A prominent face in the Indian web entertainment space – think of Caller Naina, Bisht, Please! – Nidhi Bisht has been there, done it all. At one point of time, the actor-cum-casting director was even pursuing a career as a litigation lawyer. An alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia University, she has had a short but very successful experience, working with one of the best IPR lawyers in the country.
“In the two years I worked there, I earned quite a lot; but somewhere down the line I realised that this is not what I want to do,” she says.
Her true calling, as they say, was not behind the desk or in the court, but in front of the camera. Obsessed with Bollywood and passionate about acting and drama, Nidhi knew that showbiz is where she truly belongs.
And as luck would have it, years later, Nidhi is now at the front and centre of all action, as the Creative Director at The Viral Fever (TVF), the Indian streaming platform that has captured the hearts of India’s web viewers with a slew of viral content and engaging series likes TVF Tripling, Permanent Roommates, Pitchers, Chai Sutta Chronicles, The Aam Aadmi Family, and Kota Factory. In fact, TVF’s latest release – Cubicles – stars Nidhi playing a prominent character.
Redefining the portrayal of women on screen
The burst of online content, supported by the popularity of OTT platforms (the likes of Netflix, Prime Video, and TVF closer to home) in recent years, has seen a wide variety of women characters come alive on the screen. Yet, there is still a certain level of embellishment, removed-from-reality aspect about the portrayal of these characters. A character of a woman in leadership, more often than not, paints a horrid image, with an absolute lack of empathy or sensitivity, and far from reality.
TVF’s Cubicles rights some of these wrongs. Not only does the show shift the narrative from the oft-talked-about startup community and spotlight the 9-to-5 corporate life, but also paints a very realistic image of women in command. Nidhi’s character, Megha Asthana, is as strict as she is empathetic, as compassionate as she is a stickler for efficiency.
“You can’t beat around the bush with her, you can’t dilly-dally with her, but at the same time if someone from the outside questions her team members, she becomes the mama lion that she is,” Nidhi says about her character. In fact, the concept behind the series itself is quite a pleasant break from the startup-obsessed narrative, the credits for which could be attributed to the brains at TVF.
“Most of us at TVF, have lived that life. We wanted to follow our passion, so we became the ones who quit our jobs and came here,” says Nidhi. “But in the mainstream media, whether it is movies or other formats, the 9-5 job has always been portrayed as the boring thing. We always look down upon the corporate life. So, we thought it is high time to tell their story, and to celebrate them.”
Nidhi’s leaning for the misfits is evident in the various other roles she has played so far, from Neetu Bisht’s misadventures (in Bisht, Please!) to the small but key role in the Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Dream Girl (as Pooka ka Aashiq No 3).
Shattering stereotypes, one at a time
But not fitting in to moulds comes with its own set of challenges. In Nidhi’s case, this translated into the few times she had to face rejection and even scathing remarks from casting directors, based on her physical appearance and the industry stereotypes surrounding it.
She recalls, “When I started out early in my career, casting directors used to tell me that you have a round face, and round faced-actors only get the roles of aunties, cousins and so on.”
Odd as it may sound now, this is the reality for many a people in the industry. Long before actors like Sumeet Vyas, Nidhi Singh, Jitendra Kumar, Amol Parashar, Naveen Kasturia, and Manvi Gagroo, to name a few – some of whom were spotted and cast by Nidhi – became the face of the Indian web boom and turned the table on the stereotypes guiding casting decisions, the entertainment industry happened to be a one of the most closed and non-transparent industries.
It is people like Nidhi Bisht – and the bunch of artists, professionals that comprise the TVF brigade today – who are bringing in a welcome wave of change. These are people responsible for making Indian entertainment more relatable, realistic, and meaningful. If content is the king, Nidhi Bisht is the queen bee of her TVF hive.
As she puts it best, “I have always, somehow, figured out a small window for myself.”
(Edited by Athira Nair)