Interview By- Pankhuri Bhutani

Acting is one of the many diverse talents that Prajakta Koli possesses. Widely known around the world as her YouTube alter-ego ‘MostlySane’, Prajakta has been rising up the path to fame drastically. Currently recognized as the protagonist for Netflix’s series ‘Mismatched’, Prajakta is set to embark on a brand-new journey entailing her maiden foray in mainstream Bollywood, with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions upcoming film ‘Jug Jugg Jeeyo’ directed by filmmaker Raj Mehta. 

She will be marking her Bollywood debut with ‘Jug Jugg Jeeyo’ starring alongside some of the phenomenal blockbuster cast including Anil Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, and Kiara Advani. With a list of achieving many accolades in her life, Prajakta was successful in establishing a fanbase of over 6.5 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. Not only that, but she was also recently a part of the prestigious Emmy-winning project “2020 Creators for Change YouTube Original Documentary” which featured a Michelle Obama helmed documentary highlighting the experiences of adolescent girls in Vietnam, India, and Namibia overcoming adversity to pursue their education. The documentary also featured Liza Koshy and Thembe Mahlaba alongside Koli. 

Prajakta recently talked to FilmAesthete about the documentary, her Bollywood debut, and experience working on the film, how she is maintaining her creativity during times like these as well as her plans for the future! 

Hi there Prajakta. Thank you for joining us on FilmAesthete! Well, my first question obviously will be how are you doing? How are you maintaining your creativity during times like these?

Hi, Pankhuri, I am doing good thank you so much it is 100% a pleasure that I get to be here. I am doing good actually I am very happy that work is happening the way that it has been happening. I am shooting season 2 of my Netflix show mismatched and I am very excited about it. We’re in Jodhpur and I am loving everyday more than the one before. How am I maintaining my creativity? I think eventually all of us sort of try to find our groove through everything that happened in the past year and a half. I 100% give credit to my team because I was going through a major creativity block, and I was like I don’t know how to go around this and I don’t know how to sort of find my way out because everyone was walking blind right but I think the fact that my team sort of had their head in the right place and had better perspective towards things and content than me helped me get through it.

What was it initially that drew you closer to the field of YouTube and entertainment in general? How much do you think have you evolved as an artist and a person since you first started posting videos on your YouTube channel?

I think the freedom or the liberty to create was my biggest high because I remember I was working in radio right before I started doing this before doing YouTube. And in radio I think one of the things that I think was kind of like a path block for me was that I never got to do or say things the way that I wanted to because everything had to have like a filter on it, by filter I mean everything had to be put in the way that things are done and somehow for me it was a little restricting here and there and when I started doing YouTube that was my biggest high because I felt like Oh ok I don’t have to answer to anybody I don’t have to get approvals from anybody and I have to just actually sit down and do what I like doing and that when it’s creative that can get very very, you know addictive so that is something and entertainment honestly I have always loved performing.

Ever since I can remember ever since I was super young, I started dancing, I started doing theatre in college I used to always be in drama committee, I used to always be in the dance committee I loved the stage I loved being on stage for as long as I can remember. I used to remember feeling very uncomfortable sitting in the audience when I used to go for plays, when I used to go for performances of friends and family and I used to be like oh no can I just like go up for just like 5 minutes. The stage gave me a very different high and I feel like that is something that I have felt very dearly in my heart.

Oh my god! So much, if you’ve seen my videos from 5 years ago, 6 years ago oh my god so much. Honestly the internet, YouTube gave me so much security of liking how I am and accepting myself because all of us have the ticks in our mind that you know this is not good. There were days when I was insecure about the way I looked so if you see my initial videos, you’ll see, and I am not even good at makeup. But you’ll see me like adding so much makeup on my face as that is how I thought I will get accepted, but my audience on YouTube was honest about the fact that they liked me without any. Going ahead I found my voice I found my feet with what I liked doing what I liked speaking about and then when I was heard and spoken back at, I feel like that I feel like that is something that has changed a lot. I am extremely comfortable with who I am. How I look. How I dress. How I think what I like sharing what I like taking about and I think that is very empowering.

