Millennial debut actor, Kshitij Chauhan from SonyLIV’s Chutzpah talks about cracking into showbiz and about the show in this fun interview.

Chutzpah is an anthology series that was released on SonyLIV recently and it follows in the footsteps of Hotstar’s Euphoria and Netflix’s Elite. The show is created by Mrighdeep and directed by Simarpreet Singh. It follows five stories exploring and exposing the internet culture amongst the youth. It features actors Varun Sharma, Manjot Singh, Gautam Mehra, Tanya Maniktala, Elnaaz Norouzi and Kshitij Chauhan. The show follows an intriguing and engaging story of five individuals all connected in a single story through the internet. We had a chance to interact with a cast member of the show, Kshitij Chauhan aka Prateek to find out all about him, gain insight into his character and talk about his debut.

Kshitij is making his debut with this show and we thought of having a chat with him to get to know him as a person and what his journey has been like in the showbiz. While you may have known all about Prateek from Chutzpah by now, we bet you didn’t know all of these details about Kshitij!

How has your journey of being an aspiring actor to finally making a debut been like for you? 

When I think about it, the journey has been really long, almost three years but at the same time, it has been difficult to fathom how time went by so fast. It feels like I have just come to Bombay and right now also I am just exploring the city, so it’s kind of a mixed feeling. But when I came to Bombay I didn’t know anything about acting, I just came to Bombay, just like a million other people out there, I had this dream of becoming an actor. Frankly speaking, it was the fame that attracted me to this field because I just wanted to be famous and be known by people. After coming to Bombay I was doing two things parallelly, first being learn more about this craft of acting and what it is truly because until I came to Bombay I used to watch films considering that they were just made for entertainment, and people just randomly become actors. Eventually I started understanding it as an art form and how to polish this art form and that’s when I fell in love with the process. I say this a lot of times that more than being in love with being on the shoot, I love the process of becoming the character. When I did theatre for two years, I understood the preparation that you do when you want to get into a character. I love the fact that as an actor you need to observe yourself, people, life, and characters. There was a time where I also joined a casting company where I worked as a casting assistant to Mr. Gautam Krishanchandani and I assisted him for some five or six months on an Amazon project and I got to learn a lot from him. Many people had mentioned that if you want to learn how to act, you also need to know some technical aspects like camera techniques, how to give an audition. Staying with a casting company helped me understand the process of auditions and how to present yourself as an actor while auditioning. After that, the lockdown happened while I was still working as an assistant and that’s when I got a call from Shruti Mahajan’s casting team and they briefed me about this project called Chutzpah. I auditioned for it and got this project, and here I am.

Doing a debut series on a popular OTT platform like SonyLiv, what does that feel like for you?

To be frank, it really feels very surreal because just before lockdown I was this struggling actor who was auditioning for a less important character. I used to get excited about the fact that I was even approached for the audition. But after I was finalized for this project and was sitting in Maddock’s office, it all felt like it was happening in the blink of an eye. When I initially got the call from Shruti Ma’am’s team, I heard the brief and was ecstatic about the fact that I was a lead. The day I received the script, I also found out about my Nani being COVID positive and that disturbed me, I didn’t feel like giving the audition. My friends pushed me saying it‘s SonyLIV and Maddock but I was not in the frame of mind to think about any of that. Having worked closely with casting, I know how important an actor’s reputation is. Respect for Shruti ma’am and this is precisely what pushed me to finally go for it.

How was the experience of shooting, especially given the unprecedented times we’re living in? 

The shooting experience was quite different compared to other things that I have done previously like ads and short films. So shooting was very difficult because we did not have any co-stars in major scenes, I just had Kevin and in some scenes, I had Nina, my love interest. Most of the time, we were shooting in front of the screen so at that time an actor’s imagination came in handy. So from all the workshops and theatre that I have done in the past, they always used to emphasize being first and foremost an observer and second that you should have an amazing imagination power. Shooting for this show I realized the importance of this and how this technique really comes in very handy. And also the fact that you are talking to a green screen, so usually if you talk about acting it is a profession of giving and taking, it’s like how you are talking to me I will reply exactly according to that, in that same way. But this became very difficult in that sense. So it was a long and hectic process in terms of that.  

How was your experience of playing your character, Prateek in the show? 

I was just told in brief that he was a guy living in Delhi who is living in Bombay right now and wants to become a model/actor. He is very strong-headed guy who enjoys bullying his friends, he is sort of like a king of his own kingdom. When I got the full-fledged script, I got to know that he is complete ‘Badtameez Dili ka launda’  who is doesn’t respect girls, and lives in his own world. Through Prateek, a darker side of the web is revealed in the series. Chutzpah is an anthology series that has different stories running parallely throughout the series in different episodes. When I read the script I realized that in terms of psyche, Prateek is a very difficult character to crack, and in today’s world such people do exist but will not be found easily around us as they are off into their own zones. I used to talk to some people I knew who had a similar mentality to my character, Prateek when I prepped for this role and I also had to use my imagination in terms of how will he talk, walk. Also, there are layers to Prateek, initially, he comes off as a smooth talker which gets you to think that there is nobody as ‘shareef’ as him but slowly his dark side comes off. Initially, he uses this charming smooth talker boy image to lure you into his trap, once you are in, the use and throw begins. The process was to hack into all these layers of Prateek and how he behaves when he gets angry, and all of that darkness. 

Do you have any particular scene that stayed with you?

I’m not allowed to reveal any scenes even though there were some scenes that have stayed with me. But without revealing I can share some bits with you. Prateek has this whole journey from the start, middle and end. The best part of the script was that Prateek is the kind of a guy who doesn’t calculate the consequences of his actions. He keeps on doing dark stuff but doesn’t really bother about t. But in the end, we get to see what consequences he has to face. It was morally satisfying for me because I’m playing this dark character who gets to do all types of terrible stuff but he faces the consequences for all his deeds, which sends a social message as well. The skepticism that I had initially died down after I read the ending. In the end when Prateek faces the consequences of his actions, I really enjoyed doing those scenes.

5 things about you that you would want the audience to know.

I’m not like Prateek at all, this is the main thing because the audience generally tends to associate you with your character. People advised me against playing a negative role as my debut but I believe the audience is smart enough to differentiate between an actor and a character. Having said that, I still feel some people are out there who troll you for playing such a guy, so first of all I would like to establish that I am totally the opposite of Prateek. Secondly, I love music. I am a drummer and I love to generate music from my percussion instrument. I play the drum, I play the horn, I have this hand-pan called hand drum, I love music. I love watching films, like I can spend 24 hours watching movies, different kinds of it. I love to hang out with my friends, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t spend time with them and I think it’s important too. I love to socialize with my friends and family. I love physical activity, I love to play cricket and work out a lot. I feel that because you have to be physically fit to become an actor you need to have a bag full of energy.

Have you watched Kshitij in SonyLIV’s Chutzpah yet? If you haven’t, go watch it soon!

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