Mrunal Thakur, who became popular in living rooms as Bulbul, made her Bollywood debut with LOVE SONIA, which is a film on how women are trafficked and employed as sex workers, in 2018. IBNS-TWF correspondent Souvik Ghosh catches up with the 26-year old actress was recently in Kolkata for the special screening of her first film.
Tell us how traumatic was it to enact the role of a sex workers or a survivor in LOVE SONIA?
It was traumatic for the girls. For me, it was just 'action and cut'. (In the film) I was living their life which was difficult but imagine there are so many girls who get sold and raped in each and every second. The thought itself gives me so much trauma that I despised male touch but the fact is that through this film, one can become a voice of so many voiceless (girls). I am glad their lives may get changed through my acting and profession.
Was there any point of time in the course of shooting when you felt like withdrawing yourself from the role due to the trauma?
There was one scene in particular. In the Hong Kong scene where the girl (Mrunal's character) gets raped or sold for the first time. That scene was very difficult for me. While shooting the scene, I felt disgusting to have an older man on top of me because he looked like my grandfather. So I still remember standing under a shower with a feeling of disgust. The next scene was when the girl gets stitched. This is a fact that girls, after they are raped for the first time, get stitched so they can be resold as a virgin for the second time. So these two scenes were like really heartbreaking for me.
Taking the women issue further, I would like to talk about the #MeToo movement, which had overwhelmed Bollywood last year. Recently, actress Rani Mukerji said all girls should immediately fight back by either slapping the man or kicking him in between legs. How do you respond to that being a newcomer to the film industry?
See the background that Rani Mukerji comes from is different from mine. The background from which girls of Kolkata come is again not the same. In a way, Rani Mukerji is right because she was standing by wearing her own shoes. We need to understand the situation around the globe. It is easy to lecture what could have been done. But until and unless, one wears the shoes of that person (victim), he doesn't understand the specific situation. Talking about #MeToo, I am glad that it has happened. It was very necessary to have something like this to happen in our industry. There are a lot of girls who have been tricked, manipulated by the industry (people belonging to the industry) saying that they will instantly give the girls fame, recognition, money but nothing takes place. I want to tell women, not only in Bollywood or television but also in multinational companies and government jobs, not to compromise because that makes other women in the line go through the same thing. We need to stop and change. So when it comes to #MeToo, everybody has his opinion but I feel whoever is guilty should be punished irrespective of his identity.
You are presently working for SUPER 30 and BATLA HOUSE. After having an outstanding Bollywood debut with LOVE SONIA in 2018, do you feel the pressure of picking and choosing roles?
No, there is no pressure. In fact I feel 2018 was like my achiever year. I have achieved last year but whether I have failed or passed, it would only come out in 2019. There is no pressure because I don't want to prove to anyone. Acting for me is passion. After LOVE SONIA, I was just sitting at home, washing my laundry and still happy. Now I am doing the other projects which make me happy. So acting is my happiness. So I will only do projects which make me happy because there is no point working on a project which doesn't make one happy, right?
You were associated with television for a long time. How films are different from the small screens?
Deadlines. In television, we have deadlines. In small screens, we have to give 23-minute footage in around 12 hours. Whatever one shoots, the entire thing goes on air on the same day. There are no retakes and they are very quick. In films, it is easy and has a lot of time for research on a particular character. In television, it doesn't happen as one lives the character for few years. But working in television has helped me because it is like a newspaper. I kept feeding (on television). It was like lessons for me. I kept learning things like camera angles, direction, make up and also how to wear microphone. I have already dealt with all sorts of pressures while working for television. So I am happy to have started my career with small screens.