#SerialChillers: Nakuul Mehta: "I don’t want to limit myself to being just the biggest TV star there is right now"

Cosmopolitan India's series 'Serial Chillers' shines the spotlight on six spectacular TV actors who, with each passing day and every exciting episode, prove they are indeed a force to reckon with. We start this journey with none other than Nakuul Mehta, who is constantly evolving and making us fall in love with his acting prowess a little more with every show!

14 March, 2023
#SerialChillers: Nakuul Mehta: "I don’t want to limit myself to being just the biggest TV star there is right now"

When I sat to make a list of television actors to interview for this series, it didn’t take my digital editor five seconds to tell me, “You have to get an interview with Nakuul Mehta. We’ll start the series with him”, and I agreed, instantaneously. Mehta is one of the biggest names in Indian television today and is perennially expanding the scope of his art and talent. He is charming, classy and charismatic. He is also a humble, down-to-earth man, who was his candid best throughout the interview, and we love him for it! He is one of the best for a reason and is striving to only get better. 

The very first in the 'Serial Chillers' series on Cosmopolitan India sees the incredible actor open up about his creative influences, what his first film taught him, success and validation, his love for dancing, his family, and above all, filling the cup of life.


Cosmopolitan India: What kind of content did you grow up watching? Did it inspire you to become an actor and one of the biggest names in the television industry?

Nakuul Mehta: I credit a lot of my creativity to the experiences in my formative years. My father is a retired navy officer, and as is with defence personnel, we moved a lot within the country—I changed 10 schools in 12 years—and lived in places such as Andaman Islands, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and many other cities. We lived in a city for a year or two; I made friends and left them for good, not knowing if I’d ever meet them again. There was no social media at the time, but we sent letters and postcards to each other. These years piqued my curiosity and helped me understand people across cultures and economic strata. That was the only way of life I was used to. I was exposed to a world far bigger than my family and me, my school, etc., and this kick-started my creative process—I wanted to tell stories because I was brought up in a world full of stories.

To answer your question, I watched Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and BR Chopra’s Mahabharat on television. I remember my father used to drive us long distances, for instance, from Vishakhapatnam to Udaipur. I remember stopping at roadside dhaabas in the morning, where everyone was glued to the screen watching the show. 

CI: You started off your career with a film before coming to TV; what did Haal-e-Dil teach you at that time, and how do you use that experience in television?

NM: Honestly, when you come from a non-film background, every job you take teaches you something about the craft and helps you build a network. I was lucky to bag my first film early on, thanks to the commercials that I used to do—that was pretty much the only experience I had in front of the camera, my baby steps into the world of performing arts. 

CI: What, according to you, was the biggest reason for the resounding success of Pyaar Ka Dard Hai Meetha Meetha Pyara Pyara and Ishqbaaaz?


NM: You should add Bade Achhe Lagte Hain 2 to that list—that completes my TV ‘trilogy’, as my friend calls it. It’s hard to have three successes in a decade; I think I’ve been very fortunate. Pyaar Ka Dard... in that sense, put me on the map; I became a fairly recognised face across the country. For the longest time, the show was among the top two shows. I remember travelling all over the world for fan meet and greets. It (the popularity) was overwhelming for it came to me when my first film failed. It was, in many ways, validation for me that I am in the right profession despite the little success till then. The show helped me pave my way into the industry, and I won every Best Debut award. 

Ishqbaaaz, on the other hand, made me a television star. The show was a trendsetter—it looked nothing like what we had seen on TV. I was playing a typical Mills and Boons hero. We did over 750 episodes, and it was a smashing hit. It opened many doors and helped me open myself up to newer experiences and opportunities. Ishqbaaaz opened the floodgates to my potential, and I’ll always be thankful for the show. And Bade Achhe Lagte Hain 2 gave me love and respect as an actor, which is rare in the industry. 

The journey from Pyaar Ka Dard... to Bade Acche... feels beautiful; you feel like you grew and must have done something right when people address you as sir. It’s been immensely wholesome and gratifying. 

CI: How did you manage to work on two very different shows (Never Kiss Your Best Friend 2 and Bade Achhe Lagte Hai 2) for different mediums at the same time?


NM: I’m at that point in my career, where I’m hungry to work on anything that excites me. The first season of Never Kiss... had released after Ishqbaaz and just before the pandemic. It was a hit. When we were working on a second season, discussions over Bade Acche....had just started. Fortunately, producers for both shows were kind enough to accommodate everyone—we were shooting for 10 days in Mumbai and 10 days in London through the third wave. 

It was challenging to stay away from my family and my newborn who wasn’t even a year old. But the work was exciting; I was acting in the greatest romantic story on TV—Bade Acche Lagte Hai 2—and to be given the responsibility of leading the second leg of the show made me feel like I’d earned my stripes. I’m very proud of the work I’ve done on the show. And I loved going back to Never Kiss....—it’s a young, cool, and relatable show; I want to go back in time and feel that energy again. 

