A woman of positivity, Nitya Naresh has a story that is not only inspiring to actors but also to every person who needs a dose of motivation.
A confident, well spoken person, her tales of growing up and how it has shaped her current helping nature is a must read. A one of a kind woman with a head of curls and a heart filled with warmth, find out what makes Nitya click.
The family pillar
Nitya Naresh is a defence kid born to Cdr SK Naresh (Retd) and Haripriya Naresh. She came into this world on the morning of 18th September in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Because mother is a Malayali and her parents stayed there, she lived with them towards the end of her pregnancy.
Dad is a retired naval officer. He served in the Indian Navy for 23 years. Mother is a psychologist qualified in applied psychology and special education for children with cerebral palsy. Her whole life she had been an alternate therapist and life coach, having taken numerous corporate workshops.
During Nitya’s childhood she continued with her career while father was serving in the Navy. It was a simple but holistic upbringing. Growing up in this life is quite different. It’s very safe for children because they live in the naval colony, the defence colony.
Parents never worry where the children run and play or whether they will return. One can also cycle on the road. Here, in the colony with a limited number of people, everyone knows everyone.
Nitya Naresh absolutely enjoyed herself. Most defence colonies have everything within themselves like shopping centers, schools, supermarkets, entertainment parks, all within walking distance. It was a very nice community living where it was easy to make friends.
It was a government job life, a very simple life. But, it was filled with so many loving, sweet experiences throughout her childhood. She is super proud that she is a defence personnel’s daughter and equally proud to have a mom who is creative with what she did.
Nitya says her mother managed to have a career and also raised her and her sister. They never had babysitters or nannies. Mother worked from home when they were really young and she did all her therapy/client work at home. She went to work full time for a corporate company after Nitya entered her teens. Her parents were very involved in the kids’ life during her childhood.
Her sister, Namya Naresh, is 4 years younger to her. Funny enough, Namya doesn’t agree to the complete 4 year difference. She insists it is 3 years and 11 months in a quirky manner. Both the sisters share a close bond. Their father always had a rule, Nitya shares, that if the children belong to the same gender, they would have to surely share a room.
Apparently, he used to insist that this is important for developing closeness however large the house may be. This proved to hold them in good stead as the sisters continued to bond even through college. Living in such close quarters made sure there was no emotional distance during times they wanted to explore the world and do different things. They always spoke about their problems before they went to bed.
Any issue would be physically obvious and that helped them as sisters. They do everything together, like talk, gossip, travel and Nitya feels grateful for it. In a heartfelt memory, she reveals that she always wanted a sister and prayed to God at the temple she visited with her mom.
Adorably, her mother once told her that when parents prayed to God for a baby, He granted the wish in the form of a seed in the mother’s belly. The later announcement of a baby sister on the way excited her immensely. She reiterates that her sister is an actual physical evidence that wishes are granted. It was a wish come true and if you ask for something you get it.
In school she was different from the other kids. She never felt she was beautiful, always thought she was ugly. Dusky skin, glasses and frizzy/curly hair were her chief complaints. She says even those around her, like school mates, did not consider her beautiful. People treated her as someone weird and didn’t show any inkling to make friends with her.
Nitya Naresh felt there was something wrong with her and also felt judged. She was bullied by her peers in school. She was average at studies, so couldn’t fit into any of the clubs. Cool girl, pretty girl, studious girl, sports girl, none of these descriptions applied to her.
Since she had asthma as a kid, sports weren’t an option. She never fit into one single box. The only place she felt good, happy, safe and loved was at home. It was the family who treated her like the amazing person she is. Parents and sister made her feel beautiful, special and intelligent. It is this love that makes an impact on any preteen child who is not aware of the world around her, especially with no friends. She says she has become the person that she is because of them. There was a huge contrast between how family and outsiders treated her. “I give them full credit for making me feel empowered in a time that I wasn’t able to empower myself,” Nitya Naresh says.
This confidence continued into her adulthood and Nitya Naresh empowers people around her and through social media. She always reminds people that they’re beautiful and strong, because she knows what it feels like to think otherwise. She insists a person is all that; they just need someone to remind them of it.
“You are everything you need to be.” With such a pillar of support, she states that her family is her backbone, strength and confidant. She can’t thank them enough for the life that they have given her.
