Sunday, April 21, 2024

‘I watch Malayalam cinema more than Bollywood’

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Actress Monika Panwar is playing the leading lady in Dukaan, directed by Siddharth Garima, the writer of Toilet-Ek Prem Katha, Raabta, and Ram-leela. She shoots the breeze about the film, her character, working with kids, and more.
Actress Monika Panwar, who was previously seen in projects like Super 30, Jamtara, Class of 83, and Mast Mein Rehne Ka, has bagged the opportunity to lead the film Dukaan, directed by Siddharth-Garima, writers of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Raabta, and Ram-Leela. For Siddarth-Garima too, this is their debut film as directors.
This is a project that talks about surrogacy, where Monika plays Jasmine, a surrogate mother.
If we look at the filmography of Monika, she has been part of intense projects only, but in this project she is also exploring the comical side of acting. In this interview, blowing the gaff about why she agreed to play Jasmine, Monika shared, “In Dukaan, Jasmine is a fiery and a street-smart girl. The way Siddharth Garima has written the character gives so much depth to Jasmine. I think it is every actor’s dream to play something like this. So, when I first read the script, I was quite overwhelmed by it. Because, generally, you don’t see this kind of writing where you are showing a strong-headed, courageous girl, showing her fragilities and also where she is lacking. It is not always black and white; it also shows the grey area. That’s what resonated with me.”
“It was wonderful working with Siddarth-Garima. When they approached me for this role, I learned that they were the writers of Ram Leela. I am such a huge fan of Ram Leela, especially the way they have written the dialogue. The best part of Siddarth-Garima’s writing style is that it is lyrical and has some rhythm. Even if there’s banter going on between two people, they don’t miss the beat in the dialogue, which is very important to them. They write their characters in an unconventional way. Their dialogues are very catchy,” she continued, further sharing a dialogue from the film to let us know the content of the film. She shared, “In Dukaan, there is a dialogue: “Tu apna shakal kaise dekhthi hai, and Jasmine says ‘surma lagage’. There is a certain humour in giving straight to someone’s face. This is their debut film, and their direction is very simple and not result-oriented. They make their actors work very easily.”
Furthermore, letting the cat out of the bag about her character Jasmine and how she prepped for it, Monika, who next wanted to explore some action-oriented films, gave away: “Jasmine can turn anything, any ridiculous idea, into a business. That’s how she entered surrogate life. We have taken a conscious decision to go to Gujarat because this story is based in Gujarat. We went to Anand and stayed there for two to three weeks just to observe and learn more about their culture and perceptions. We also spent time with surrogates over there to prep for my character. That’s how you incorporate a bit of nuances and gestures into your character.”
“Jasmine’s character is intense but light-hearted,” asserted the Super 30 actress.
However, this project has a lot of kids, and working with them was bitterly candy-coated for her. “Because they are their own directors. In scenes where they have to laugh, they cry, and vice versa. In the film, as the story progressed, we worked with a lot of small children, and it was very difficult. There is a last scene where, according to the script, the kid was not supposed to sleep, but the child was sleeping. So the director decided not to wake the child up as they might get cranky again, and we shot like that only. Most of the time, children were doing the opposite of the script. So it was memorable, but I will avoid doing that in the future,” she laughed.
Having been part of many Bollwood projects, do you know Malayalam cinema is something she watches more than Bollywood? She coughed, “I am a big, big fan of Malayalam cinema. If I get an offer from there, it is definitely a yes. There are so many directors and actors that I want to work with. More than Bollywood films, I watch Malayalam cinema.”
On the other hand, she is also part of Prime Video’s Khauf, which is billed to be a psychological horror film. “I was never keen on doing horror stuff. Psychological horror is something I always look forward to, and I am fortunate I got an opportunity like this. If you have watched my earlier projects, they have all been intense, but this is more than intense. In this show, you follow the story of a young woman who has a traumatic past, and to overcome that past, she comes to a big city and lives in a hostel. She starts to feel that there are some unexplained forces inside and outside the hostel, and at the same time, she is confronting her troubled past. A lot of things go on with the character. I think that’s something we haven’t explored; for that matter, this project is very important to me,” she expressed.
Monika’s career graph is only ascending, and we were curious to know how she chooses her scripts. To this, she humbly responded, “For me, it’s instinctive sometimes. But I am more of a reader, so for me, the script is God. I give lots of preference to the script. And when the story is striking, I see how impactful my character is. Even if the character’s screen presence is less, if it is impactful, then I will go ahead with it. The third is always the director. These three aspects are something I always consider before signing a project.”
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