A few days ago, we received an invitation from Navin Talreja, founding partner of ad agency The Womb, to attend a play that he is part of; we remembered that he has also acted in his own ad - 'Kya chal raha hai, Fogg chal raha hai'. So we decided to have a chat with him about his passion for acting... something he's gradually easing into as a parallel career.
Navin (46) was born and brought up in Chennai and started acting in the theatre at the age of 10 (fifth standard) when he was studying at SBOA school. Driven by a passion for acting, he continued its pursuit with different theatre groups, all through his graduation days (Vaishnav College). Navin has an MMS degree in marketing from Mumbai University.
Post that, Navin worked with RK Swamy/ BBDO - Chennai, for two years and O&M for three years and then joined a British company in Dubai - TDA DDB - in May 1999 and worked with them for six years during which time, he tells us, his live theatre acting took a backseat.
He came to Mumbai in April 2005 and joined O&M again as vice president - account management. Later, he joined Yes Bank as CMO for a period of seven months, before coming back to O&M where he stayed for the next seven years. "A lot of work continued to happen and I had no time for the theatre. The theatre requires time. But there was a period of six months where I created time for myself and I worked on a play named 'Mouse Trap' in 2010-2011."
Subsequently, Navin kept his "acting fire" alive through ads. "I acted in my Fogg ad. Prior to that, I acted in an ad for State Bank of India (O&M), Kamasutra (O&M) and an anti-piracy film for Percept Picture Company, directed by Rensil D'Silva. I also acted in a breast cancer awareness ad for Bridgestone..." he says, "... those are easier to do as you have an audition for a day and shoot for another day and, if required, you go and dub. So the work gets done within 24 hours. That's how I kept my acting alive."
In September 2015, Navin and Kawal Shoor his founding partner, launched their creative agency The Womb. Currently, Navin is working for a live theatre group named 'Making Noise'.
So how does Navin manage his time between The Womb and live theatre? He says, "Timewise, I finish my work at The Womb and start rehearsing at the night... I am at rehearsals till 1 am. I sleep at 2 am and then wake up in the morning and come to the office. Although opportunities are many, I'm not sure about getting into full time acting. I have to balance The Womb and my acting life on the side. As long as the balance is maintained, I should be open to any opportunity, but if the balance gets tilted towards acting, at this point, I don't know if I can fully commit myself."
Talking about his new play, Navin says, "We are starting a new play which will open at St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra, Mumbai on May 12. 'Women on Trial' is another play we are doing on May 24 at National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). So the calendar is pretty much full until January 2019."
We asked Navin if he plans to get into movies. He smiles and says, "I just auditioned for a Netflix show. I am waiting for a response. I did a movie a few years back with Rensil D'Silva - 'Kurbaan', starring Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan. Unfortunately, the track got cut from the movie. Besides that, I did a small movie with Naseeruddin Shah called 'Chaalis Chauraasi'; those were all small parts. I am personally open to any platform to express my acting skills and today, there are many options like ALTBalaji, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix... with various webseries happening. The show I auditioned for on Netflix is being produced by the BBC."
Navin is also planning to direct his own play soon. About that he says, "I am considering directing a play which should open in October and if not October, then definitely by January because it is a play that requires a child actor (14-15-year-old) and therefore, that actor is the lead in the play... hence it would need more time."
We asked Navin to compare acting and ad making from the point of view of audience reactions. He answers, "Acting in a play is instant gratification. Either they love you or hate you. There is a huge difference between theatre and advertising. I am sitting in a living room and watching an ad on TV, so I am not paying anything - to that extent, I am less cynical and critical about the ads that I am watching. But when you go to a play or a movie, you pay money, so people are paying Rs 300-1000 for the ticket, thus, they are critical."
He goes on, "They don't care if you are in a serial or movie. If you are on stage and are asked to pay Rs 1000, then you better perform for them. To that extent, it is very different. Critical evaluation is higher in theatre as compared to advertising."
Talking about his future plans on the acting front, Navin says, "If and when I am done with The Womb, ideally I won't work; I would be acting full time. I might do some consulting here and there, but that is another three-five years down the line."