PeepingMoon Exclusive: ‘Abhilash’s selfishness is attached to his passion, arrogance to his hurt; these things make him human,’ says Naveen Kasturia on his role in TVF’s Aspirants

Naveen Kasturia aka Abhilash of TVF’s Aspirants is basking in the glory the show is bringing his way. He has been a part of OTT right from the start with shows like TVF Pitchers way back in 2015.Since then the show has gone to achieve cult status and now with Aspirants, Naveen has gone for the kill.

In an exclusive interview with, Naveen speaks about his character, Abhilash, the adulation coming his way post the success of the show, what makes it so relatable and sharing screen space with Sanjay Mishra in his new series Runway Lugaai.

RECOMMENDED READ: PeepingMoon Exclusive: Sunny Hinduja aka Sandeep Bhaiya of TVF’s Aspirants reveals his favourite quote from the web series & what makes the show a hit!

Excerpts from the interview:

You started off as an assistant director and then made your way towards acting, so acting was always your ultimate goal or it just happened during the course of your career?

I think now that I look back it seems my ultimate goal was acting only. Ever since it has happened I don’t think I am ever going back to filmmaking. However, how much I struggle in this field, you don’t actually get to work with people you want to, get the script or the role that you’d like to take up, you hardly work in a year, maybe just a month-or-two but I still want to keep acting. Initially I never thought that I could act because of certain things in my head but now that I have become an actor, I think it was my ultimate goal and eventual plan.

TVF’s Aspirants has blown everyone’s minds, what do you have to say about the adulation coming your way?

It feels excellent, I feel super lucky, privileged and blessed that this has happened to me, because when you’re working on something, I mean you give your hundred percent but it becomes very difficult to gage and difficult to anticipate such kind of success. So I am very happy that people have loved it so much.

We made a similar show six years back which was TVF Pitchers , that time also we made the show with full dedication and I had no work at that time after I did a film called Sulemani Keeda. At that point of time I had felt that everyone will go crazy and shower me with praises but nothing like that happened. Few people saw that and they praised and that’s it. The TVF team had seen Sulemani Keeda and they wanted to take me for Pitchers and I liked the idea of the show. I did it as I liked the script not thinking that it will become a hit or anything of that sort. I was thinking of Sulemani that it will become a hit and my career will be made and not with Pitchers but it worked. The same thing happened this time around. With Aspirants my intention was clear that I wanted to be a part of a good script, a good show and could have never anticipated this. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to tell people that you’re an actor as everyone here is an actor. But when you have some kind of success behind you it gives you a confidence and you feel surer about yourself. I have received messages from people whose acting prowess I admire a lot which has made me exceptionally happy. At the time of Pitchers web was not seen as a credible medium, it started off with that show as it was one of the pioneers. So it feels really good that I am getting the accolades.

How did you prepare for the role?

I wanted to look different as I was working with the TVF people after so long. Apoorv, Arunabh and I, we all wanted me to look different. I did not want people to get reminded of Naveen Bansal from Pitchers but see me as Abhilash. We also wanted to show past and present differently as this guy has gone through some transitions. So we can’t show the nervous energy that he had while he was a student in the past but needs to be more subdued and somber when he grows older. We were trying to make both the characters past and present different from each other. And the second focus was that the past character should be a little more likeable because he is also ranting all the time so we wanted people to empathize with him. In a way it is Abhilash’s character which is the focal point of the show. Since he rants a lot so Apoorv wanted me to smile a little more in my scenes with Dhairya.

Your character in Aspirants is one that shows radical transformation, from a student to an IAS officer. However, the character has been labeled as arrogant and selfish by a few and some have even called it delusional as he leaves his near-and dear ones to pursue his dream. How do you justify this arc?

Yeah, he is selfish and egoistic, not delusional per se. I found the character very flawed but also very human. His arrogance comes from his hurt and some kind of embarrassment. Abhilash’s ego gets hurt in the show but eventually he realizes his mistake and mends bridges and accepts that he was acting silly. He also loved his friends and loved Dhairya, he might have taken his friends for granted. His selfishness is attached to his passion, his arrogance is attached to his hurt; and all these things make him very human and relatable. I found Abhilash interesting with his self-centred nature and a breath of fresh air. He might not be the most talented gut but he was the most dedicated and most persistent.

Were there any apprehensions on your part when you signed Aspirants that it might be compared to Kota Factory?

Yes I had that doubt. However, my director Apoorv Singh Karki and my co-stars Shivankit Parihar, Abhilash Thapliyal, Namita Dubey and Sunny Hinduja appreciated the script a lot. Even I read the script and liked it but I could never say that. I had not seen Kota Factory before. Once I finished shooting for Aspirants I finally saw Kota Factory.I felt that there might be some beats that are similar to Kota Factory and Pitchers as you cannot show competitive exams and I had that thought that it should not feel that same thing is being presented in a new way. However, I am glad that the comparisons have come out in a positive way and more on the genre based and that they all lie in the educational domain but the story and treatment are different.

Is there any advice or pearls of wisdom that you hold true to your heart from Aspirants?

The last scene with Sunny has stayed with me. I’ve always believed in that piece of advice that if you need to keep your near-and-dear ones close to enjoy your moment of success. I am glad that we can talk about it because we’re always shown stories where people pursue their dreams and always glorified their achievements but in long run if you don’t have your loved ones with you then it becomes meaningless, so I am happy that we addressed that in Aspirants. You need to strike a balance in life.

You have become almost a veteran for the online medium, does it pose a problem to feature on the big screen?

Yeah, it does pose a problem. I do get a lot of such rejections and this kind of perception is still there but you need to keep fighting. It happens as most of my work has been on web but now maybe because of lockdown or OTT it’s not looked down upon now. Many big filmstars have messaged me to say that they liked my work, so there.

You’ve shared screen space with Sanjay Mishra in Runway Lugaai, how was the experience of working with him? Any advice that he gave you?

I’ve worked with him before in an ad shoot in 2015. This time we spent a lot of time together in Patna. I got to see him on-camera, off-camera and learn a lot in ways in which he improvises scenes and portray comedy. One of his best qualities is that he enjoys acting and works with a lot of enthusiasm and interest that reflects on screen. His temperament is also very cool, he is a friendly guy and very approachable that makes it very inspiring to work with him. He advised me to not take myself too seriously. I got the same advice from Apoorv, he told me ‘Naveen be sincere don’t be serious, enjoy your work’. I feel in Aspirants I have done a lot of chilled things which I felt I would not have done otherwise but did because of my director.

After Aspirants you are being touted as the next Jitendra Kumar who will burst on the big screen soon. Your thoughts on this?

I started my career with a film, but I also feel that it is about chance and luck. Even I gave audition for Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhaan but I hope I crack bigger films and better stories.

What are your future projects? Can you share some deets?

I have not shot anything after Aspirants. There are some projects in the pipeline but nothing is concrete as of now.