Besides being a YouTuber, you are also a phenomenal actress. How do you usually prepare for the roles you are set to portray? Do you have any specific acting ritual?

Aye! Thank you. You know honestly for me I really wish I had an answer for this but I think when it comes to acting, it’s so different from YouTube. Because when I’m doing YouTube, I am in a space where you write you shoot you act you direct. I mean I have a very efficient team right now who does all of the rest for me but I learned to perform on camera by myself because I used to edit my own videos and direct my own videos when I was shooting them by myself for the first 2 – 3 years of my career. And then going on now I have a team who sort of like helps me to take it a step ahead. But when it comes to acting, I feel like the most amazing thing about that is that I don’t have to worry about anything else. I just have to read my lines carefully, get into hair and makeup, set, perform which is why I am completely dependent on what my director wants from me.

I think again that is very liberating because I don’t have to worry about anything else. I really wish I had like a specific acting ritual but I kind of depend on what my directors have to say. And might I also add that I’ve had the most amazing directors to work with. I mean I worked with Akarsh Khurana on season 1, that was my first professional set of Mismatched and it was such a delight to be working with him. Just to have him do his magic on screen and then seeing the show I mean oh my god. Tarun (Tarun Dudeja) sir who did my short film Khayali Pulao such a pleasure. Very different from Akarsh but so beautiful. Raj Mehta whom I’m working with right now who is directing the film Jug Jug Jeeyo for Dharma, again such a wonderful person to work with. I just feel like I’ve completely lucked out in that whole department of getting to work with wonderful directors and I think a lot of the credit for, the fact that you think I’m a phenomenal actor goes to them. Thank you so much.

What was it really that made you accept the pitch for ‘Mismatched’? Do you think you have anything in common with your character ‘Dimple Ahuja’?

When mismatched came to us honestly. I was so nervous because it’s a Netflix show and Panchami who casted me called and said she wanted to audition me for Dimple and I was like oh wow it’s a title role so it’s essential role and it’s a Netflix show that’s a massive deal. Also auditions make me very nervous. But when I read about it, I just felt like you know I would miss out on a massive opportunity because I saw that Akash was directing it and I saw everyone else who was in it. Later when I got on set, I saw who is shooting it, how it got treated. Overall, it was just a bunch of people who loved their jobs and who are so brilliant at it coming together. And I was like you can’t really miss this.

I admire so much about Dimple, I like that she’s very strong, I like that she’s very focused, I like that she’s so relatable. I mean I really thought that it was time that we get characters on screen which are so normal. I remember reading so many parts of the script and thinking oh my god this is exactly how I was when I was 17 and 18. I think the writers did a phenomenal job in sort of like getting the soul of the character right. Not just for Dimple but also for Rishi, for Selena, Namrata, for Simran, Krish, for Anmol everybody, for Harsh. I think it was just so beautifully written so yeah there are a few things about Dimple. What I don’t like about her is that she doesn’t smile very often which is very opposite of me.

Your project ‘2020 Creators for Change YouTube Original Documentary’ recently won the prestigious Emmy Award in the ‘Outstanding Daytime Non-Fiction Special’ category. Massive congratulations on that! What was your reaction like when you first heard the news?

Thank you. Thank you so much. You know honestly when I first read the news, I thought this has got to be some kind of a fake Emmy okay. Because there’s no way in hell that I was in a project that got nominated for an Emmy award. I went crazy just googling every Emmy there is. Turns out there is just one. I was like what is even happening, is that the Emmy we were talking about. But honestly, I was just happy with the nomination. Like I just was grateful, matlab Thank you Bhagwanji. I don’t want anything else. I am happy with the nomination.

For me I had won, it was done, it was a high point in my life. It was one of those things I wrote about in my journal that Good Job P, you got nominated. So, the win just came as such a happy bonus and it got announced a day before my birthday this year and I was just with all the people that I love. I was on my way to this place we had booked for my birthday. I remember sitting down and having Vada Pav and chai when the news came that we won. I remember just getting up and walking around in a hurry because I didn’t know how my body and mind should react because it’s mad it’s massive. Because you know when I started making YouTube videos, I didn’t think that I’d ever wake up, go and shoot with Michelle Obama and have tea with her and then that project would win an Emmy. I did not really think of that. So extremely grateful and I honestly feel like I’m living my best life.

