry?


Natasha Bharadwaj: My journey started when I won the TV reality show called India’s Next Superstars (aired on STAR Plus) which happened in my first year in college. I was directly thrown onto a set. The reality show was my gurukul. It prepared me for everything. Also, thanks to the way my mother brought me up, in any situation I get into, I immediately find ways to adapt, learn and observe. Being extremely observant and aware really helps me.


What are your upcoming projects?


Natasha Bharadwaj: Mumbai Diaries Season 2 is on its way. The story is different and Dr Diya will be coming with a different energy. The way her character has progressed forward is really something that I want people to watch. It’s a very thoughtfully written and directed show.

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