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Exploring the 'insanity' of Monali Thakur!

August 11, 2015 12:18:15 PM IST
By Martin D'Souza, Glamsham Editorial
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There has been quite a storm since yesterday, ever since news of her ‘son' hit the headlines. Her ‘son' is Daichi Thakur, and he is a dog. “He is one of the very few dogs allowed inside Starbucks in Juhu,” beams Monali Thakur as she settles for a chat with her two-and-a-half year-old Beagle by her side.

The singer, who was born and brought up in Kolkatta, moved to Mumbai eight years ago (“Primarily to pursue my singing.”). Along the way, the acting bug bit her. LAKSHMI, the Nagesh Kukunoor film on human trafficking and child prostitution catapulted her into the big league as far as performances of quality were concerned.

With her wide eyes and body language, she transferred her plight and fright onto you as a viewer. She took you through her ordeal. Her performance was very, very real. “The movie took a lot out of me emotionally,” reveals Monali about the impact the character left on her.

Speaking about her early years in the city of dreams, the multi-talented Monali says, “I had to pay my rent at Yari Road. There were other bills to pay as well and I travelled by public transport. Every penny counted.”

Before LAXSHMI, came the song Zara Zara Touch Me, the chartbuster from RACE . There was also Dhol Baje from EK PAHELI LEELA this year and in between there have been numerous songs that have had the industry sit up and take notice.

Singing has been an intrinsic part of her family. “My father is an insanely talented person, be it in music or acting. I also have an elder sister (14 years elder to me), an insanely talented lady. She is a singer but she chose a personal life; fell in love and is happily married. She now designs sarees in Bengal. She is the one and only singer who I was ever jealous of; jealous out of admiration. She has been my inspiration,” reveals Monali.

‘Insanely' is one word Monali uses throughout. Point out that fact and she giggles. “Insanity is normal for me so I use that word quite often. Like, I'm insanely normal!”

Presenting the insanely talented Monali Thakur who does not say ‘good night' without watching two movies a day (an insane film buff) in a free-wheeling chat with Martin D'Souza.


You were insanely in love with music, how did the insane interest in acting catch up?
[Laughs] I never thought of a career in acting until the time people started encouraging me. Till that time I was content with my singing. But when the encouragement started pouring in, I thought, why not? I started working towards it.

INSANE TALENT: My father and sister are both insanely talented people

Who were the people who encouraged you?
Anurag Basu and his wife Tani were the first ones who pushed me in that direction. It made a lot of sense to me because they are amazing filmmakers. Raju sir (Hirani) also encouraged me a lot.

Neither Anurag Basu nor Raju Hirani fit in with LAKSHMI. How did that movie come about?
Abbas Tyrewala is a dear friend. I was invited to one of his Christmas parties to sing and just hang out with fellow musicians. Nagesh Kukunoor was also there. Throughout the party, he kept staring at me. I couldn't figure out whether he was sleazy or if something was wrong with me. However, before leaving, he came up to me and we had a chat and I showed him my admiration for his work. Still, that strange feeling never left me. A month later he called and asked me to audition for LAKSHMI. I gave two auditions. In those auditions I realized how I loved facing the camera. After that it was a different journey.

Coming back to the ‘staring scene' were you unnerved when Nagesh was staring at you in that manner?
[Laughs] People don't stare like that. The last person I would have expected to do that was Nagesh. Later, after the audition, he did say, ‘I know you would have been thinking what a disgusting person I was'.

What has been the response from your family after the movie released?
The response has been overwhelming. My father was very happy and proud. He said, ‘This is just the beginning.' Everyone at home was proud of my performance.

What about the industry?
Singing is my passion and I was not trying to act for fun, and I wanted them [the music industry] to see that aspect in me. I did not want them to put me in a bracket where they would say she is acting because she wants more recognition. I'm glad that wall got broken.

