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Playing the rebel

NEETI SARKAR
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FILM Actor Monica Dogra returns with ‘David’, playing a 70s girl who lives life on her own terms and feels entitled to live like that

COOL CONFIDENCE?‘I was born with a clear idea of what I wanted to do in life,’ declares Monica DograPhoto: Courtesy Anushka Menon
COOL CONFIDENCE?‘I was born with a clear idea of what I wanted to do in life,’ declares Monica DograPhoto: Courtesy Anushka Menon

While some actors sing, there are singers who also act. And no, we aren’t making any reference to Hollywood here! After her highly acclaimed acting debut in Kiran Rao’s Dhobhi Ghat , singer and actress Monica Dogra has returned to Bollywood with her second film – the recently released action-thriller David , directed by Bejoy Nambiar, in which she stars opposite Neil Nitin Mukesh.

The director extraordinaire discovered Monica through a Shaa’ir + Func (Monica’s band) performance. Very different from her previous film, according to this performing artiste, “What drew me to David was that Bejoy was the director and that he knew so much about the independent culture of India, which made it even easier for me to essay this role. He asked me to meet him, narrated the story to me, got me to read only a portion of the script and told me he had found his Noor in me. I just knew he was onto something because I have seen how through Shaitan he brought out totally different actors in all his actors.”

Speaking of her role in the film, Monica says: “I play Noor, a Muslim girl, who falls in love with the gangster, David. Noor is rebellious, she fights for love and she isn’t like any other girl from the 70s. Though she’s the household help, she doesn’t see class or divide, she lives life on her own terms and she feels she is entitled to live a life like that.”

Ask her if she is like Noor in real life and she responds: “As Monica Dogra, I’m not completely like Noor. There have been phases in my life when I have expressed my views because it was called for. I’m not someone who goes against the grain. I’m more like someone who goes against the wrong grain.”

Getting into the skin of the character is almost always an arduous task and Monica says: “I was raised as a Hindu, traditionally at that, so playing Noor called for altering certain aspects of my body language. Considering Noor is the help of the house in the 1970s, my responses, mannerisms and look had to change quite a bit for my role. One of the other challenges was that the film was shot really quickly. I shot for it in October and it has already hit the theatres so we didn’t really have the leniency of time on hand. Most importantly, the biggest challenge was to learn Urdu and it wasn’t a very easy task; nonetheless I was able to pull it off.”

About the chemistry and relationship she shares with her co-star Neil Nitin Mukesh, Monica says: “Belonging to a family from filmdom and having been in the industry for much longer than I have, Neil really provided me the guidance I needed. It initially took us time to figure each other out but once we did, we became really good friends. Also, he taught me a lot about photography.”

Having maintained that Bejoy was the prime reason she chose to do this film, she explains: “Bejoy Nambiar is an amazing director to work with. He’s extremely clear about what he wants but he also completely trusts his actors. With him, there are no shades of grey. He’s the kind of director who is wholly immersed in his film at any given time. He provides consistent feedback and he’s always present where his actors are. My hard work aside, it was Bejoy’s constant push and encouragement that helped me pull of this role.”

Given that her career in films is steadily picking up, ask her whether she enjoys singing or acting more and she states: “I’ve never really had to choose only one of the two. I’ve studied musical theatre so singing as well as acting have always been a large part of what I do. Having said that, I’m really happy I kick started my career when I was only 12 years of age and that I was born with a clear idea of what I wanted to do in life.”

What’s next on the cards for her? “My next film Fireflies directed by Sabal Sheikhwat starring Rahul Khanna, Arjun Mathur, Shivani Ghai and others, will be out soon.” On the music front, Shaa’ir + Func, her prolific electro-rock band with genius guitarist/producer Randolph Correia are working on their fourth studio album, which will see the light of day later this year.

Monica Dogra has also started working on her first solo album, also due in 2013.

NEETI SARKAR

I’m not someone who goes against the grain. I’m more like someone who goes against the wrong grain.

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