It was a trip to the mountains that gave actor Namit Khanna clarity on what he really wanted to do in life. Call it the effect of the fresh air or tranquillity of the scenery, the visit triggered a whole new passion for showbiz inside of him. Not just that, the experience also helped him discover the joy of photography. “I had a phone with a 3.2-megapixel camera and I started capturing candid moments, inanimate objects and the stunning landscape during my trip. When I came back to Delhi, I showed the pictures to one of my photographer friends and he was super impressed. He encouraged me to pick up a DSLR and start experimenting with it. I have never stopped clicking photos after that,” he says.
Touted as one of the most good-looking television series actors in India, Namit is best known for his role as Dr Siddhant Mathur in the medical drama Sanjivani 2. As a matter of fact, the model-turned-actor has quite a lot of titles in his kitty.
He was listed 17th in Times Top 20 Most Desirable Men on Indian Television in 2019. The same year he was placed 28th in the Eastern Eye’s Top 50 Sexiest Asian Men List and 19th in Biz Asia’s Top 30 TV Personality List 2019. But it wasn’t all peachy for Namit when he started off. Like most people, he also had his share of struggles and putdowns.
“I studied business administration and worked in Delhi as an advertising executive. However, that was just to get myself introduced into a working environment and understand the corporate scene. I did not want to be stuck doing the same work, day in and day out, all my life. So, I ventured into modelling,” Namit says. He was 21 at the moment and modelling fetched him way more money than his day job. But it was not just about the money for him. Namit, with his “upmarket” face, wanted to do more than just pose. This is when he, along with his friend, got selected for the American reality game show The Amazing Race. “My friend and I applied just for the kicks but we didn’t think we would get called for it. We went to Singapore for the initial selection process and then we got a call to be a part of that particular season. Unfortunately, we could not go as Indian passports take a longer time to get visa approvals and the organisers of the show asked us to participate in the next season because of the delay. The interesting bit is that I left my job for this but it was all for the good; it marked the start of a fantastical adventure tale,” he says. During this time, Namit shifted to Mumbai to take his modelling career to the next level. Little did he know at the time that luck was at his doorstep. “I vividly remember my first ever professional portfolio. I got to shoot with one of the most versatile Indian photographers Bharat Sikka. Before I knew it, I was shooting for big campaigns wearing designs by Manish Arora,” he says. However, he was not ready to stop there. In an exclusive tête-à-tête, Namit talks about his twisted journey from modelling to clowning and, finally, getting into acting.
When did you realise that you wanted to get into showbiz?
I believe in the power of the mind and thoughts and over the years, this belief has been getting stronger. My modelling career was going on pretty well, however, I felt at some point that I was not really doing any value addition to my work. That was the time when I was randomly contacted by various casting directors for different films. But I was not ready at the time. I wasn’t really skilled as an actor and I just ended up doing whatever I knew during the auditions. And I used to not get disappointed if a project did not work out, I would just continue with my modelling assignments. This went on till the time I decided that I really needed to focus my mind and energy into acting and actually started to put effort into it. This is when I made my television debut with Sony TV’s Yeh Pyaar Nahi Toh Kya Hai, a Dilip Jha creation, as the protagonist Siddhant Sinha.
You call Sanjivani 2 the highlight of your career. Why?
My acting career really kicked off in 2017 with the web series Twisted. Among the projects, Sanjivani 2 gave me the most mileage and the maximum love from fans. Not to forget that I was the face of a show that had cult status in the past and was aired on one of the top channels on Indian TV. I am now looking forward to my onward journey.
If given a choice between acting and modelling, what would you choose?
I would choose acting for sure. I have given modelling all the time I could and had a wonderful career. Acting for me has been way more fulfilling so far as I am able to add much more value to myself and my work every day. I am also growing much more as a person while being on set.
What do you think is key when it comes to sustaining in the acting industry?
This is something that I realised pretty early in my modelling career, but it is valid in every industry. Being an all-rounder is important but the key is to be professional. People always prefer to work with those who they can rely on. There is a joke about how the Indian Standard Time is also called the Indian Stretchable Time (basically, perpetual delays). Most projects don’t start on time but as a professional, it is one’s duty to respect time and be at the set no matter what. It just sets everything into a positive momentum. Being yourself and not pretending to be someone you are not is another attribute that takes you a long way.
What made you get into clowning?
