Vedang Raina on Netflix’s The Archies and Becoming Bollywood’s Next Big Star

Photo by Ajay Kadam

Twenty-three year old Vedang Raina’s life has all the makings of a Bollywood blockbuster: the underdog who becomes the hero, the unexpected twists and turns along his journey, and the killer soundtrack to accompany his adventures. After starring as Reggie Mantle in Netflix’s The Archies, he’s now set out to prove to the industry that he has what it takes to be the leading man.

Despite those exciting plot points, Raina insists he lives a “really regular, simple life in Mumbai,” where his Kashmiri family moved from Delhi when he was a kid. He tells Teen Vogue that the silver screen was never really a life goal for him growing up. “I was actually really good at studying,” he says. He loved science and even scored a 97 percent on his final exams in 12th grade, a feat in the competition-driven academic halls of Indian schools. “Those rigorous days of working my ass off and getting good marks on my exams really changed me as a person.”

At his college in Bombay, he chose business over science, because "honestly I had no idea what I really wanted to do,” he admits in the classic dilemma faced by 16 and 17 year olds everywhere. A business degree felt like the safe choice, but he didn’t feel connected to the possibility of one day becoming an entrepreneur or consultant. Bombay, however, was bursting with creative energy around every corner. He was inspired. He went to shows by Western bands when they toured in the city, leaning into his early love for music, and started performing English songs on stage after joining his college’s music committee. Still a studious kid, he found any possible way to excel at the craft. He found ways to build confidence while performing, and each show was its own lesson on how to become better. Even though he was mostly performing English rock songs, he wanted to acquaint himself with Hindustani classical. “[I studied] classical for like a month,” he says, “it's quite difficult.” Those who have done a deep dive on his Instagram account after discovering him in The Archies may have seen a reel of him singing a song by Arijit Singh, one of India’s most talented and beloved vocalists. Raina is able to perform raags, intricate improvised melodies in Indian classical music, that imitate Singh’s even without full training.

Once his college days were nearing an end, it was time for Raina to actually decide what he wanted to do with his life. He began auditioning for various projects and landed some ads but nothing substantial came about. “You know what,” he says laughing, “[The] Archie's was actually the first audition that really landed.” He believes that luck was definitely on his side. To nail it, he ran lines with his mom and sister at home, which he recalls was quite hilariously disastrous. “Let me tell you, they are not actors,” he quips, “rather, they are bad actors.”

Vedang Raina as Reggie Mantle in *The Archies.*
Vedang Raina as Reggie Mantle in *The Archies.*
Manpreet Singh/Netflix

Leading up to landing his role as Reggie in The Archie’s, his life had suddenly become a masterclass in navigating the unexpected. His foray into the industry and learning to act in front of a camera was another classroom outside of the confines of his science labs and college music committees. "When [The] Archie's [audition] was happening, I was in that space where I still felt like a teenager. It was just an audition,” he says, “and it changed my life." He had to learn quite quickly, especially because he was surrounded by others who have been embedded in this industry from birth.

He originally auditioned for the titular role in Zoya Akhtar’s The Archie’s but ended up booking Reggie Mantle instead, unconvinced at first that he would fit the role. “I was very invested in Archie's character because he's a musician just like me,” he says. “I was a bit upset that I was going to be this bad guy on screen.” In the comics and other iterations of The Archie’s universe, Reggie is a jock who’s not always the kindest to his friends and peers, but Akhtar decided to take a new direction with Raina’s Reggie. “I heard the brief of the character and I realized that there's a lot more depth to Reggie,” Raina says. Reggie Mantle in this retelling of the story is one who stands up for his friends and his community — a character that is bold, honest, and loyal, someone that Raina felt akin to.

A fan favorite scene in the film shows Reggie supporting his friend Dilton as he grapples with his sexuality and the question of coming out to his loved ones. The new face of this formerly villainous character positioned Raina as the breakout star of the production. Raina feels quite proud and relieved that he got to embody such a nuanced role told by such a prolific storyteller (Akhtar has also written and directed blockbuster films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Gully Boy.)

And it turned out Archie wasn’t the only one who got to sing. In the film, the song “Everything Is Politics” includes Raina’s voice on the track. “They called me to a studio one day,” he remembers, “I thought that they were gonna audition my voice and that’s that. I really thought they might change it or they might not like me enough.” But the lines he sang that day ended up in the final cut of the film. The song also has a bit of dancing, which is a skill that doesn’t come as easily to him. Because the movie took place in the ‘60s, he absorbed as much as he could from the icons of the era from East to West: Shammi Kapoor and Elvis Presley. These influences are clear in his portrayal of Reggie — slicked back hair, leather jacket, and a voice of gold.

Now that he’s fully immersed in the career journey of his dreams, he’s ready to learn and grow from everyone around him. “I've gotten to meet a lot of people who have found a lot of success in their life,” he says, and admits that sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming but he’s learned more than he could ever have imagined. Raina has just wrapped up his next project, which is with Bollywood veteran Alia Bhatt on superstar director Karan Johar’s Jigra which is set to be released in September.

Now, Vedang Raina has his seatbelt buckled and is ready to take on his biggest role as a student in his biggest classroom yet: Bollywood. “I feel just like a whole different kind of a student,” he says. He’s scored pretty high already, so let’s see where the plot takes him now.

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

Want more great Culture stories from Teen Vogue? Check these out: