Monica Dogra on how she landed the role of Noor in David

Monica Dogra is quite excited about her upcoming film David. Bejoy Nambiar’s promos have hit the right note and the director has already exhibited his grip over filmmaking with his previous one Shaitaan that caught the imagination of critics and audiences alike. Naturally, the performance artist, one of the duo comprising the electro-rock group Shaa’ir+Func, is in a spirited mood. “David has that potential to connect with the masses. It’s the reach and the scope of this brilliantly made movie that’s perked me up,” says Monica, who plays Noor in the film and is cast opposite Neil Nitin Mukesh.

She says she bonded with Bejoy in a meeting at Mumbai’s Indigo Café that stretched to three hours. “I was aware that Bejoy was making a new film and the fact that we are both independent voices in the entertainment scene helped us get along like a house on fire. He told me about Noor and I was mightily enthused. The big problem was that Noor spoke a lot of Urdu!” she says. Monica auditioned for the role after preparing for it with help from her theatre friends and by watching repeats of Urdu recordings to perfect the diction. “I was given a scene that required my emotional graph to zoom up to 100 from 0. I was quite drained by the end of it, but totally wanted the role. However, both the writers watching me had a deadpan expression. Bejoy later told me that I was brilliant but he had to get everyone’s opinion. I got the part, two weeks later!”

David is the story of three men named David living in different lands. “Thematically, the three Davids are related to one another. They all have daddy-issues.” The story is set in different eras too and Monica’s bit is set in the late 60s-70s London and shot in black and white. “Noor is rambunctious; she is a firecracker. She is not born to privilege. That’s all very much like me. I have pretty much crawled my way up to wherever I am. As part of Shaa’ir+Func, my personality is that of a woman who grabs femininity by its throat and that’s not a much sought-after quality in a regular heroine. But back to Noor. The difference between us comes in that she obviously uses a lot of Urdu and that she wears a hijab and that needed a lot of getting used to, though I found the hijab liberating in many ways. I understand why they wear it.”

Connecting through art

Monica says she is not looking at commercial cinema, instead at art reaching out to the masses. “I’d love to do a Bollywood film if anyone is attempting a musical.” She is currently working on season 2 of The Dewarists, a musical collaborative show on Star World, a Shaa’ir+Funk solo record releasing in April, a solo album of hers and an art film titled Fireflies with Rahul Khanna, Arjun Mathur and Shivani Ghai and directed by Sabal Sheikhawat.