You will also be marking your Bollywood debut with the film “Jug Jugg Jeeyo”. How is this anticipation period going for you? Feeling nervous or excited?

I am both actually. Nervous every day. It’s just you know I love performing like I said before. I love acting. I love being in character. I love the whole process of waking up, going to set, getting done hair and makeup then going through your lines. Then going on set talking to your director, performing, doing it again and doing it right and getting a “very good Prajakta”. “Can be better Prajakta”, breaking for lunch and then doing a little bit more of that later. I just feel like the whole process is so enriching for me as not just an actor but also as a person I absolutely love it. So, I’m constantly nervous and I’m constantly excited. I’m overwhelmed, is what I am.

What can you tell us about your role in the film? How was your experience working with some of the talented A-listers like Anil Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan and Kiara Advani?

I don’t know how much I can tell you about the film, about my role in the film because I don’t know how much I’m allowed to. But it is a role that is again very relatable. It is something that I am so glad that I could bag honestly because it is a good role. When you’re doing your first film it is one of the things that you have in mind. Especially when you come from away. You know because I was doing YouTube and content online and then doing like a mainstream Dharma film, you always have all these things that it should be a role that sort of makes sense. It shouldn’t be something that can be mistaken as something else and I feel like it just cleared all those boxes.

And the experience of working with Anil sir, Neetu ma’am, Varun and Kiara it’s just so mad. And I was so nervous that I remember shooting in Chandigarh and it was like my first day of shoot and my first scene was with the whole family like all of us sitting together having breakfast at the table and I was so nervous like I don’t believe this is like my first scene I’m going to have to perform and I didn’t have a lot of lines at that like it was a scene where we all sit down and eat and I didn’t have many lines in it. So, I was just really nervous but oh my god they’re all so lovely.

Anil sir and Neetu ma’am are the warmest. Varun and Kiara are so chill. Varun I’ve had the pleasure of working with before, I’ve met him I’ve spoken with him a little bit on and off here and there. He was just so helpful in just making sure that you know I’m not uncomfortable around set. He was just, you know he doesn’t really have to do it. It’s Varun Dhawan he doesn’t have to do it but the fact that he still did means a lot to me. I mean the fact that I can go on set and just like chill and hang with everybody means just so much and I think it was just the first day. You know the nervousness was gone; the ice broke so well. We were all shooting and it was just so nice. I got to go and have dinner with them and stuff like that which is such a big deal. Oh my god. I’m so grateful that my first film had to be with them.

Where do you garner your major inspirations from when it comes to your professional journey? Is there anyone on your radar that you would love to collaborate with in the future?

I think for me inspiration really comes from everyday life. I feel like I am not a comic so it’s not like my brain works that way. I mean comics are geniuses, you know the way they look at things is just so different. Finding humour in that is what I like doing. So, inspiration comes from everyday experiences and stuff like that.

Honestly, I am such a sucker for collaborations and you really can’t pick one because there’s just so many amazing people online and even offline doing work which is so different from each other so honestly, I’m all up for collaborations. Everyone that I can collaborate with I’d love to.

Lastly, what’s next for you, Prajakta? What are your plans for the rest of the year? And is there any message that you’d like to convey to your fans reading this interview right now?

What’s next for me. I mean I’m finishing season 2, I’m finishing the same film. I also have a very exciting project that I’m working with which should actually start by the end of this year that I’m very excited about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it but you’ll know soon enough.

The message is always that thank you so much for trusting me. Thank you so much for spending time on my channel, on my social media handles. Thank you so much for investing in content that I’m a part of, because honestly you know my biggest strength always is, and that happens every day and I’m not even kidding. So many of my co-stars. My fellow creators. So many people. When I meet them, they always tell me that listen your viewers, your fans are just the warmest and you’re the sweetest person we’ve met online. They’re so happy. They’re so positive, they’re so supportive and that just tells that a major major chunk of why I am where I am is because my audience is just the most amazing audience in the world and I just want to say thank you. That’s about it. Thank you so much for today it was so nice.

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