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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Mrunal Thakur on Ghost Stories: “The Horror Genre Makes An Actor Alert”

Mrunal Thakur is on the winning streak. The year 2019 has been very successful for her as she faced back-to-back triumphs with biographical dramas/action-thrillers like Super 30 and Batla House.

Now, she is set to push the envelope further with the horror anthology film Ghost Stories, in the segment directed by Karan Johar, opposite Avinash Tiwary.

Going by its trailer, the story seems to revolve around a newly married couple and how a deceased grandmother’s soul looms over their life.

The shooting complete in 7 days and the film’s length is 30 minutes in which Goa also seems like an additional character.

Filme Shilmy asks Mrunal about her overall experience of doing the film:

“Working on Ghost Stories has been a dream come true. I have seen Avinash’s Laila Majnu and he is phenomenal. He is just a naturally born talent who absorbs the energy and acts accordingly.

I’m happy to share screen space with him and work with a director I’ve always dreamt of working with,” she describes. 

“I’ve also loved Mickey Contractor so I also got to work with him. Whilst working with Karan, I was also excited about knowing the process of making a Dharma Productions film.

Being such a big Shah Rukh Khan fan, I really wanted to know how he is and how they function. I feel very fortunate to have woken with Karan Johar.”

Sharing more experiences of working with Karan, the actor expresses:

“He is such a fantastic storyteller and the way he narrates a scene/plot, you can just imagine it in your head.

I would love to him work with him on an emotional romantic story next… But it feels amazing to be called a ‘Dharma Girl’ sometime (laughs).”

Working with Johar is a luxury. According to Mrunal, from sleeping arrangements to other minute things are taken care of, which is what sets him apart from other filmmakers out there:

“There are other producers/directors who just want to finish the job. But Karan cares a lot about his actors and his attention to detail his brilliant.”

Contrary to her previous experiences as an actor, respectively, this film is a completely 360-degree turn.

Besides the movie marking her second collaboration with Netflix (post-Baahubali: Before The Beginning), this is also her first attempt at foraying into horror.

“It was amazing. The production design was so impressive. As soon as you enter the set, you just get that feeling. The set-up also helps us, actor, to perform better.

All these small elements on sets, with one of the best DOPs Mitesh Mirchandani, made the filmmaking process easier.

Plus, since I’m new I had to make sure that there was a great relationship with the Steadicam Operator. But the best part about working with such an experienced crew. They really help and guide you.”

She adds: “I was very nervous on the first two days. But after that, I felt so comfortable. In fact, that same comfort level as my first film Love Sonia.

It’s the first time both Johar and Thakur are attempting horror… An interesting step, especially for Karan given that he is a pioneer in love/human interest stories.

What is her perspective on his filmmaking style in this project?

“What impressed me the most about Karan Johar as a filmmaker is his confidence. He knows what he wants and how he will bring out the performances from his actors. He is like the actor’s director.

For instance, if he feels that performances are not being shown, he will explain it in such a calm and comprehensible way. 

It’s no surprise as to why every aspiring and new actors wish to work with Karan.”

The horror genre is difficult to master and even the most talented actors have faltered.

However, it seems like Mrunal has mastered this art… She has even been inspired by movies like Raaz and Aahat.

Given her experience, what technique/method should an actor follow to ace such a challenging role?

“I think Horror is just action and reaction. You just react to the things happening around you. The spookier your surroundings are, the easier it is to bring out those emotions.

I realised that this genre particularly, allowed me to be alert and kind of tests your patience. Having said that, it also messes with your mind… Throughout the preparation process, I kept singing the theme music of Aahat (laughs).

This genre makes an actor alert. Like in the middle of a conversation, you have to sense the footsteps or the flying of a curtain and sense anything else sinister.

As an actor, you have so peaceful inside and so quiet, that you can be observant.”

Whilst working on horror films, several actors in the past have witnessed supernatural occurrences whilst shooting and sometimes after completing it.

So, did Mrunal face spooky experiences?

“Oh, quite a few. We were shooting and the DOP said “action” and we started moving ahead. Then he instantly said “cut” and said, “somebody passed from there.”

When the DOP asked the art person about who passed, they said that there was nobody there. He was the only person in the room who was sitting down.

Later, when we checked the shot, we realised it was a lamp which moved on its own. We were questioning whether this was planned or if it happened on its own.

Furthermore, the set-up was as such, that if anyone walked past, we would get so jumpy and freak out.”

Toofan, which is bankrolled by Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment, is a romantic sports film:

“I wasn’t even into acting when Bhaag Milkha Bhaag released. I remember writing a Facebook message to Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and now I am working with him and it’s just amazing.”

The Kumkum Bhagya actor also describes Mehra’s approach as a director:

“He is so calm and always insists on feeling the character. For example, he would give me a backstory and would ask how I, as the character would react. 

The moment he talks about the role in great detail, it would make me wonder whether I can pull off each aspect.

His approach allows me to think deeper. The characteristics which I have Mrunal may not show in the role I am playing.”

Toofan is scheduled to release on 2nd October 2020 and in addition to these exciting projects, Mrunal will also be seen in Jersey, opposite Shahid Kapoor, which releases on August 2020. 

Ghost Stories streams on Netflix from 1st January 2020 and also has short-films directed by Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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