Masala!

Mrunal Thakur on herjourney from TV to B’town

After making her Bollywood debut with Love Sonia, Mrunal Thakur has worked alongside bigwigs such as Hrithik Roshan, Shahid Kapoor, and now Farhan Akhtar. We speak to the up-and coming actor on her journey so far.

- By Sarakshi Rai and Shaheera Anwar

Joining through Zoom from Kashmir, Mrunal Thakur always knew that she wanted to get into acting, but little did she know that her first few stints in Bollywood would see her opposite some of the biggest names of the industry. After working in TV for a number of years, Mrunal made her debut with Love Sonia in 2018 and because of her experience in front of the camera, her transition into Bollywood was relatively easy for her. Speaking exclusivel­y to Masala!, Mrunal is open about her journey from a TV actor to a B’town diva. “Television helped me a lot but while shooting, there was always some kind of distractio­n in my viewpoint. But I think that was my learning process, which allowed me to cope with Bollywood.” And because of her having a name in the TV industry already, many assumed that Mrunal had the right contacts which helped her find some of the biggest roles in Bollywood, but the actress clarifies that it was never the case.

“A lot of people in industry think that they get work because of the contacts but it’s just a myth. Things have changed a lot. All the directors I have met have made sure that they cast the actress best suited for their role. Tabrez Noorani (Love Sonia director) made sure that I went through hell during the audition round because there are times when you go in for an audition or a screen test and don’t hear back for months. There also came a point when I was fed-up and just wanted people to tell me that I wasn’t good enough for the role instead of keeping me hanging. That’s how it was when I auditioned for Super 30 as well.”

Mrunal revealed that she auditioned for Super 30 in 2017 and in 2018 she was called in again for a retest. “I had done the screen test about five to seven times already after which I met the director, Vikas Bahl and was told that there would be another screen test I would need to do. But the team was playing with me and then told me that I would play Supriya in the film. And at the time, I didn’t believe it. I even said that I would only believe it when the film releases because I had started having second thoughts about coming to Bollywood. I was wondering if I should quit or move back to TV, so there was a lot of patience needed from my end and I am glad that I worked in television to have that kind of patience.”

So how many times did Mrunal have to audition for her latest outing, Toofaan? Surprising­ly, she was the first choice for the role. “The Toofaan experience was another life win. I was dubbing for

Batla House just a few days before its release and I remember, around the same time, I was in touch with filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. He happened to be at the studio when I was dubbing and was also looking at the footage to go with it. When I met him, he asked me if I would be comfortabl­e doing a screen test. I was, of course, game and agreed so when I went to audition. Later, I found out that I was the only girl to screen test for the film and had gotten the role. And working in Toofaan was no-brainer for me. Even before reading the script, I had agreed to it because my instinct told me to say yes.”

Mrunal soon began filming as Ananya for Toofaan opposite Farhan Akhtar - who, she was earlier a little intimated by as well. “The best quality about Farhan is that he knows how to break the ice. In between the shots, he would always discuss about old films. He likes to mimic and he has an amazing sense of humour, so he would crack jokes all the time, making everyone feel comfortabl­e. We had a lot of fun on set and it felt like I was working with a friend. Plus, I think being a part of the deadly combinatio­n of Farhan and Rakeysh was

great because they have also worked together in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and that was fabulous. So for me to get that chance so early on in my career was like a dream come true.”

Speaking about her character in the film, Mrunal described her journey in the movie. “Ananya is a very liberal girl. She’s a Maharashtr­ian like I am so I could throw in some lines in Marathi and it would feel so real. She’s fun and bubbly and like one of those people in your life who’d always push you to achieve your dreams. She has that vision for the person she’s in love with and the way she helps Aziz is a beautiful journey. She’s somebody who would never give up.”

After having worked with some of the biggest names in Bollywood already, including Shahid Kapoor, with whom she will be seen paired with in Jersey and Kartik Aaryan in Dhamaka, Mrunal has learnt a lot from her co-stars. “I think as time is passing, I’m becoming a better performer and a better human as well. There’s so many things I have learnt from all of them.” But working alongside Bollywood bigwigs within a matter of three years, has also drawn judgement from a lot of people who feel that Mrunal has been very choosy and picking the popular names. However, Mrunal credits it all to her luck. In fact, it’s the character that first draws her.

“The first thing that I look for when choosing a film is the character that I’m playing and the director who’s directing. I always believe that if I can feel the character I will be able to deliver a better performanc­e - something that the audience can relate to. If I’m not convinced with the character, it gets difficult because the audience is getting smarter by the day. As long as working alongside some of the biggest actors is considered, I’m just going with the flow but I always make sure that I don’t do what I have already done before. I like to challenge myself because if I keep doing the same kind of roles, I am going to be stereotype­d and I don’t want that.”

Mrunal also plans to try her hand in Hollywood soon. In fact, that is one of the reasons she chose Love Sonia. She continued: “I’ve always dreamt of being a part of a Marvel movie but I’m just going with the flow as of yet. And I don’t know where this life is going to lead me but all I pray is that I get to work with the best directors in the world.”

And that is also why Mrunal has nothing against going back to TV or working on an OTT series. “The only thing that I want in my life to remain constant is the camera. As long as I’m performing in front of the camera, it really doesn’t matter what platform it is going on. I had signed an OTT project a few years ago, but that didn’t materialis­e due to some unforeseen circumstan­ces. I wouldn’t mind going back to TV either. I started with that, so why not?”

Having said that, she opens up about how dishearten­ed she is at never having gotten the chance to work with her favourite Bollywood star, Irrfan Khan. “It was my dream to work with Irrfan sir. My heart really broke when I heard of his demise, because I wish I could witness the magic that he created on screen and off-screen. He was my dream co-star. But if you ask me in Hollywood, it’s always going to be Keanu Reeves. I would really like to star with him in case there’s another John Wick movie being made, or Matrix 5.”

But while Hollywood might still be a few films away, Mrunal is currently preparing for Pippa, in which she is reported to be seen in next with Ishaan Khatter, Soni Razdan and Priyanshu Painyuli. She also has a comedy film, Aankh Macholi with Paresh Rawal, Sharman Joshi, Vijay Raaz, Divya Dutta and many others in the pipeline.

“The only constant thing I need in my life is the camera. I don’t mind going back to TV, I started with that, so why not?”

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