Neil Nitin Mukesh is renowned Bollywood actor who started his acting career from Yash Chopra’s ‘Vijay’ as a child artist but he got the real recognition from blockbuster ‘Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni’ as a junior Govinda. He is the son of renowned singer Nitin Mukesh and grandson of legendary Mukesh ji. Despite of being from a singer’s family, he tried his luck in acting and created his own place in Bollywood. His some of Bollywood movies are-Indu Sarkar, Saat Khoon Maaf, Johnny Gaddaar, David, New York and Players etc. In an exclusive interview with Yogesh Mishra, he spoke about his acting career as a child artist, upcoming movies, association with Miraj Group, secret behind not using his real surname and his plan to make a biopic on legendary Mukesh ji.
You have worked as a child artist also. When did you get the recognition in the industry?
It was with my film ‘Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharni’. I was just five years old that time but I was quite confident about the success of this film. On the day of film’s premier in Delhi, I said my Nani (maternal grandmother) that today people will ask for my autograph so I want the branded Cross pen. That time having a Cross pen was a big thing. She arranged a golden pen for me but that was not the Cross pen so I immediately threw that pen and said ‘Nani, you are lying. This is not the Cross pen’. Looking at the situation my maternal uncle given me the real Cross pen that he had at that point of time. Thus I went to cinema hall and as I expected, people mobbed me so much that day. I really gave autographs to so many people out there. My maternal grandmother still recalls me that moment and says that ‘beta (son) you knew that time only what exactly you wanted to do’.
When did you realise first that you should try your luck in acting?
My first film was ‘Vijay’ which was directed by Yash Chopra ji. I have played junior Rishi Kapoor in that film. Yash uncle (Yash Chopra) and my father were very close friend. My first family in the industry would be Chopra family. When I was a child, one day my father got a call from Yash Raj films. They wanted me to cast as a junior Rishi Kapoor. My father immediately jumped to this idea. When I went on set, I enjoyed myself. That time only I decided to become an actor.
You have spent over a decade in the industry. How do you look back on your journey so far? What has been the biggest change and the biggest challenge?
I owe whatever I am today to my family, friends and fans. I always was sure of the direction I wanted my life to take and every year I keep revisiting my to-do list to shape up that vision. It’s like I’m constantly building my empire even if it means putting smaller blocks together. I don’t easily overlook the value of the core pillars who contributed towards making a Neil Nitin Mukesh out of a Neil Mathur; I’m always doing my bit for those wonderful people in some way or the other. Because I understand the importance of kindred, I can confidently say that I don’t feel lonely at the top. Even when I’m not busy shooting, I keep myself occupied with activities that empower my holistic development. I’ve never felt the need to be answerable to a multitude of people, the self-assurance needs to come from within and that happens only when you believe in your roadmap and you’re not constantly seeking approval from every second person you acquaint. To survive in Bollywood you need a lot of endurance or it’s very easy to lose track of your vision and critics to write you off. I think I’ve done a pretty god job! There have been a lot of ups and downs, but life has to have a graph; it can’t be a straight line. I have worked with some fine filmmakers like Vishal Bharadwaj, Sriram Raghavan, Madhur Bhandarkar, Sooraj Barjatya and more. I’m grateful that I’ve sustained so far. Initially, people said I would probably not last too long because a singer’s grandson and son becoming an actor is a major question mark. I’m glad I’ve been able to carve a niche for myself, no matter how small it is. At least people know of my existence and I am happy and proud of that.
You do not use any surname (Neil Nitin Mukesh). What is your real surname?
Our surname is ‘Mathur’. We are basically Kayasth. My grandfather was basically from Delhi. He came to Mumbai to become a singer and since then we are in Mumbai.
Do you have any plan to use ‘Mathur’ surname?
I wouldn’t mind doing that. Actually my father was doing a stage show with my grandfather when my grandfather expired. In a way the tour of my grandfather became incomplete so my father continued that tour that’s why he used the name of my grandfather (as a surname) so that people can know that Nitin is the son of Mukesh who is now going to complete the incomplete journey of Mukesh ji. Now, since my father dedicated his full life to his father so I think as a son I should also dedicate my life to my father. In the school, our surname is ‘Mathur’ only.
