Mrunal Thakur is a talent par excellence. Since her television days, the actor has come leaps and bounds when it comes to her craft as a performer.
After playing a human trafficking victim in her debut film Love Sonia and in her second film, Super 30, she is set to share screen space with Hrithik Roshan.
The film is based on the life of Patna-based mathematician Anand Kumar (played by Hrithik) who runs the famed Super 30 program for IIT aspirants in Patna.
From the director being accused of sexual harassment to the pressure of pre/postponing the film’s release, Super 30 made headlines for several reasons.
But the movie is now finally being released and it looks like an uplifting, socially relevant venture.
In a special chat with Filme Shilmy, Mrunal reflects on her experience of working in Super 30.
After doing a hard-hitting serious film like Love Sonia, how was that shift for you in doing Super 30?
First of all, I’m very fortunate that I got to be in both films.
Love Sonia is a very lucky film for me and the journey became slightly easier afterwards.
Super 30 was an amazing platform to share screen-space with Hrithik Roshan and it is such an inspiring story.
I am really grateful I am doing this as my second film which carries such a good message for society.
You’re playing the role of Supriya. What was the preparation process like for you?
Supriya is a girl for whom family is always a priority. She is a very fun, bubbly girl.
She loves to learn Kathak and is madly in love with Anand Kumar.
It’s lovely that I can share that on-screen, old school romance with Hrithik… To see that love between Supriya and Anandji is crazy.
I had to learn Kathak and the Bihari touch to the Hindi language, which was a bit challenging but it was something I really enjoyed doing.
To grasp the command of the accent, I watched Swara Bhaskar’s Anarkali of Aarah. It really helped me.
I never imagined I would study a film… We would just watch it.
In addition, it was a great experience to learn Kathak and I even got a chance to go Banaras.
At times I thought “I’m so nervous… Am I doing it right?” But in the end, it all worked out.
After working closely with Hrithik Roshan, how has his acting-style changed since the early days in his career?
Hrithik Roshan is an actor whom I really look up to because he has delivered the best of his performances… Especially if you see the range of characters he’s played.
All of his roles are different from each other so (as an actor) I’ve learnt from him to be versatile.
I need to choose roles that make me uncomfortable and passionate.
The passion is common between Anand Kumar and Hrithik Roshan. Anand is passionate about teaching, whilst Hrithik is passionate about acting.
I’ve learnt so much from him as an actor and from the magic he has created on screen.
When you perform with a good actor, you never realise whether he/she is reciting his lines or is actually conversing with you.
There was a situation on the last day of shooting where the camera is rolling and we finished the scene.
The lines were over and I heard Hrithik is saying “Phir Chalein?” I said, “Kahaan?” He then asked “Chalte Hai?” once again I asked “Kahaan?” at which point he said that it was pack-up and time to go home! (laughs)
At that point, I didn’t realise whether I was speaking to Anand Kumar or Hrithik Roshan.
What was your interaction like with the actors playing the Super 30 students?
I didn’t have scenes with the students so I went to meet them whilst shooting the “Basanti No Dance” song.
They all were at their best and two boys have given their voices to the song. They’ve sung it themselves.
A couple of the cast members are the actual students from Anand sir’s batch!
They were so excited to be in Mumbai they are so fluent in their body language.
I learnt so much from them, even just by spending a couple of hours on set with them.
Before I was cued in on what was going on and I heard great things about them… But before I could praise them, they were saying how much they watched and loved my work on Kumkum Bhagya.
I can’t wait for the world to watch them… They all are performing for the first time in front of the cameras.
Vikas Bahl was removed as the director due to the #MeToo sexual harassment allegations. In what way did this controversy impact you?
Well, my experience on the sets of Super 30 was good.
Whenever I had my scenes with Hrithik, I was given the liberty to elevate the performance by giving my output.
Everybody made sure that I was comfortable on set and my working experience was good.
I have learnt a lot from the cast and crew.
As far as the film’s release is concerned, yes it got pushed but I feel the wait has been worth it as it’s a story which deserves to be told.
With regards to the #MeToo movement, it has at least started the conversation.
If there is a newcomer entering Bollywood or any other industry, they know that people will not be able to take advantage of them.
My view is that it’s great to be vocal about what you’re going through because there will be people to support you.
Female-driven content is prominent nowadays, but patriarchy is still at large. How far is Bollywood from gender equality?
Oh, things are changing. Since 2017, I feel that we have entered a different phase and I feel happy to have entered Bollywood in 2018.
My first film was the titular role and not every actor can get that opportunity. I’m the kind of actor who believes in the style of character I play rather than the screen-space.
If I believe that I only have to play the lead, then I would never have been a part of Kumkum Bhagya.
That show gave me so much fame because I was playing the second lead.
I’ve always looked up to actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Pankaj Tripathi… They’re doing such a great job.
The screen-space and gender inequality issue is something I’ve not faced.
I’m in a very happy space and working with the best people in the industry so far.
Actors who have come from the small-screen are stereotyped and restricted as ‘Television actors’. Why do you feel this is the case?
It’s not just India, stereotypes are universal. It’s unfair to call an actor just a ‘television actor’.
If you see there are so many actors who perform in various mediums, be it web-content, commercials and cinema. So why restrict them solely to TV?
Nowadays I allow people to decide what they want to call me but I prefer it to be just as an actor.
I am fortunate to start my career with television… I will always be grateful to the entire cast and crew of Kumkum Bhagya.
Also, I feel that I made a conscious effort after Love Sonia there were a lot of roles that got offered to me where I would’ve played complexioned villager.
I was keen on doing the project but not immediately. Currently, I want to do experimental roles and do projects which I’m convinced in doing.
There are so many new/budding actors who have and will be making their debuts this year. How do you feel about ‘competition’?
I have just entered the industry so I’m just focusing on my work.
I can take other actors as an inspiration and keep moving forward.
Having said that, I am aware that ‘competition’ is tough is maintaining everything.
But it has never affected me, nor will it ever affect me.
Super 30 is produced by Anurag Kashyap, Reliance Entertainment and Sajid Nadiadwala.
It releases in cinemas on 12th July.