Education and coming of age
Most of her education was done in defence schools, owing to her father’s post. Navy children school, army school and defence schools, the list goes on. They moved around a lot and took advantage of the nearest defence school. Some of the cities include Kochi, Ooty, Vizag, Karwar and Mumbai.
However, most of her education was in Mumbai. It lasted 8-9 years. After her dad retired, the family moved to Hyderabad, where they returned to their paternal grandmother’s house. Here, she finished her graduation in mass communication. It was in college that Nitya Naresh began to truly find herself, shaping her present personality. This was when she stopped caring what other people thought and stopped letting their opinions of her push her down. The present Nitya was born from the realization that she is lovable and not any less. She began making choices that made her feel good, out of kindness towards herself. “Just be happy and do what you have to do without the worry of being judged,” she tells us.
In college, she came out of her shell and found out she had the gift of the gab. She loves talking and being creative. She picked mass media to clear her horizon, as she was clear she didn’t want to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Public relations, journalism, films, TV, advertising – mass media let’s a person study all media in 3 years. Nitya Naresh enjoyed this phase fully. She attended her post graduation at St. Xavier’s from Mumbai, specialising in film, TV and video production.
She says it’s a director’s course. She loved making short films as part of college projects. This made her realize she wanted to pursue a career in movies. With her ability to write stories, she had plans to become an AD and then a director, but not as an actor. But, she did dabble in acting growing up. In school she did a lot of theater. Acting was something like a passion filled hobby for Nitya Naresh. It let her express herself. After post graduation, acting followed naturally, as if it was destiny.
Career decisions or chance
Nitya Naresh started doing freelance AD jobs as part of projects. She was an AD for advertising as well. For fun, she did a photoshoot with a friend in Mumbai. Once she put it up online, she had calls from unexpected quarters, and that is the Telugu Film Industry.
She happened to be in Hyderabad visiting her parents at that time and attended the audition. She shares that she did her first film purely as an experiment and didn’t expect anything to come from it. Someday, she wants to convey these tales of being immortalized on screen to her grandchildren.
Because she was not a very bright student and was bullied, Nitya Naresh had a few very attentive teachers. They even gave her a few responsibilities. An English teacher, particularly, engaged her in tasks knowing she would be good at it.
Adults have a sense of understanding what a struggling child needs, she observes. Few teachers impacted her but for her, the best teachers she had in life remain her parents. They taught her to be who she is, influenced the way she thinks and her choices.
Special childhood memories
Nitya Naresh has a whole childhood of memories and it is highly difficult to pick one. Living under the umbrella of the defence life, she and her sister had experienced a lot of ‘cool’ stuff. One of the most favorite days of the year happens to be something called ‘family day.’ Those days, when her dad was the captain or commanding officer (CO) of ships, he used to take shifts. During family day, all the officers on the ship bring their families on board. Here, all the ships make a fleet formation and they shoot flare guns to mark the occasion.
For her, it was very memorable to watch her father at work and at sea doing his thing. Family days are basically an opportunity for families to take a glimpse into how the officers work and what their life entails. It was interesting and awe inspiring to see her father command 200 or more men at a time. As the captain’s daughter and a wide eyed 13 year old girl, she even had preferential treatment.
The officers also took them on camps to other bases, where Nitya Naresh took on parasailing for the first time. Here she overcame her fear of heights and discovered her adventurous side. Now, she calls herself an adrenaline junkie.
In another revelation, she says she found her best friends after moving to Hyderabad. These caring and loving friends would do anything for each other. Such beautiful friends were the key reason for Nitya Naresh falling in love with the city.
She went through the naughty phase of taking a nap with earplugs in place during classes, bunking college for movies, having Biryani, riding bikes to Alankrita or Shamirpet and more like a typical 19 year old.
Besides fun, she also scored state highest in economics during 11th standard, was valedictorian for her class during PG, won awards for dancing, creativity, skits and plays.
Constant people in life
It is always family first for Nitya Naresh, having stuck with her through all her decisions. Apart from family, she considers a few people gems. She is a person who prefers quality over quantity, hence her limited but important set of friends. They love and accept each other and are always there for each other.
A lasting friendship is one where we can stop talking for a while and still pick up where you left off. Nitya Naresh is grateful to have such friendships that have lasted more than a decade. Four girls and a guy comprise this group. Some of them are currently not in the country, because life has plans too. And yet, they video call and are in each other’s lives consistently.