Coming to your personal life, you turned father last year. How has the experience changed you as a person? Has your priorities and outlook towards life and career changed?
Fatherhood is the most beautiful feeling after marriage. I’m completely in love with Nurvi and I’m reliving my childhood. It’s a mixed bag of feelings. I was a hands-on brother, uncle and now dad. Rukmini was quite shocked that I could look after a baby so well. I think I have become more responsible now since I know I need to create a legacy for Nurvi, something that she can take forward and be proud of.
What about your daughter? What surname is she going to use?
My daughter can do whatever she wants to do. My school name is still ‘Neil Mathur’. This (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is my screen name only. We are actually ‘Mathur’. Tomorrow my daughter Nurvi has a choice whether she wants to continue with ‘Mathur’ surname or wants to be called as Nurvi Neil Mukesh or Nurvi Mukesh. My father has never any problem about using this surname.
You belong to a great singer’s family. Did you ever think to continue the legacy of singing?
To be honest, this is the secret I am going to say… I am very scared to do that because I have two legends attached to my name and both are the best singers in the country, my father and my grandfather. I am not as good as they (laughs..).
Did you ever try singing?
Yes. I sing. I am a pianist. I compose music also but my style of singing is very different from my father and grandfather. So I thought, first of all lets create a great footing as per actor and filmmaker are concerned then I will try singing also.
Would you like to explore yourself as a director also?
As a director I have done lots of ads but I don’t talk about that because people will start questioning about that. I have done it for Miraj Group only. Hopefully I will direct a film also very soon. As per direction is concern, let my brother take the ownership of this. Let there be one actor and one director (laughs).
Your family has a very positive image in Indian film industry but you have played grey shade in many films. How do you consider it?
(laughs) …still I got so much love from the audience.
Didn’t you realise that you should not do negative roles?
No. Never. I think creativity does not have any barrier. My grandfather was a singer. My father is also a singer. Many people say that Mukesh ji used to sing only sad songs but still people loved him so much. Similarly if you are comparing myself with them so definitely I will say that every actor should know his strength and weaknesses. When I did Johnny Gaddaar, lots of questions arised that time. I am from a singer’s family so there was a challenge that whether I will be able to prove myself as an actor or not. That time I was looking for such a story where I can prove my acting skill. It’s so many years now. I have proved now that yes, I can do acting. After some time, even I realised that how can I challenge myself. I like character based film. You can see any of my film, you will find the differences. My roles are different in every film be it Indu Sarkar, Saat Khoon Maaf, Johnny Gaddaar, David, New York or Players. You can find the difference in any of my characters. One should see the range that an actor is giving.
Are you planning a biopic on legendary Mukesh ji?
I have already written the story (Biopic on Mukesh ji) and it is already registered. I was very close to my daadi (grandmother) and I penned down whatever information I could get from her since my childhood. My father and my grandmother are my best source of information. Nobody can know Mukesh ji better than my father and my grandmother. Soon I am planning this movie. This film is all about the inspirational journey of Mukesh ji.
Do you have any face in your mind who can play the character of Mukesh ji?
My grandmother and my father always used to say that I look like my grandfather. So far I think, if I can play that role then nothing like it. I would love to play his character. His story is very close to me. Still I have his (grandfather) everything with me. I still use some of his things in my films. In my upcoming film ‘Bypaas Road’ I am wearing his watch but normally I don’t discuss such things with people.
Tell us something about your upcoming film Bypass Road?
I have started working on 'Bypass Road'. Already we have established starcast on board. This is my production house in collaboration with Miraj Group. I have written the story. For the first time we are doing this film in collaboration. I am associated with Miraj group as a director since last 4 years. I look into entertainment department. Earlier we have produced 'Madaari' and this year we are doing ‘Bypass Road’ and two more films. This year I have also started my own company where me and my younger brother are directors. ‘Bypass Road’ is directed by my brother Naman. It’s his debut film as a director. Along with me there are Rajat Kapoor, Gul Panag, Sudhanshu Pandey and Adah Sharma etc. in the film. This is ensemble of great actors.
