“When you are out of college, you have no idea what’s happening. You just go with the flow, you are not really planning but you want to be occupied for at least six months and then you look at the next ten months. For me, most of it was a gamble and I’ve just been lucky.”
For actor Neil Bhoopalam life has been a gamble in many ways, and most of it has worked in his favour.
Actor Neil Bhoopalam’s is a happy, inspiring story. At least that’s the feeling you get when you chat him up. With absolutely no background in films, his only connection to Bollywood is his birth place (Mumbai), he has managed to draw some success with films like Anushka Sharma-starrer NH 10, David, No One Killed Jessica, and Ungli.
Back to television for a new stint, Bhoopalam plays the host of a brand new Nat Geo series called How to Win at Everything that demonstrates live hacks to give viewers smart advantages in various aspects of life. “The show has five segments of different things like cook your food while in car or something involving martial arts. It is not exactly a game show. The series explores human physiology, psychology, physics, technology and mathematics to show how people can win in any scenario. I will analyse every action and will demonstrate ways to approach real world situations offering shortcuts for life,” Bhoopalam tells us in an exclusive telephonic interview.
And then there’s the upcoming season of 24, in which the actor will take on the role of the Prime Minister. “There is a lot of ideology I put into it, and the character in season two also works towards betterment of the society. But in terms of the plot, there’s a lot going on, and sometimes during the shoot, I get confused as to what’s going to hit me next,” he reveals.
The name of the series — How To Win At Everything — ironically sums up Bhoopalam’s career too in many ways. At 19 he tried his luck on radio as a jockey, followed this with a debut on stage. The day he quit his radio job he went to his college where theatre artist and director Atul Kumar was holding auditions for a play Voices. The audition went off well and Bhoopalam was on board. “Back then, opportunities in radio had just opened. But for me, it wasn’t a plan; I just did what seemed like fun at the point. Stage seemed exciting so I did it. Channel V sounded like fun too, and I made use of the opportunity. When you are out of college, you have no idea what’s happening. You just go with the flow, you are not really planning but you want to be occupied for at least six months and then you look at the next ten months. For me, most of it was a gamble and I’ve just been lucky,” says the actor who began his stage career back in 2003.
And that is how Bhoopalam’s career as a theatre personality has lasted over a decade, and he owes much of his recognition in mainstream cinema to that. “That is what made people take notice of me,” he says, adding, “I’ve been at the right place at the right time, whatever break I’ve got has been a collective growth.”
But when you ask him if he would choose stage over movies, his answer is instantaneous. “Maybe four years ago I would say stage but now I am enjoying cinema. I like being in front of the camera,” he says.
Call it coincidence, but we caught up with the actor on his birthday (March 19), and he seemed to be in a rather candid, yet retrospective mood. “In films, I don’t think I have got a role that tests my skills yet, but then again people also don’t know what I have been up to. But I don’t feel the need to chase anything either, I think things are working out fine. I remember a few years ago, during the shoot of Shaitan, I sat and wrote down what I was doing in life at the time. I back tracked a little and tried to jot down how I landed up in showbiz. I made a tree, literally, of the people I have met. One thing had led to another, and I am extremely happy how things have transpired. If I ever get bumped out, it is not because of anything else, but because I am sitting around not making big use of the opportunity,” he admits.
Bhoopalam’s love for food is no secret. In fact he even enjoys rustling up a meal every now and then for his wife Nandini. “Recently my cook didn’t turn up and I ended up making pasta for lunch” he says. His routine also involves a strict exercise regime with his personal trainer. “But I believe in stretching a lot. You know, like how the dogs do before and after sleeping. Just like that,” he says, laughing. He also likes to spend time watching web serials online, and in fact he also stars in the YouTube mini-series Bang Baaja Baarat.
Co-star you enjoyed working with the most
It’s too hard to pick a favourite
All-time favourite movie
Ace Ventura Pet Detective
All time favourite actor
Notes On Chai by Jyoti Dogra
Best VJ you have seen this far
Trey and Muriel from the show By Demand
Perfect way to unwind
Favourite web series
In today’s day and age one really is spoilt for choice.
How To Win at Everything airs every Monday-Wednesday, 9.30pm on National Geographic Channel
— Nandini Kumar