She also enjoys meeting new people, making friends and learning about their fascinating lives. In a huge turn around from school days, she now has many friends she considers her chosen family. She calls herself a sponge, taking what works best for her from people, onward to being a better person.
Nitya is a very grateful person, constantly knowing and affirming how lucky and blessed she is. This is one of the mantras for a happy life.
Multiple facets of training
She hasn’t actually trained for anything, nor attended a single acting class, unless it was a workshop before a specific production. It was always a particular play or a particular film. Acting is something she is naturally passionate about. It just comes to her as a mode of expression. Not without a feather in her cap, she did learn Bharatnatyam for 4 years during early childhood.
Unfortunately, due to the multiple transfers of her Naval father, every city meant starting from the first level. She had to give it a rest after the third attempt. Nitya enjoys contemporary western dancing as a hobby. The creative person in her prompted her to do many arts and crafts workshops. Whenever there are new workshops to learn a different art form in Hyderabad, she is there. She has a knack for creating things through pottery or DIY. She says that art is more of a creative expression than perfection.
In the coming year, she plans to share her wide knowledge on how to make art through social media.
Skills necessary to move ahead
Nitya Naresh has come a long way from being a people pleaser to talking confidently. This is her best quality that propels her career. She gets along with almost everyone and is very good with people. This is particularly important in the industry because one meets so many kinds of people.
She makes it a point not to judge anyone, knowing what it’s like to be judged. This helps in learning about anyone and making friends. She can get along with any person, without any issue with age, gender or background. She’s always someone who breaks the ice, being an extrovert.
Here too, her parents contributed towards her humble and down to earth attitude. She states that her simple, grounded nature helped her in the industry. She is also hard working when she puts her mind to something, a quality that was passed on to her from her father. She respects people and their time with punctuality.
Entry into the industry
Nitya’s agenda was never to become rich and famous in the industry. Whatever came her way, she made the most of it, without any godfathers or family backing. Before her foray into Telugu films, she hadn’t even watched Telugu films. Clearly, she was in unfamiliar territory initially.
Following ‘Kerintha’ she didn’t trust anything would come out of it. However, when she moved back to Hyderabad after a brief trip to Mumbai, she realised that many liked her work and look. What began as an experiment turned into a career. “You need to do what makes you happy. You need to do what you love,” she philosophizes. Not knowing how long this career will last, especially with no help, she just wants to enjoy each moment.
Nitya Naresh cheerfully acknowledges that she has many hobbies. What started out as a hobby, acting is now her career. She also considers dancing and singing as something she loves, whether she is great at it or not. Acting comes to her in a confident manner but not singing, she expresses. Her ultimate love is in creating arts and crafts, making new things like pottery. She is always learning or teaching something creative. Interestingly, she has her own art center at home. With her, handmade gifts are always made personally, filled with love. Watching all kinds of international and national cinema is another hobby.
Struggles in the industry
Nitya Naresh feels everyone and each artist faces struggles. Her first movie, Nandhini Nursing Home, which is on Amazon Prime has unknowingly taken much effort. Even later, going to auditions means facing multiple rejections. There is always a new issue like the look or color or fitness. She reveals that there is a lot of judgement over the physical appearance or one’s popularity. This is a struggle for all artists in general.
It may be a glamorous field, but there is a lot of hard work involved. Try standing under the sunlight for more than 16 hours sometimes based on the location. It’s a physically exhausting job, while having to look great. Maintaining flawless skin, hair and fitness is a daily effort. Her two Malayalam films and four Telugu films happened back to back. In her words, however busy you may be, the next project needs the right push or knowing the right person.
Nitya Naresh shares that a career in films is a game of chance. “You may be the most talented person in the room, but that doesn’t mean you get the right opportunities,” she continues. There is a big role of luck on the path to success.
The actress feels taking bits of good qualities from each parent made her who she is. Father was strict, disciplined and organized, while also being emotional and empathetic. Her mother was, on the other hand, sweet and understanding. She gives Nitya the feeling that everything is going to be okay. She is a fun life coach. Her parents give her relationship goals. They have shaped what kind of partner and parent she wants to be. Having seen her dad work hard, physically and mentally, for every second of every day, translated into her pushing herself in her career too. Her mother always taught her that when you want to do something, you will find a way to do it without giving up.
