I didn’t choose this engineering life sir, and neither did the engineering life choose me. It was shoved down my throat by my teachers while my hands were tied to my back by my friends and my parents watched in silence,” laments Naveen Polishetty as he plays Average Mishra in the recent Honest Engineering Campus Placements video, which has taken the virtual world by storm if the total hits — about 30 million — are anything to go by. The three-part video was released by AIB, one of the foremost comedy collectives in the country. It brings to light the rut of our education system. In the final part, Polishetty delivers a monologue that highlights our obsession with engineering.
Laced with satire and irony, the videos are laugh-out–loud funny. The lead actor in the video, Polishetty, a regular in many of AIB’s other videos, became a digital sensation overnight. For the Hyderabad-born actor, who is a civil engineer himself, it was life coming full circle. “This was super emotional for me. I had no clue this would become this phenomenal. And the number of people that have reached out to me, it’s saddening. Because clearly the video has resonated with them — and it shouldn’t have. A woman wrote to me that she went and apologised to her son because she had stopped him from playing tennis in school, to study,” says the 27-year-old.
The actor started off with AIB about three years ago as an intern actor and writer. “As a struggler in Mumbai, I started performing at open mics. I would regale people with episodes from my life — like how getting a house for a single, male actor in Mumbai was so difficult. I mean the landlord would say — ‘Beta tum actor log suicide kar lete ho depression mein, aur batate bhi nahin ho.’ So I said, ‘Nahin uncle, main bata dunga aapko jab main nas katunga’,” he says.
“Later, I was asked to perform in a show alongside AIB. I was so nervous. AIB had already done the Alia Bhatt video and were pretty big by then. But thankfully, they liked me. I think I was a fling for them, par mujhe poora pyaar tha unse. They were like we will see how this goes. I was 100 per cent committed. But see, we are still together; it’s been three years,” adds Polishetty. His obsession with Anil Kapoor-starrer Mr India (1987) made him want to be an actor. He started doing plays and skits in school. “I was in an all-boys school and since I had dimples, I would always be roped into to play the female part. Actually I think my parents wanted a girl and I turned up,” says the actor. Post his schooling, he expressed his desire to take up acting as a career. “I come from this family of overachievers — all of them IITians. So, as expected, I was packed off to NIT, Bhopal. I hated engineering but loved the four years I spent on the campus,” says Polishetty.
He continued to be actively involved with theatre and acting. Eventually, the actor came to Mumbai. “Here I had thought that Karan Johar would sign me in the next three-four months. Obviously aisa kuch nahin tha yaar. I was so disappointed. I then started to work with a company who sent me to the UK for a couple of years,” adds Polishetty. But the lure of performing and acting was so strong that Polishetty gave up his lucrative job, “the kinds that my dad would flaunt at gatherings”, and came back to India to pursue his calling. He ran the whole gamut of theatre, appearing for auditions and being broke. “I have given auditions in a cramped room with eight other actors at the same time. I gave about a 1,000 auditions in one and half years. And then I would be rejected because ‘body’ chahiye. Or the role would have gone to some producer’s son. But struggle is essential. You cannot produce any art without pain and passion,” he says.
His work with AIB got noticed and Polishetty was offered the role of Kush Sawant in TV series 24, alongside Anil Kapoor. He recently finished a web series called Chinese Bhasad, where he plays an Indian in love with a Chinese girl. There is also a French TV show which he is a part off. “I guess my obsession with Mr India paid off. We were there at the cast party for 24, and when Anil Kapoor walked in, there were red lights on. I automatically said, ‘Arun Bhaiya, aap laal roshni main dikhayi de rahe ho’,” adds Polishetty with a straight face.
Coming back to the Honest Engineering… video, he was taken by surprise when an acquaintance of his family sent the video to his father. “That was the icing on the cake. And the person said ki iss speech ko national award milna chahiye. Maybe, mujhe ab speeches waghera par zyada dhyaan chahiye. Netagiri main future ho sakta hai mera,” he signs off.