At Home With Koobeshen Naidoo
Durban - Although he may come across as boisterous in his theatre work, actor and comedian Koobeshen Naidoo is anything but when at home.
Sitting in his newly renovated Westville home, the Dingalings star is pretty laid-back as he chats about his journey into the world of theatre, movies and television and meeting the love of his life, his wife of 28 years, Kumseela Naidoo.
The couple have three children, Dheyanka, 25, a coach for the provincial under 13 and 16 cricket girls team, Yuvaan, 22, a final-year dentistry student at the University of Western Cape and 16-year-old Nashka, a Grade 11 pupil at Ridge Park College - the school he teaches at.
Koobeshen, who hails from Port Shepstone, completed an honours degree in drama and obtained a teaching diploma from the University of Durban-Westville.
Recalling one of his fondest memories while at university, he said it was meeting his future wife.
“It was in 1987, I was in my final year and we had do a children’s play, Wind and the Willows, which Kumseela was also a part of.
There were four lead roles and we had scooped two of those; she was the rat while I played the mole.
“I knew her before the play, though, as she stood out with her funky short hair and thought she was super-cool.
It was only after the play that we had decided to start dating.”
Kumseela said Koobeshen had emigrated to Australia that same year but returned a month later.
“I knew it was because of me that he returned,” she laughed.
Nodding in agreement, Koobeshen said: “It was at the end of 1987 and my entire family had emigrated.
I went with them but realised that I would rather be back home and, of course, be with Kumseela.
“When I returned I completed my honours degree and teaching diploma.
"I went on to work as a drama teacher at Glenhaven Secondary School in Verulam for 10 years and later moved to head of department for music, art and drama at Ridge Park College for the past 17 years.”
The couple were playful and full of loving banter during the interview. Noticing the reporter’s curious glances, Kumseela said they stay grounded by remembering why they fell in love with each other.
“We make a concerted effort to make time to talk, take long walks, go to movies and dinner or at least go out for tea once a week as well as train at the gym and rehearse for our comedy shows, always together,” she said.
Koobeshen added: “The most important aspect in our marriage is that we have always supported each other’s dreams. We also don’t take things too seriously as we live for humour and fun.”
The 53-year-old said he had always loved acting but it was only 15 years ago when he and Kumseela were approached by their university colleague and friend, Yugan Naidu, to star in the comedy productions company that his career took off.
He has since been part of over 50 shows across the country, starred in a movie and is currently on a TV series.
“The show was called Comedy Shop. He asked Kumseela to join and she convinced me to also come aboard.
"At that time there was no group doing adult comedy yet there was a market that was looking for it. We touched on aspects that other entertainers did not go into at the time,” he said.
“I think after the very first show there was huge demand and every show thereafter was sold out and venue packed.
"It wasn’t just comedy or performance, there was a whole mix of singing and dancing. For me, once I got that first laugh I was hooked.
The couple were asked to audition for a role in the hit 2017 movie, Keeping up with the Kandasamys, which has earned millions at cinemas across South Africa.
“The late Junaid Ahmed had called us up and said we should come read the script, but at that time we were so busy teaching and kept holding back, but he was so persistent,” Koobeshen said.
“I remember it was on the last day of the audition and I had went through and when I had landed the role I was still hesitant as I was busy with teaching but Junaid said not to worry as they will shoot around my school schedule, so I used to shoot on afternoons, weekends, and during the holiday period.”
While working on set, he said he had witnessed true camaraderie.
“It was a very comfortable atmosphere and cast and crew blended so well together.
“Some of the challenges were to stop being so animated as I am when I perform in the comedy shows, but the director, Jayan Moodley, was amazing and provided that guidance and just allowed the cast to express themselves.
"The movie opened me to a new and different audience, and it is so amazing seeing kids even recognise me.”
Koobeshen said he is on “indefinite leave” from school as he shoots for the series Imbewu: The Seed which airs on e.tv every Monday to Friday at 9.30pm.
“Being part of the series is very different in comparison to shooting for a movie or one of the Dingalings shows. We shoot most days, about 15 to 16 scenes a day and we have to be on call every day.
"I decided to take an indefinite leave from teaching as I am following my lifelong dream to be an actor,” he said.
Talking about his role, Koobeshen said he plays one of three directors in a company with the story focusing around each of their families.
He added that another big event in his life will be moving into their “family compound”.
“This is our family home; it is a large property that gives us all our own homes and space but still close to one another.
“Kumseela’s brothers are interior decorators hence the house is a culmination of years of experience and collecting pieces that speak to us both spiritually and creatively.
“Also Kumseela’s mom has turned 85 and has retired from her job as a nurse at the Cheshire homes and the idea was to be in close proximity to assist and to offer companionship as well as enjoy all of mom’s yummy cooking,” he said.
Some of his personal touches to the house include custom-made stained glass.
“It has the warm colours of sunsets and autumn and a wonderful addition to the sun-drenched entrance.”
Looking around the well-designed home, one can’t help but notice beautiful paintings lining the walls, and different shapes, sizes and shades of Buddha statues sitting in almost all the rooms.
The family has visited various countries, including Australia, Singapore, Mauritius and Hong Kong, with their favourite holiday being Disneyland in Florida.
“We love family holidays especially trips to the Midlands Meander,” said Koobeshen. “Family gives us purpose and sense of direction which is forever changing, to keep in touch with our kids’ needs.”