When I moved to Mumbai, I happened to watch a solo clown act—Madbeth, a spinoff of Shakespeare’s Macbeth—by Rupesh Tillu. I was spellbound by the performance; I was absolutely stunned as to how he played about 26 characters in that show. This prompted me to meet him and eventually attend workshops. One thing translated to another and soon I started out performing. I travelled across Maharashtra along with the group, staging shows for schoolchildren, patients in the hospital and for the girls in Kamathipura. This phase was one of the most eventful times of my life. It was both emotionally and physically demanding. I used to feel empty when I got back home after a show; it used to drain me out emotionally. But, it was fruitful and liberating at the same time. I still enjoy the intricacies of characters in clowning.
What is your big dream?
I think it would be to associate with the best people in the industry and be a part of projects that I can connect to in a deep fashion. I also want to work with people who have similar ideals and goals as mine. Another dream is to travel to the most remote and beautiful places in the world and capture them on my camera.
Your Twitter bio says “Actor, model, photographer, Bodhisattva, trying to change the environment through inner change”—when and why did you venture into Buddhism?
When I moved to Bombay in 2007, I had stumbled upon Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Before I knew it I felt a deep connection with the practise of chanting, and through the studies, I started growing in every aspect of my life. I continued to practise sincerely for nine years along with the organisation and that is where I understood the concept of Bodhisattva and Buddha-nature that we all possess.
What makes you different from the other actors?
The most important things that set anyone apart from others are one’s upbringing and ideals. Having said that, I feel my fans are the ones who will be able to answer this better than me. The bond they have formed within such a short time must definitely make me different from others.
When it comes to fitness, what should be given more stress, diet or exercise?
It is important to have a balance of both. You cannot do without either of them. Physical activity in whatever form is essential throughout your life and what we eat gives us the results we desire. It is just a matter of being conscious about what we eat, and once we see the results, there will be no turning back.
What do you think is the right age to start working out?
It is essential for children to be physically active from a very young age through sports, playground games, dancing and mostly moving around the entire day in order to exhaust all their energy. Once they reach an age where they start getting conscious about how they look and feel (usually as they become teenagers) they must stick to a sport or dance as a regular activity for fitness. Working out at the gym should only be done in case of something specific, like training for an advanced level of sport. Working out at the gym is not the most natural way to be fit and healthy. It is an option for busy adults who have limited time and want to get the maximum out of it.
Did you have a history of being fat? When did you start building your body?
Fortunately, I don’t have a history of being fat and that is because of the sports I played throughout my growing years. But I have had a few occasions when I have gained some weight around my stomach. This usually happens when there is no exercise and a lot of eating, which is mostly when I travel. I started working out when I was in college but I have never taken it beyond a certain level. I just try to maintain my body structure and size (standard model size) required to fit into designer clothes.
What are some of the challenges you faced while building your body?
The biggest challenge that I have faced in all the years of working out has been injuries. I think it is extremely important for all youngsters to be extremely careful when they start their workouts at the gym. It was more than a decade back when I first injured my lower back and ended up with a herniated disc. Not being careful or overexerting at the gym has caused it to relapse, causing me a lot of pain and complete bed rest. Consulting experts and focusing on the core are important aspects that should not be ignored.
Top 10 exercises that you recommend.
All core exercises on the mat
A foam roller for recovery
Stability ball exercises
Top three smoothies that you consume.
Chocolate banana almond protein shake/smoothie
Mixed berries smoothie
Top three go-to sweet indulgence.
Chocolate (milk and 70 per cent dark)
Your idea of a perfect getaway?
As I have done my share of roughing it out a little during my younger years of travel, I like a blend of comfort around nature. I love less-explored places and going away from where the crowd usually goes.
A funny experience while travelling.
I was in Shanghai for a shoot during my modelling years when I was approached by the locals on many occasions to take pictures with them and their families. Apparently, I looked like some celebrity or maybe I was just too tall for them. It was super funny the way they were all excited.
Nothing down about lockdown
One dish you whipped up during the lockdown.
Butter paneer and kadi chawal (Punjabi style)
A new hobby or an activity that you picked up.
Spanish lessons on my phone. I have gotten pretty decent at it now.
A lesson learned during this period.
There is nothing that we can’t do. It is only our mind that makes us believe otherwise. I have done everything that needs to be done to have a functioning clean house all by myself.