First steps in the industry
When Nitya was in Mumbai, a friend of a friend, who is an architect and a passionate photographer, took great pictures of her following a makeover. These found place on her social media, leading to managers noticing her. Following that, she attended auditions for fun. Her curly hair put her apart from others, particularly the short role in Kerintha. In a decision she made taking her family into confidence, she felt acting was the best choice. She plans to continue acting for the foreseeable future. Her maternal grandmother takes credit for her foray into Malayalam. She was the one who noticed the casting advertisement in the newspaper. Ee with Gauthami Tadimala is a beautiful mother daughter film also dubbed into Hindi. Nitya learnt a lot from this experience.
In a meaningful insight, Nitya shares that her grandfather has a ritual of taking her grandmother out for dinner and a movie every weekend. Hence, her grandmother wished to see Nitya on the big screen. As we know now, she has been in the film industry since 2015.
She has worked in 6 movies so far, 4 in Telugu and 2 in Malayalam. She considers both her Malayalam movies her best work, having played strong woman characters. Her Telugu films Nandini Nursing Home and Operation Goldfish are both available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Definition of success
Here, Nitya asks a simple question, “where do you have to reach to be successful?” For her it was a big deal to complete 6 films, coming from nowhere. She feels those born and raised in the industry might have a different definition of success.
Success is subjective and her life goal has always been to do what she loves and what makes her happy. With a smile on her face, working hard makes her feel accomplished. This will continue even after she may change or add something to her career. She reiterates that she is more than an actor, being a model, content creator, story writer and influencer. “You don’t have to be only one thing, you don’t have to put yourself in a box. You can do so many things,” Nitya says.
Current place in life
She shares that she never planned anything and that planning never works out. Considering where she wanted to be post her teenage years, this is not what she imagined. She feels life is so much more, while exploring many things in her life. She continues to look for opportunities to do other things too.
After 2020 she is keen on following many career paths. Still, she is happy with where she is right now. Alternately, she goes with the flow or plans the next step when the need arises. She has an organized approach towards work with multiple plans.
According to Nitya Naresh, the biggest challenge in the industry is when you finish one project and consider the next. Scripts are aplenty, but not everyone is something a person is looking for. After a few films, one has to observe whether a script or story is connecting with them.
Choosing the next opportunity or taking the right advice that pushes you upward is the toughest part. A big roadblock for Nitya Naresh is having no one in the industry to guide her. However, she has enjoyed each and every experience so far.
Positive focus on mental health in society
With contagious enthusiasm, she asserts she has many plans outside acting. Her mother was a life coach and psychologist for Nitya’s entire life. She managed a therapy brand called ‘Sanctuary of life’ for the past 25 years. The actress had been working with her during the past 8 years. She takes a lot of workshops for the brand, without sharing it on social media.
After entering into the industry, Nitya used to use the latter as well as acting as a medium to do children’s workshops. She helps teenagers be more creative, think out of the box, be a team player and stand out in a crowd without worrying about others’ opinions. She has created and moduled therapy workshops for her mother’s clients and their children. She may not have considered it a full time career, but loved each moment. It happens parallelly with her acting career. “Using an art form that you’re good at as a mode of therapy is more beautiful,” she shares.
The year 2020 brought an awareness about how important mental health is to the world at large and to India in particular. Nitya feels she is lucky to have someone to talk to her, her entire life, with mother being a therapist.
Hence, she realised the importance of a safe space and person for people to talk to and release their mental baggage. This is something she is passionate about along with acting. She continues to want to help people as much as she can and do what she loves, without letting others’ opinions bring her down. “No one is alone,” she states while empowering people on social media, reminding that they are enough.
Alternate paths to success
She plans to pursue ‘Art therapy’ as an alternative career starting this year. It uses art forms like movement, dance, sounds, music, colors, paint or drama to help people. It can be used as a medium of expression and to heal. This brings her two loves, art and therapy together in the form of one career. Nitya Naresh is very excited to begin this journey.
If not acting, she would definitely become an art therapist. Other interests include being a business woman, teacher or working for a fashion magazine as a creative editor.
With all these in mind, Nitya’s future looks very promising. Wherever she may be in life, she will continue to stand for hope and beauty.