What about people from the acting industry?
For the industry to accept me as an actor was very, very encouraging. People started liking my work even after watching the trailer. There were extremely senior people who came up to me and encouraged me with their generous comments. Yes, the industry did accept me as a good actor.

How did the team go about defining the character of LAKSHMI?
We sat for days and figured the voice she would use. Hamming for a 14-year-old girl would have been obnoxious. She was soft spoken, she had to be underplayed. He power lay in her silence. Nagesh Sir and Elahi contributed to the look, voice and energy on screen. The actors who enacted the scenes with me on screen were so fantastic that I had to react spontaneously.

Shefali Shah and Satish Shah were both insanely attractive in their performances… they were very scary.
[Laughs] I was lucky that I worked with an insanely powerful actor like Shefali Shah. She is so honest with her delivery that it brings out the honesty from the other person as well. Satish Sir was fantastic. They were effortless.

Was it a tough call to make a choice to act in this film?
There were some people who discouraged me. I would not like to take names. They said it was not a glamorous role. I did not understand anything of that. For me, it was a dream role. This was a bold character written for a woman. Tell me, how many roles are written for a woman today? It was not difficult to say yes.

Considering the subject was so intense, did you find the shoot draining?
Absolutely! We shot the film in 22 days and I remember the time when my mind stopped working. I had to walk across the street to the police station on the highway, and I went the wrong way. That's how disoriented I was. They had to call ‘pack up'.

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH: For the industry to accept me as an actor was very, very encouraging

Do you feel talented actors get their due in this industry?
I will be absolutely honest. It's a little better now. The process of casting has begun which is good. This gives ample opportunities for newer talent who do not have a godfather or a star parent to cut through. Gradually that process is coming in where talented actors and filmmakers are coming forth and getting help through casting agencies. Speaking from an audience perspective, I know what type of talent there is because I keep travelling all over. I think Bollywood does not utilize all of them. We are insanely talented.

Are star kids having an undue advantage… having it easy?
They have a better hand at getting a film. That doesn't mean that star kids are not talented; there are talented star kids as well. There is a process of grooming. Even star kids today have to prove themselves. Casting is a process which has been followed in Hollywood for ages, which is why they don't have star kids there. They have unbelievable actors who we want to be like and worship. Over the years, it will get better here. Otherwise star kids will have to be launched!

Is there anything more than being a good actor one has to be in this industry to get good roles?
It takes a lot of time, no matter how diplomatic we become. I feel privileged because I have my music. I don't have any worries. The Almighty has taken care of me. I can pursue other dreams I have. I get scared sometimes for people who are struggling, they do have that talent but their mind will not let them function because of all the running around they have to do.

How tough or easy was it for you initially?
I was struggling in my initial years. But I have realized, to get your foothold in Bollywood you have to be strong and patient. You need to have that social skill and you have to be street smart. It's insanely complicated. But when the doors open, it's much better.

Any other movies in line for release?
I have completed Abbas Tyrelwalla's MANGO. I don't know when it will be released. Now I am auditioning for important films. I am happy with the auditions I am being called for. I do hope I get something good soon. The process is on. It is very important for me and my team to try for good films.

With so much of auditioning happening, are you getting time to focus on your singing?
Absolutely! Singing is my first love. There are some beautiful songs coming up. I don't know when the films will release. I am singing for Raju Sir's film as well. I'm in a happy space when it comes to singing and I am getting the songs that I always wanted.

You are also busy with stage performances?
Yes, I do a lot of stage shows, both in India and abroad. I have worked hard at getting a band whose members are insanely talented musicians. They also play with other important artistes. We do our gigs and that's an extremely happy part of my life.

And what type of songs do you perform.
I do popular numbers. My songs, songs I love to groove to. We also do western. It's an amalgamation of music that I like; a mix of English, Hindi and Classical. Whatever the requirement is for the type of audience we are performing for.

Be it singing, facing the camera or going to LA soon for a film-making course, Monali Thakur puts insane energies in whatever she does!

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