A new dawn for Nalneesh Neel

Patience pays: Nalneesh Neel   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kamakhya Narayan Singh’s upcoming film Bhor has just been selected for the Indian Panorama Section of the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), among 21 other feature films and four mainstream films. Bhor stars actor Nalneesh Neel in the pivotal role of a man belonging to the poverty-stricken Musahar community known for feeding on rats for survival. “As part of the preparation for my role in the film I didn’t take bath for weeks. Then one day when I tried to enter my hotel I was stopped by the door attendant. Seeing my dishevelled look, he probably took me for a vagabond. That’s when the director got convinced that I was finally ready for the role,” reveals an upbeat Nalneesh, who is excited by the film’s selection for IFFI.

Breaking into Bollywood is never easy for a newcomer and more so if that actor is an outsider. Actor Nalneesh Neel, who is known for his small but memorable roles in films like Shuddh Desi Romance, Veerappan, Raees, and Fukrey Returns, had to struggle for years before he got his first break. While growing up in the Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh, Nalneesh would regularly watch Bollywood films on VCRs and imitate famous dialogues and dance moves. With each passing day, the passion grew stronger and stronger and he finally mustered the courage to undertake an overnight journey to the nearby district of Shahjahanpur, hoping to enroll in the local theatre. “All I knew was that Rajpal Yadav hailed from Shahjahanpur and it was enough to make up my mind,” reveals Nalneesh.

In Shahjahanpur, he trained under Dilip Anand who was also Rajpal Yadav’s mentor. After getting some decent exposure with local theatre groups he successfully applied to Lucknow’s Bhartendu Natya Academy. On graduating from the academy, he started giving auditions for movies but without much luck. In between, he did a short certificate course from FTII which introduced him to world cinema. During his struggle years, he earned a living by doing photography and videography at marriage functions. “I must have covered over 200 marriages. For every night I used to get paid around 300 rupees. I used a part of the savings to learn martial arts as I thought it could help me in becoming a better performer,” recollects the Fukrey Returns actor.

Surviving in Mumbai during the early years proved to be a major hurdle for Nalneesh. “I came to Mumbai in 2010 and it was entirely a humbling experience. I wasn’t a star kid and didn’t have the looks. So I used to get teased a lot with people making snide remarks about my looks and dark complexion,” reveals Nalneesh. When he failed to get a break in the movies, he tried his luck in television but realised that even there looks play a decisive role.

“I was shocked to learn that the casting directors for television weren’t considering someone with a dark complexion even for the role of a servant,” tells the Veerappan actor. Soon he was running out of money and the exhaustion wasn’t just physical but also mental. “Every day I would visit different production houses hoping to get some work. I even lost the count of the number of auditions I appeared for. The only thing I could afford to eat was a vada pav,” says Nalneesh.

After a couple of years of struggle, Nalneesh landed a small role in Ata Pata Laapata. “I was one of 175 actors in the film and so there was no question of making my presence felt. It was all about getting a hang of acting in front of the camera,” reveals Nalneesh. Subsequently, he played inconsequential roles in a slew of films including Kya Super Kool Hain Hum, Manjunath, Shooter, etc. “By the time I got signed for Shuddh Desi Romance I still had very little understanding of the camera as no one really feels it important to brief the actors playing small parts in movies,” says Nalneesh.

Fortunately for him, he subsequently got to play substantial parts in short films like Acche Din, which was the first runner-up at the 2017 Mumbai Film Festival, Umeed, and Ram Gopal Varma’s The Foreigner, which have brought him greater recognition.

“Today more and more people have started recognising me because of my work but above all my success has made my family proud,” rejoices Nalneesh. His upcoming films include Kangana Ranaut’s historical biopic Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi wherein he essays a character named Teer Singh.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 10:51:23 AM |

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