Mrunal Thakur is a firm believer in going with the flow — and from TV to lead roles on the silver screen, her journey is proof that her pace is perfect. She reflects on her path so far, and reveals what recognition means to her
While some people like to fast track their lives, some prefer to let things unfold at their own pace — Mrunal Thakur being one of them. She began her career with TV shows, then tried her hand at Marathi films (which is also her mother tongue), and is gradually finding her footing in Hindi films. In three years, she has worked with directors like Karan Johar (Ghost Stories), Nikkhil Advani (Batla House), Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Toofaan), and Ram Madhvani (Dhamaka).
The acting bug bit her when she was still in college, and her debut into the world of reel was the 2014 Ekta Kapoor hit TV show Kumkum Bhagya, which got her attention and praise for her character of Bulbul. Thakur says her TV shows prepared her for her journey into the movies. “I pride myself on beginning my career with TV because it was where my training and grooming took place. Whenever I am on a movie set, I’m thankful that TV helped me understand things better, from acting to lighting, to the character’s emotional arc. Even today, people remember that show, and my character.”
After her film debut with Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia (2018), Thakur went on to work with an array of directors. It simply shows that she gained the trust of the captain of the film’s shop, and is slowly making a mark on the names to look forward to. This has also boosted her confidence. “It is great,” she beams. “Love Sonia is responsible for the roles I’m getting in the Hindi film industry right now. In a way, Love Sonia was my ticket to Bollywood. It was a challenging film, and I realised that I first had to prove myself as an actor to make the transition. If I do justice to my role, film-makers will show trust and faith in me. And it worked. That’s how Super 30 happened. Irrespective of the platform, I made sure whatever work I do, it holds on its own, and leaves an impact. It takes a lot of time to get noticed by promising film-makers. Things are changing today, and OTT is responsible for some of the most significant transformations. It doesn’t really matter if the actor comes from TV or web. The important thing is how well they perform their character and connect with the audience. I worked with Amruta Subhash in Dhamaka, whose performance in the film was highly appreciated, and who began her career with theatre. So, if the makers and audience judge an actor based on the platform, that is silly. What an actor brings to the table and how they forge a connection with the audience is what matters. Mehra Sir and Madhvani Sir have been on my list of directors, and when they showed trust in me, I felt overwhelmed. I think my journey has just begun,” she says.
After Love Sonia, she was cast to play the role of Young Sivagami in the Baahubali prequel on Netflix. The show didn’t see the light of the day, though. In fact, there are talks that the makers are planning to revive the show again, but she may not be part of that project anymore. She was a part of the project for more than two years. Thakur feels disappointed that the audience won’t get to see her performance, but is happy that playing Sivagami already has helped her get other interesting roles and projects. “I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to learn Kalaripayattu and many different weapons. I had prepared for various scenes for my role as Sivagami, which eventually helped me in my other roles. I got the experience of working against the green screen, which is not simple or easy by any standard. Tomorrow if I have to perform in front of a green screen, I know how to go about it. The character of Sivagami was very close to my heart.”
Speaking of learning skills, Thakur also learned Mixed Martial Arts after working with Farhan Akhtar in Toofaan. She hopes that all this will help her in a full-fledged action role one day. But her ultimate wish is to work in a Marvel film, and some day, share screen space with Keanu Reeves and Meryl Streep. She even studied Meryl Streep’s films while preparing for Love Sonia.
Thakur will be seen playing a mother of a seven-year-old in Jersey. It’s a Hindi remake of a 2019 Telugu film of the same title, and the film’s release is postponed due to rising Covid cases. There were some stirring conversations about her playing a mother so early on in her career, but she doesn’t have the same perception. She clarifies that it is just a role, and today’s audience is smart enough to distinguish between a character and an actor. “I’m 29 years old, and my mother was 19 when she had her first child. So, when her child was seven, she was 26. A woman can be a mother at a very young age or later stage in her life. I don’t have any inhibitions in playing a mother. I can’t just keep playing the role of a girlfriend. A lead actress can play any person,” she states.
“When Pippa was announced,” Thakur continues, “I got a lot of concerned calls asking me, ‘Why would you want to play a sibling to Ishaan Khatter?’ What people don’t know is that the film is about three siblings. I don’t want to miss out on a good story because I have to play a mother or a sibling. What if there is an excellent part in a movie, but I don’t play the character because it is older than me in real life? I have to take risks in my career. There were no digital platforms back in the day, and movies were the only medium. Hence, actresses weren’t willing to take up such roles,” she adds.
From Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor, and Farhan Akhtar to Kartik Aaryan, Aditya Roy Kapur, and Abhimanyu Dassani, Thakur has worked with a range of co-actors. Speaking of her contemporaries, she views them as a source of inspiration rather than competition. She admires the kind of roles Sanya Malhotra is doing. “There is so much to learn from Sanya and everyone else. I focus on becoming a better person and a better actor. I saw a little girl perform in this series titled Unorthodox, and it just blew my mind. I so wanted to be part of that show. I really want to play a character wherein people’s reaction is like, ‘Oh, we didn’t expect this from her. Is she the same girl?’”
Mrunal has three films lined up this year: Jersey, Pippa, and Aankh Micholi, and she can’t wait to share these projects. “2021 was the year in which Toofaan and Dhamaka were released, and both the films were appreciated. The world is at a critical point, and whenever possible, I should be able to entertain my audience. The only thing that kept me going during the lockdowns were some good films. I’m a performer and entertainer, and I live for that. I would be delighted if I could make my audience laugh, cry, and take them on a rollercoaster ride through all my films,” she quips.
The pandemic sure has changed the world, and as we stand on a 3.0 version of it, we ask how Thakur feels health and beauty have changed in these two years. “Being an actor, one has to always be picture ready. Earlier, it felt it would be very tough to survive, and there was a lot of struggle. The pandemic has taught us to think of alternative solutions, and make the best of a bad situation. We have started working out from the comfort of our homes instead of going to the gym. Today, everyone is fighting their own battles. If you are confident and comfortable in what you are doing without causing any harm, then no one can stop you. You can live life on your own terms. What is important is that you have faith in yourself,” she signs off.