By Aarian Parikh | Opening Doorz Editorial | February 16, 2018
Its lights! Camera! Action! for Bollywood’s newest addition, Swagata Naik, a shining exemplar of what it means to be brave and chase after your dreams in the 21st century. Swagata, who once boasted the title of corporate lawyer, has shed her old self only to be reborn under the guidance of the Jeff Goldberg Studio, into the ever-evolving world of film.
Having played roles in a full-length feature film, Call for Fun and an impactful short film Shatika for which she won the ‘Digital Hash Streaming Monthly Awards for best Debut’. Swagata now wears the hat of director for her newest production Barefoot in The Park, an English play by Neil Simon, which is being produced by her own Production house, ‘Thrice as Nice Entertainment’, which was started in conjunction with Mikhail Kantroo and Varun Tewari. This would be Swagata’s second project as director, the first being a period drama based on a poem by Amrita Das, Dard.
Barefoot in the Park premieres today at the Jeff Golderg Studio, Mumbai, and will play over the weekend
With moxie and with her eye on the prize, here’s a peek into our conversation with the actor to get a look into where her journey has brought her so far.
Today is D-day. How have you prepared for it?
With a cast that makes my work so easy, we have been pretty much on track. We are currently finessing the edges and trying to find spaces that we had not explored earlier. The idea is to serve the forever love story with characters that you have not seen.
How long have you all been working on the project and how difficult or easy was getting the funds for this project?
We have been working for three months to prepare it for the stage and we are producing the show as well with a whole lot of creativity going into how to use the resources we have economically. The Jeff Goldberg Studio has been kind enough to let us rehearse and premiere the same at their venue. The city definitely needs more supporters like these.
What’s the play all about?
Barefoot in the Park is a romantic comedy written by Neil Simon. We meet the starry eyed Corie and the straight-laced Palash as they negotiate the first few days after their honeymoon in a cramped New York apartment. They are joined in their already full apartment by the hypochondriac Simi and the flamboyant Vicky Malhotra. Romance is in the air and so is a little bit of chaos.
What was your ‘eureka moment’ when you decided it was time to start following your dream?
If I have to pick a moment, it would be a moment in the theatre at the Adishakti workshop I did even whilst I was still practising law. The peace and quiet and the energy of the space felt surreal and almost spiritual. I knew then that this is what I wanted to do.
Which artist/film, western or Indian, was your inspiration that set you on your path to the silver screen?
Shah Rukh Khan—there are days I wake up and forge ahead only because I am so inspired by him.
Anyone in particular you would really want to work with in your upcoming projects?
Of course the wish list is quite long but currently Anurag Kashyap is someone who we as a Production want to associate with because of a concept that we have written and which we feel, he would be the right ambassador of.
How has your progress in the industry changed you; what lessons has it taught you and what habits has it changed?
I have become an even earlier riser and a more patient person. It has reinforced the lesson from my previous life as a lawyer that one’s integrity as an artist and a professional should always be maintained.
How would you define your acting style, or signature if any?
I like to tailor my style or method based on the character, the story, the team and the circumstances of the shoot. The key is to remain honest and yet efficient on set.
Do you find theatrical performances more challenging or films, why so?
Each platform has its own challenges and thrills. While film has the pressure of the world seeing you in all your imperfection on the big screen, theatre does not have a second take. For an artiste, both are equally important. It is telling a story as honestly as possible and working within the format.
Is there something you wish you could change about the Bollywood film scene or its audiences?
The industry needs to recognise that our beautiful country has some of the smartest people in the world. We are and have always been ready for edgier content. The industry needs to respond to that readiness. Bigger productions should realise that if made well, fresh or as yet untested content from newer writers is not as great a risk.
Can you give us a brief on your new venture, ‘Thrice as Nice Entertainment’?
My co-actors, Mikhael Kantroo and Varun Tewari and me have started ‘Thrice as Nice Entertainment’. Apart from this, we are currently pitching feature films and web shows we have written. In order to keep abreast with our craft and put out the kind of content we as storytellers want to be associated with, we are also producing two short films called Khan and Pixie Dust—both stories of love and longing but yet very different in their universes and treatments. We are looking for a platform for our short film Dard, a conversation in poetry. We are sure that our sensibilities will find the right platforms.
Mikhael and Varun, like me, are also actors and writers with a large body of experience. Our company has been started with the mission of creating content that we want to watch.
Seeing young blood infused into an old industry brings a new energy on screen, and that’s exactly what Swagata brings to stage/screen with her every time. Swagata is a wonderful example of someone who broke through into the industry without a godfather or influence, and is leading the charge with vigour and aspiration, to success!
It’s time to raise the curtains for ‘Thrice as Nice Entertainment’!
Tickets for Barefoot in the Park are available on BookMyShow.