A still from The Freelancer
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After six years and two movies – Love Hostel and Heropanti 2 – newbie actor Navneet Malik believes his character in The Freelancer is his big debut into the entertainment world. His antagonistic act has been garnering him praise from critics and the audience. “I was not expecting such a reaction. People have been comparing me to Irrfan Khan sir, which is a big [compliment] for me. Mohit Raina and director [Bhav Dhulia] were impressed and happy. While I have done movies before, the roles didn't let me explore much. The Freelancer [feels like] my big launch in Bollywood as a lead,” beams the actor.
Most aspiring actors hope to break out into the industry as a hero, but Malik was thrilled that he was roped in as the negative lead in the Disney+ Hotstar series. He claims the current times don't only consider the lead actor the hero of the show. “I think the audience now looks for good characters, acting, and a great story rather than a hero. Everyone [associated with the show] is a hero right now. You never know who will stand out in a series. Sometimes the supporting cast is appreciated more than the lead. The market has changed completely. I accepted what came my way and did my best. The audience doesn't look forward to seeing me in more negative roles because I did one, which is a good thing for an actor.” Malik claims he didn't try to get lapped up into the psyche of the character or judge whether he was morally right or wrong, but he feared that people would hate on him. “I thought people would hate this character. I was scared initially. Maybe they won't accept me. I didn't know how they would react, but it is nice to see their acceptance of my performance.”
After being chosen among 800 other candidates and five auditions, the actor shares that he “felt the responsibility” to perform well. “Doing a project with Neeraj Pandey is a huge responsibility, especially when you are a newcomer. I got nervous initially, wondering how to portray the character. I had a lot of questions and pressure on my mind. While preparing for the role, the team helped create the scenario in my head, so those fears went away,” says the actor, who has three more projects in hand. Malik will next be seen as Sanjay Dutt‘s younger version in the film, tentatively titled The Virgin Tree.