What about the story?
It’s a thriller movie. Story belong to a street where everything comes to an end. I can tell you this much only rightnow.
Is it inspired with some real life incident?
No. It’s a fictional thriller. It’s a completely original plot written by me. It took me almost 3.5 years to complete this story. I started writing this movie from the sets of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ in Karjat. I could do it because I used to get time there since we were staying there only.
What made you switch to production?
I haven't switched to production, I have just forayed into production, acting will always be my first priority. As a creative person I never wanted to limit myself to a particular field. I started off as an assistant director with Yashraj. In the business of entertainment, there are no creative boundaries. I have created an identity for myself as an actor, but I'm also known as a musician, director, singer, photographer and writer which are all aspects of the creative process and now with production, it all comes to a full circle. Filmmaking entails multiple layers and facets which is very appealing to me since I've always believed in breaking stereotypes. Plus it’s really interesting because at times you may not get the most ideal script to act in and in those times instead of staying idle, you can consider producing or directing a film and thereby add value to ones’ aspirations. Also on the side I had been working as the creative director for Miraj when Madari was released in 2016 since I wanted to turn a new leaf and get into other aspects of filmmaking. As an actor, I will follow instructions because it’s the producer’s call and the director’s vision. But, as a producer as well as an actor in the same project, I have more creative freedom and control.
A number of actors are turning producers these days. What are the advantages and risks associated with it? Based on your experience so far, what would you say to debutant producers?
Everything in life entails a risk to be honest. One shouldn’t be in Bollywood if you are afraid to take on new challenges. The sun isn’t going to shine bright every single day. There is a lot of money to be made and lost in Bollywood. Cinema is a big gamble and a high risk business. You need to have an eye for what works and package it in such a way that you stand out from the crowd. Don’t jump into for the stardom or moolah because it all looks hunky dory from the outside but there is a lot of hard work required and you have the stake of the livelihood of a lot of people on your shoulders. Diversity behind the scenes helps ensure traditionally neglected stories get narrated, which in turn creates more nuanced roles for diverse actors. Having your own production company certainly helps mitigate the age factor. Once you wear many hats you will have many more opportunities to work. Many times actors can be constrained by their looks, their gender, their body type and the roles that made them famous and multi-tasking will help them bust out of the typecast. Although many actors begin producing in order to take control of their career destinies in front of and behind the camera, there are a lot, like myself, interested in expanding the quality and scope of the industry.
How is your association with Miraj Group?
I have very strong association with Miraj Group. I used to direct his ad films too. I am the director and brand ambassador of one of Miraj Group's upcoming brand.
Are you playing grey character in this film (Bypass Road)?
I am very happy that in this film almost every character has a grey shade. I am not the only actor playing grey character in this film (laughs). I personally like thriller movies. I have played grey character in many films earlier too.
What about music?
There is beautiful music in the film. When me and Naman is connected in this film then definitely music is going to play the vital role in the film. We have got the music in legacy. I hope people will like the music.
What next after ‘Bypass Road’?
Rightnow I am doing ‘Saaho’ which is very big movie. It’s an action movie. I gained my weight for that film. We are working in this film from quite long time. This film is in 3 languages, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. This is one of the biggest film in India.
How is your working experience with Shraddha Kapoor?
She is brilliant. I think, her choices have been very nice and different. She is very humble and down to earth. She is a fabulous actor. I am proud that I have worked with many second generation actors.
What are the things that excite you the most these days?
I guess only NNM Films and family at the moment. I have Saaho coming up in a few months too.
Actor Suniel Shetty's son Ahan Shetty has enter the cine world with his most anticipated movie 'T
Antim-The Final Truth is one of the most anticipated movie of Salman Khan and Ayush Sharma. Altho
Director Milap Zaveri's Satyameva Jayate-2 is one of the most entertaining movie of the year. Joh