The Artiste’s Way

Singer-actor Monica Dogra on her debut album Shaa’ir and why she limits herself to certain roles

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Published: December 2, 2013 5:14:35 am

At a small studio on the first floor above the Jamun showroom,tucked in the bylanes of Delhi’s Hauz Khas village,singer-actor Monica Dogra is busy recording her debut solo album,Shaa’ir. So far,the name of this foot-tapping number is And I Wonder. The recording room resonates with her hums of “hoop,hoop,hoop” while Gaurav Raina of Midival Punditz,with whom she is collaborating for the album,diligently looks on during the recording session. Dogra,whose face is a common sight on television as the host of travel-music show,The Dewarists,decided to come up with her solo album because she thought she would be in the danger of being “just another singer”.

“I felt if I did not get rooted as an individual identity,I would be in the danger of being just another singer. I have a strong identity of my own. I just needed to define that musically,” says Dogra. “I have often been attacked by people that I cannot sing. After this album,it can be contested that I can sing,” she says.

Dogra gives an idea of what to expect from this album. “I have always been into mixing genres instead of just sticking to one. I set out to write a record which is more minimal and organic than anything I have done with Shaa’ir and Func. I ended up discovering that I keep going back to the rhythmic,dancy vibes. Even though it is not electronic music,it still makes you dance. Since I’m a dancer I end up liking music that makes you move,clap your hands,stump and has vocal layering,” she says.

The singer’s career graph is marked with her acting debut in Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat and filling in the shoes of Noor for Bejoy Nambiar’s action-thriller film David. About her acting choices,she says,“I follow my instincts. I have been wrong and will be wrong again. So far,the biggest factor in deciding the kind of films I do is whether I connect with the director,the character and the storyline.” Begging to differ from the current trend witnessed in the Hindi film industry,she says,“The character I say yes to should be someone who teaches you something and who is more than just a pretty girl in the film,” she says.

Of the many musicians,Midival Punditz,Anoushka Shankar and AR Rahman have had a major influence on her. “I like people who have been game changers and have done something new,” she says.

When asked if her maternal uncle Prakash Sharma,a Dogri folk music singer,influenced her music in any way,she says,“He is forever young and he still has the joy of a five-year-old,singing at the top of his voice. My mom is a singer too. Both of them want to sing for everyone and it is never about the ego. This is what I have learnt from them.” She further says,“As a child,I would sit with him along with a dholak and we would sing for eight hours continuously playing antakshari. If the dholak was not there,we would make use of a spoon,a pan,a plate or a plank of wood and sing to its beats.”

Currently,Dogra is working on a movie called Mastaan with Naseeruddin Shah and his son Vivaan Shah. “There are two movies I am working on about which I cannot reveal much at this moment,” she says. She seems to be excited yet on the verge of “losing her mind” as she is busy curating the three-day experimental music festival Magnetic Fields that will take place at the majestic Alsisar palace in Rajasthan from December 13 to 17. “I see all these roles as super-related. I feel I am an artiste activist — this is my form of expression,” she says.

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