Mrunal Thakur aka Bulbul from Kumkum Bhagya on why she lost out on Salman Khan’s ‘Sultan’ and more… – Mrunal Thakur, who makes her international debut with Love Sonia, talks about the film, her co-stars and why she lost out on Sultan with Salman Khan
Mrunal Thakur, best known for her role as the chirpy and vivacious Bulbul in Kumkum Bhagya, will be seen in the Indo-American film Love Sonia made by Life Of Pi producer David Womark. While actresses crave to be seen in glamourous roles, Mrunal has chosen to take the unconventional path and will be seen in a completely deglam avatar in her debut international project. The actress plays the title role in the film that brings to light the issue of global human trafficking. She plays a village girl, who is trapped in global sex trade in the film that also stars the likes of Freida Pinto and Demi Moore. Here, the actress talks about how she bagged the role, her experience of shooting for the film and future plans…
Most actresses would want to make their debut with glam roles in commercial entertainers. What prompted you to do Love Sonia?
Yes, every actress would love to do a glamourous role with nice make-up, and designer clothes, stand in the snow, wave her sari and romance around the trees, but I wanted something that will give me a chance to perform. I wanted to show my skills as an actor and I have been waiting for my debut film for long. I don’t want people to just go and watch the film, but remember it for a few generations. And the subject of this film is such that it gives me a scope to perform.
How did you bag the role?
This journey has not been easy. The first time I gave an audition, I had no idea who the director was, the makers or the cast. I just read the script and gave a normal audition with 15-20 girls. All I knew was, it is about sex trafficking, my character loves her sister, the two share an amazing bond, and I would kill anybody for her. I felt connected and wanted to do it. In the second round (of auditions), I gave a look test with another actress who would play my sister. That’s when I learnt Tabrez Noorani, who was associated with Slumdog Millionaire and Life Of Pi, was directing it. And that’s when I met him. But still it was not easy because they had several options for Sonia’s role. It was only after six rounds of auditions and after many months that I was told I will be playing Sonia. The day I got to know, I was on cloud nine. I was even ready to be a spot girl on this film, as I would get so much to learn.
Did you know you will be sharing screen with Freida Pinto and Demi Moore?
When we started, I figured out there is Freida Pinto, Richa Chadha, Rajkummar Rao and Manoj Bajpayee. I was very excited because some of these actors I have grown up watching. Demi Moore came into the picture much later. With all these actors, there was a different pressure on me. I never expected them to be so humble, kind and always ready to help me. The best thing about my film was the combination of working with raw talent like Riya Sisodiya, who plays my sister Preeti and experienced actors. It is Tabrez’s first directorial, but he had been working on the project for 10-11 years, and he has a completely different vision.
How was it working with Freida and Demi Moore?
Freida is one of the kindest women I have worked with. We used to do our make up in one trailer, where we would chat about the film and other things. I never felt that I was with a big name like Freida. Love Sonia is one of the best performance-oriented roles of Freida. I became her fan after watching her in this movie. She is terrific as Rashmi who is also one of the victims. Demi is not only a great performer and a beautiful actress, but a wonderful person.
Did you take any tips from Freida on how to pursue a career in Hollywood?
The entire team is like family to me. I am sure they will guide me and support me when I ask them for suggestions whether it is Bollywood or Hollywood or TV.
What was your prep for this role?
Both Riya and I stayed near a brothel in Kolkata to study the body language of the prostitutes. We heard their stories and the problems they face. It was so depressing. I am a strong woman, but my BP literally dropped when I was with them.
It must not have been an easy shoot…
It was extremely difficult. I broke down while shooting several scenes. There is this one scene when producer David Womark was sitting next to me and I broke down. My make-up was such that I was made three shades darker, I hadn’t groomed myself — my eyebrows were grown, upper lip wasn’t done. The scene was of me as a 17-year-old girl being sold to a 60-year-old guy. I told my director that I cannot do it. All he said was ‘Mrunal, I will not force you to do it but remember if you do the scene and the world sees it and five girls are saved, that’s your achievement’. That egged me on. We finished the scene in one take. I can’t tell you the satisfaction I got. I felt I was not just performing, but doing something for a cause.
Did you get affected by your character?
There are a lot of method actors I have met, who love to be in character. If they have to fight with their co-actor in the film, they won’t talk for five days. I tried to do that with Sonia, but it was depressing. I realised that if I live the character I will go into depression and die. I decided to feel her and get into the skin of the character on the sets, but not live it.
When is the film releasing?
It will be out in March 2018, there are possibilities of it going to some film festivals — we missed the Toronto one — but they will be looking at others. I am keeping my fingers crossed as more than anything, the film is aimed at saving girls from trafficking.
You were approached for Sultan, but it didn’t happen. What went wrong?
I audition for a lot of films and I had done for Sultan, too. The reason I lost weight was because I was training for the film. I had the privilege of meeting Aditya Chopra and the amazing casting director Shanoo Sharma. At that time, I was chubby and out of shape. But they put a lot of effort in me and said, ‘Mrunal you can lose the weight’. I actually lost 10-11 kilos in three months, which was a great achievement for me. But I guess I ended up losing too much weight and did not look like a wrestler. Things might happen or not happen, what matters is the journey. Of course, I felt bad that it did not work out, but I am glad I at least got a chance to interact with them. I have grown up watching Yash Raj Films like Saathiya and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and trust whatever decision they make.
You are not doing any TV shows now…
TV requires a lot of commitment. When I have to travel to promote my film, the producer of the show will get hassled if I don’t give the dates. So, TV is not in the near future. But I am open to doing films, language no bar. I have done three Marathi films, too. So, whatever I find exciting and challenging enough I will take it up, whether it is Bollywood, Hollywood or Marathi. Currently, I am concentrating more on commercials. I get to work with different filmmakers and actors. And in 30 seconds you have to give your best. You grow as a performer and it is exciting. I got to do one commercial with Ranveer Singh. Not only is he a wonderful actor, but he is also a wonderful human being, energetic, yet down-to-earth. I would love to work with him again.