Navya Naveli Nanda gets candid about her podcast, ‘What The Hell Navya’ and her bond with mother Shweta Bachchan Nanda and grandmother, Jaya Bachchan

Bazaar India gives you the BTS of how the podcast came to be and what the Bachchan granddaughter thinks of the audio storytelling medium.

Harper's Bazaar India

“It’ll be a little bit of fun, a little bit of laughter, and a little bit of Navya bashing,” describes actor, parliamentarian and Navya’s grandmother, Jaya Bachchan in the pilot episode of the podcast, What The Hell Navya. Well, it’s all that and more. 

The podcast, which features Navya Naveli Nanda, her mother Shweta Bachchan Nanda and grandmother, Jaya Bachchan, is a series of grab-your-coffee-and-lounge-in-the-living-room kind of conversations that exude honesty, respect, and purpose. “The concept really came about during the lockdown, when I got to spend a lot of time with my mother and grandmother at home. It was really comforting for me to have the two of them at home and be able to talk to them about things like friendships and relationships. So, we thought of putting these conversations together so that other young girls, maybe my age, can hear these conversations and maybe get inspired to have similar conversations at home, with the women in their lives,” said Nanda on how the podcast came to be. 

The podcast is another feather in Nanda’s cap, who is the founder of Project Naveli, a non-profit organisation aimed at creating a gender-equal world, and the co-founder of Aara Health, a women’s health platform. 

Camera-shy Navya took to the audio storytelling medium during the lockdown, when she and her mother Shweta binge-heard multiple podcasts. “I feel that if there was a camera in front of me, I might not have been as candid and as open. Also, as my family has already done so much on camera, this was really a first for all of us. I also think that we've only recently discovered this medium in India and it's growing really fast,” said Nanda. 

“There is a certain spontaneity to the medium unlike the whole production around television, which requires you to be in a certain kind of location with a certain amount of makeup. The audio medium focuses on the deep intent of conversations. So, in 2015, with IVM Podcasts, our goal was to make learning fun, beyond the regular lens of newspapers or television,” added Kavita Rajwade, founder of IVM Podcasts.  

For Rajwade, the podcast was a culmination of a strong desire to collaborate with the Bacchan family in an unconventional, beyond the ordinary kind of way, to bring back the feeling of home after living away from her mother and grandmother for nearly two decades, and to empower young girls through these conversations. “What really interested me was that there is this young lady (Navya), who wants to be an entrepreneur, wants to run her business. And I want more girls doing this. I think her choice to do what she's doing—moving away from the large shadow of an actor family, and to pursue this—is commendable. The idea was to collaborate with an illustrious family but at the same time do something different with them, have real conversations instead of doing a simple interview. And when Shweta and Mrs Jaya Bachchan showed keen interest too, I thought it would be a great way to be able to put out a conversation across three generations of fantastic women that we all have so much to learn from,” she said. 

We wondered how much arm-twisting it took for the ladies to hop on board to Nanda's vision. “I didn't have to convince them much. My mom wanted to do one and she was extremely excited about the idea. And my nani (maternal grandmother) is just supportive of anything and everything that I do, so, she can never say no to me. And more importantly, the three of us really enjoy spending time together,” said Nanda. 

On the podcast, the three ladies bring their own experiences, perspectives and questions to the forefront, and speak about a host of themes such as parenting, relationships, and financial freedom among others. “We wanted to keep it as natural as possible—just like a conversation you would have with someone if a topic came up. However, to give the podcast some sort of structure, we discussed the themes and questions that we might touch upon with the IVM team. But that was it. Once we got into the recording studio, there wasn't a script to follow; the conversation just flowed,” explained Nanda. 

She still continues to navigate her way through the agreements, disagreements, and everything in between: “In the beginning I felt like I wasn't being able to get my voice out, because what can you do when you have your grandmother and mother saying really sensible things that you agree with, but at the same time, don't agree with, but also don't know how to disagree with them. It was slightly difficult to find a balance between being assertive and respectful at the same time. And I also wanted the listeners, especially girls my age to hear me and also listen to what I feel and think. I’m still learning, but I think I’m able to maneuver the conversation a lot better.” 

Together, their ultimate aim is to create a safe space for young girls and women of all ages: “We need safe spaces to talk our hearts out. No matter how old you are or where you come from. I also think that many girls, who miss their mother or grandmothers, can live vicariously through the podcast, and  build that kind of bond. It could be their safe space. We can't let the world decide what a safe space for us is supposed to be,” said Rajwade. 

And for the 24-year-old dreamer and achiever, “I want to let girls my age know that it’s normal to be confused, there’s a lot that we don’t know, and we’re all trying to figure it out. It’s okay to not know because we have all the answers at home, around us—we have these amazing women who’ve been through all of this and come out wiser. We just want to build conversations and connections.” 

Well, we love to hear that. With the first season coming to an end, we can only hope that these ladies continue to explore curious questions and share their many adventures and stories in the seasons to come.