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Shutdown Stories: Naveen Polishetty hopes to make the world laugh in its most troubled time

The Chhichhore (2019) actor speaks about turning to humour in this dark period, reading philosophy, and doing some cathartic writing.

Shriram Iyengar

Humour, they say, can help you cope with the darkest of days. Naveen Polishetty seems to be turning to that old adage to help himself, and his fans, cope with the panic and the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus disease) pandemic. Speaking with Cinestaan.com on the phone, the Chhichhore actor said he sees humour as the only way to help people with panic.

"I just try to be active on social media and try to make funny videos and tweet," Polishetty said. "Anything that can bring a laugh basically. I kind of feel helpless in the situation where we can't control the outcome of this virus. Just make people laugh for at least half an hour. With a 21-day lockout, it seems to be a time to do this."

Explaining his reasons, the actor said, "Everyone has a different stress threshold. Someone might look at the news and say, 'Ah, we just need to take precaution.' But some other person might panic a little more. My parents panic a lot reading WhatsApp messages. There is a lot of stress in the country, across age groups. It is obviously a serious situation, but if I can do anything to reduce the stress, I am happy with that. That is pretty much why we are in the entertainment business."

From his childhood performances at birthday parties to his sketches with AIB (All India Bakchod), Polishetty has often used humour as a tool to help people cope with their troubles. "In those 10 minutes, I could see that they are not the same. They change and escape from their reality. In times like these, I feel that the calling of my profession is more justified and felt."

He should know. After quitting a comfortable corporate job in London, Naveen Polishetty arrived in Mumbai to face years of struggle. It was only with his sense of humour and the sketches he put up with AIB that he finally caught the attention of casting directors.

Last year was the big breakthrough year for the actor, having co-written his first Telugu film, Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya, and later featuring alongside Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Tahir Raj Bhasin and Varun Sharma in Chhichhore.

But with the lockdown, 2020 has not kicked off for anyone in the industry. So, the actor has returned to his favourite shows on Netflix. "I have been watching series on and off. I just caught up with the third season of La Casa De Papel, or Money Heist, as we call it. I really love that show. I caught up on Schitt's Creek, a show I love a lot," he said.

Polishetty surprises us by his reading choices. He said, "I am also reading a book called JD Krishnamurti, a philosopher and teacher. He was one of the out-of-the-box thinkers we had in this country. I am reading his autobiography. There is a lot of wisdom that came through a lot of great men in our country. I am trying to get back to that. A lot of books about history are on my list. A lot of times we just skip through that in school, without understanding the storyline or timeline of events. I am trying to read my way back to get a proper understanding of where we have fallen from."

No writing, we ask. "I am a slow writer," he said. "I am writing for a script, but I take a long time to finish when I am writing for myself. Hopefully, the lockdown helps to speed it up. Agent Sai... was a testing ground to see how difficult it is to write for a film."

With the lockdown in place, and 21 days to fill, it will be interesting to see what the actor comes up with.

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