It was all very seamless for me. London is a cool and hip place and we have grown up watching romance stories in London. Though I got very little sleep, it was probably the most creative time I’ve had in the last few years. I felt in touch with my emotions like never before. 

CI: Were you able to shift characters easily or was it something that you learnt during the process?

Nakuul Mehta: It just happened. Luckily, I had worked on the first season of Never Kiss... and already lived the character Sumer Singh Dhillon. With Bade Acche Lagte Hai 2, we’d shot for two months already, so I was already living Ram. When I went back to play Sumer Singh, muscle memory came back and London comes with its own associated memories of the character and the show. It all happened naturally and seamlessly I would say. 

CI: Not many know about your training in dance. Is it something your fans can see more of in the future? Do you get the time to shake a leg when you’re looking to unwind?

NM: I love dancing. Will my fans get to see me in a reality show? No. I love performing and being an actor and I feel that takes a lot of life and planning. I can either do reality shows or act and I’d rather act to earn a livelihood. Reality shows don’t interest me as an audience and a participant, so that’s something I’ll stay away from. I’m trained in many dance forms and once in a while, I dance on my shows. once in a while. 

CI: Tell us about your relationship with Jankee—how did you two meet and hit it off?


NM: We met way back, when she was just out of school and I was out of grade 12. It was the first relationship for both of us. We met at Shiamak Davar’s dance class and we forged a solid friendship. For me, it was more than friendship; I definitely knew it was love. It took me a year of convincing her to also see it differently. It’s been 11 years of dating and nine years of marriage, and it’s been pretty solid. We have a beautiful child together. While we’ve been together for long, we recognise that we have our own individual journeys—she’s a professional singer who has a very cool band named Joy. She’s an absolute rock star on stage and I’m very proud of her. We both are on a creative path to find ourselves and in between that, we find the time for each other and be there for a baby. 

CI: Do you seek feedback from each other? 

NM: Always. I look forward to her critique more than anyone. She is extremely blunt. She’s also been a voiceover artist and is excellent with sound and dubbing. So, I seek her feedback for a lot of my dubbing work. We’re now doing a lot of campaigns together, sometimes we co-write, and sometimes I direct. 

CI: How have you grown and changed as a person post becoming a father? 


NM: I think fatherhood has changed everything. The way I look at life, work, art, or just myself. I think you learn to accept your imperfections. I don’t think I’ve ever been so beautifully vulnerable before. As a man, you’re conditioned to shoulder the responsibility, but being a father has humbled me into sharing more, and being more open with my emotions. I look at work very differently now—I say no easily. I put a price on my time. You start valuing life and people more. There’s an instant smile on my face when I see a young parent or mother. I want to finish work and come home to my wife and kid. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen in myself. 

CI: What are the roles that you want to explore across all mediums? 


NM: There are too many. Post Bade Acche Lagte Hai 2 and Never Kiss Your Best Friend, I genuinely feel a different hold on my craft and feel that the growth is manifold. Becoming a parent and going through a pandemic has something to do with it. I want to do a lot of things now—I want to create my own content and projects on TV, OTT, or any other medium; host my own podcast; and produce shows that don’t even feature me. I want to do a lot more as a storyteller. Since Bade Acche... is over (Mehta last appeared on the show on February 6), I have more time to breathe. I want to travel, explore, and see how else I can expand my life. I don’t want to limit myself to being just the biggest TV star. Each one of us is capable of so much more. I don’t want a tag to limit me or make me fearful of my choices. I think the next few months are extremely exciting for me and hopefully, I will find a lot to do. 

CI: What are the things that you keep in mind when it comes to fan engagement on social media? 

NM: I’m the wrong person to talk about. I don’t pander to an audience. I do what’s authentic, what I want to have fun with. It doesn’t have to be deep, I can be frivolous. I don’t play into what I ‘must do’ to have a healthy fan following. Social media is an extension of who I am, authentically. During the pandemic, we did a poetry series called Homes for Democracy, by which we raised money via Homes for Humanity. I am constantly thinking about how I can break norms of what we can do on social media and add value to it, as the platform is not only about the work I do; the people also get something in return. It’s an interesting channel, and I receive a lot of feedback and use it in the work that I do.

CI: What are you currently working on and what’s next?

NM: For now, it is time to go back and live some life. For the last year and a half, I have been extremely busy with Bade Acche Lagte Hai 2 and a few other gigs. Now is the time to go back and become a full-time parent and travel. I want to go skiing in Kashmir. There are quite a few things on the bucket list, and once all those are ticked off, it’ll be time to see how to take the journey of an actor ahead. I want to fill the cup of life again. 

Image credits: Nakuul Mehta's Instagram