MONICA CHAUDHARY will be making her Hindi feature film debut with Luv Ranjan’s Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar (TJMM) in which she plays a pivotal role alongside Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. Before the big break in films, Monica has already proved her mettle in web shows such as Apaharan and Salt City. In an exclusive candid conversation with CINE BLITZ, the young actor reflects on her acting journey that began at the tender age of 16. She also talks about the exciting new phase in her career and the whole gamut of popularity and scrutiny that comes with being an actor.
How are you feeling ahead of the release of your Hindi film debut?
I am feeling a mix of all emotions. Definitely overwhelmed by the response. Didn’t know that it would become such a huge thing while I was shooting for it. I am excited and can’t wait to see the film.
How did your journey start?
I was an underconfident child while growing up. I barely spoke to anyone. My father put me in extra-curricular activities because he wanted me to have a personality. I was pathetic in everything I did at that age because of a lack of self-worth and confidence. I developed an interest in art. I never knew that I would become a professional actor. But I wanted to be on TV. At some point, I wanted to become a wedding planner, a fashion designer, and a newsreader. But at some point, everyone started to say that I should act. I kept ignoring it.
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So, how did you finally decide to take up acting as a profession?
I met a TV actor by chance in my gym back in Delhi. We started chatting and he randomly suggested that I must explore acting and start doing theatre. What were the odds of an actor from Mumbai being in Delhi and randomly suggesting I pursue acting?
My father told me to focus on my studies and stopped my pocket money for a while. So, I had no money. But still, I went to Mr. Arvind Gaur who runs Asmita Theatre Group. I told him that I had no money. He was kind and generous enough to allow me to join the group without asking me for any fees. He is my Guru.
Later, casting director Kavish Sinha found me in Delhi. He gave me an ad for Sunfeast. That ad went viral. Then Kavish as well as casting director Jogi Mallang told me to come to Mumbai. So, I came to Mumbai in 2018. Kavish got me my first show.
Coming back to TJMM, what was it like being directed by Luv Ranjan?
Luv Ranjan is a big name. I have been following his filmography ever since Pyaar Ka Punchnama became a hit. After that, with his every film, I started to resonate with his sensibilities. His films are exceptionally massy and commercial. I was extremely thrilled to work with him.
Initially, I was a bit scared because he’s a big director. I wondered how he will treat me. Also, I didn’t know how to work on such a huge set. But on the contrary, he is such an easy-going director despite the tremendous knowledge and expertise he has. He was very nice and welcoming, more like a mentor than a director. We shot the film over a period of one and a half years. I think those years were the best years of my life so far. I don’t think I have ever learned anywhere than I have learned on his set.
Did the pandemic cause any anxiety or insecurity because the film got delayed?
As an outsider, you go through a lot. I have already been rejected, removed, and replaced after doing months of workshops. I got locked in some films but got replaced afterward. Every time, as an actor you feel that this is the opportunity and you’ve finally arrived. But nothing happened to me.
Even after Vicky Sir called me to tell me that I was locked for the part in TJMM, I had that insecurity that I might be replaced. Because at that time, I had put on 20 kgs for the role in Salt City (Sony LIV). When I signed the contract for TJMM, I was told that I will have to lose weight for the part. I think after six months after the shooting started; I realized that now they will not replace me. Because I have shot enough not to be replaced [chuckles].
There are two aspects of an actor’s life. Acting and being an actor. What do you find more challenging and why?
I find being an actor and what comes with it more challenging. Because even a little bit of attention that I am getting right now, I find it difficult to accept it. I am used to walking around in my pajamas and glasses. I cannot understand that they know me because they have seen me somewhere. I am still getting used to it.
When we become products and things like “Monica you stand here in the market” come up, it’s a bit… I come from a theatre background yaar. I believe in performances. So, the other part is a bit challenging.
What role does social media play in your life/career? Is it merely a professional tool or is it an extension of your personality?
I take social media as a separate entity. I don’t think actors get cast through social media. I think actors who have limited or no presence on social media are still doing great work. I will get work only if I can deliver performances.
But I enjoy social media too. My Instagram account is an extension of my personality. I try to show a little bit of what I like and my personal life. And of course, there are some brand endorsements.
What do you like the most about your job and what do you hate about it?
I love being an actor. I love it when I am on a set. I started doing theatre at the age of 16. I was doing socio-political theatre and have performed all over India. But I have my understanding of films. Films are for entertainment. I have always been an audience for rom-coms and masala movies. I watch the world cinema too.
I believe that you say you play a part, you never say you act a part. There are different styles of acting and I enjoy all of them. Also, at the moment, I don’t have the luxury to choose. I take whatever is coming and try to resonate with the director’s sensibilities.
Having said that, I don’t like the scrutiny that comes with my job. I am still trying to not get affected by how you get bashed for something you have said or worn. Any person could come and say, “I don’t think you’re that good”, and I might feel insecure about that. I am learning to be indifferent about that.
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When you’re not shooting, how do you keep yourself as an actor?
When you come from the theatre, you already have batchmates. I am still in touch with them. Those are my friends who keep me in a reality check. We have a group. We read plays. We watch movies. I do all of that to stay in the groove of it. I stay in touch with my roots and the school of thought/acting that I come from so that I don’t lose perspective. Because every actor has a different method, and it can be confusing at times. So, I stay in touch with the teachings that my guru Arvind Gaur has taught me.
I try not to be obsessed with the fact that I am an actor. I would rather be obsessed with the fact that I am an artist. In my free time, I write. I have an inclination toward interior design. So, I design the interiors of my friends’ houses. So, I randomly do artistic things.
What are your upcoming projects?
I have already finished shooting a feature film which again I am not allowed to talk about. I am actually waiting for TJMM to come out to know where I stand. But because of the trailer and the presence that I have in songs, I have received a few calls from big production houses.