Many television actors dream of making it big in films, but very few get to realize that dream. Mrunal Thakur, a young happy person on the other side of the call, is one such talented artist who got a shot at this. She greeted me by singing the song “Ananya” from her film Toofan, starting off our conversation on a fun note. From entering the film industry with Love Sonia and going on to do movies like Super 30, Jersey, and Dhamaka, Mrunal has not lost the art of humility. TV audiences loved her as Bulbul Arora in Kumkum Bhagya, and now, the big screen audience has welcomed her with the same warmth for her performances.
Thakur talks about her journey, the people she looks up to, what changed in all these years for her and what she has planned for her future.
The journey from television to movies for any actor is said to be a learning curve. How did the experience shape your craft?
I can say that earlier, I was surviving. Now I’m living my life because everything that I’ve dreamt of, I’m doing it, taking one day at a time. I’m in a very happy space right now. It’s very interesting that when you start with television, you get this kind of confidence that you’ll be able to pull off a scene. I will always be grateful to television because all my grooming process has happened through that medium. And yes, I wish to keep doing better and better work every day.
You started out in the industry with a film that was so grim. Do you think that its success helped everyone look at you differently?
Earlier there were no opportunities given to television actors. And maybe this is one of the conscious efforts that I took to start my career with a film like Love Sonia, which would break all stereotypes. When an actor is asked to stand in the frame with no make-up, no hair, in a very simple outfit and just act, that’s a challenge. The film-makers whom I met after this film did not meet me because I was a television actress, but because I performed well in Love Sonia.
When Love Sonia was screened at the Melbourne Film Festival, Nikkhil Advani saw the film, and cast me for Batla House. I was being offered roles of female characters of substance. The approach of the film-makers changed.
Shahid Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar — you have worked with big names right from the beginning. How did working with experienced stars help you?
The only thing I did when I was on the sets of any film was to observe and absorb what they were doing, because they all are institutions in themselves. I also got a chance to work with Paresh (Rawal)ji, and his timing is just wonderful. From each actor, I learned how to worship one’s body, how to be focused, how to get into the skin of the character, and also, they all are very secure in their own way. I did not have to worry about anything else, but only my performance. In fact, there were times when it was really lovely to have suggestions from these actors, and it would also elevate my performance.
I just love the fact that how you are so grounded. Even on the call, I can feel it.
When I started television, I saw a couple of my friends who were really doing great, and then suddenly, something happened. I’ve seen people go through failure. So I felt like it is important for any actor to be grounded. And the moment I start pretending to be someone else, I would lose myself. I do not want to be someone that I’m not. That’s why I make sure that I feel what I feel. So yeah, that’s great.
Coming to women in the industry, they’re getting better roles, better scripts, and even better jobs. What’s that one aspect you think we still need to work on?
I think there are many things that we need to work on, but I think we can start with the kind of questions we are being asked. Why is it that a man is never asked about why he’s playing a boyfriend and a father, but a woman is asked why she is playing a mother and a girlfriend or a wife? I feel like there are a lot of women who are breaking records, and I want to be one of them. I want to make sure that I make this place comfortable for people to work in and also be a part of films that would make one feel independent. I also feel like people need to know that it’s okay to say no. I want to make films that will have a lot of conversation when it comes to children and parents.
You have often mentioned Vidya Balan was the one who inspired you to take up acting. Are you also trying to move your career graph as she did? If given a chance, what kind of a film would you do with her?
I wish I get my career graph to look like hers. Every time I see her, I go blank. I just don’t know what to talk about, what to say. I’m extremely fond of her, her laughter, and her acting skills. I hope I get to share my screen space with her. A slice of life, a story that people would think exists around them — I would like to do that kind of a film with her.
You’ve talked about being conscious about your body and the clothes you choose to wear. Do you still think people are just preaching about body positivity and not practicing it?
Even if I am comfortable wearing whatever I wear, people always make us uncomfortable. I do not get affected but to avoid that stupid conversation, I still have to think twice. But having said that, I just want to tell readers that let’s not make it uncomfortable for people to live. People should wear what they feel like wearing.
You met David Beckham recently. What was your conversation with him like?
I’m so happy. He’s such a handsome man. Everything was just surreal. I was there for the Formula One match and it was an iconic moment. I think the day was well spent because they finally managed to get a picture. I didn’t realise what it takes to be a fan of somebody. Now, today, after meeting David Beckham, Mouni (Roy) and I celebrated the fact that I managed to get a picture.
Your friends also appear on your social media feed a lot. How have conversations with them changed after you entered Bollywood? How have dinner table conversations at home changed?
Nothing has changed, everything is the same. My friends, my family, my colleagues who I have worked with, everyone is very real with me; they are very brutal. The conversations at home are about my work and their daily lives. We make sure that we plan dinner and lunch dates. We make sure that we at least eat one meal together.
The kind of projects you are doing now is different. How are you taking up this challenge of playing different kinds of roles?
I’m just going with the flow. I’ve told myself that the only competition I have is with me. I want to invest the energy in my craft and make sure that I present something different and unique to the audience every time. There’s a lot of pressure in choosing the right script, and the struggle is real.
What’s next for you?
Pippa. It’s a very exciting film. Then there is Sita Ramam with Dulquer Salman, Aankh Micholi and Thadam, and some more unannounced films that I can’t wait to talk to you about.