As a little girl, Mrunal Thakur would eagerly look forward to her father’s camera. He was fond of taking photographs, especially of his children. Thakur would pose like a model; she was a natural. “The camera loves you, he would say.” She recalls the photo shoots in all the cities they lived in, at traditional photo studios, where they would roll down vibrant backdrops, and she would pose as a young Meera or Krishna. Even as a little girl, her parents knew Thakur was made for something ‘more dramatic’ in life.
“I was never into reading, it was television I was addicted to. In those days, we had only two channels: DD1 and a Marathi channel, Sahyadri Vahini,” says Thakur, who always knew she wanted to be on screen. So it came as no surprise when she took up mass media and communication in college and went on an audition spree. “If nothing, I would’ve at least been a newscaster,” says the actor, who has steadily made inroads in the industry. Currently, she is shooting in Patiala for Jersey, starring Shahid Kapoor, and for Umesh Shukla’s next comedy, Aankh Micholi.
“We’re in fact wrapping up the film. It was a riot, acting alongside Paresh Rawal, Divya Dutta, and Abhishek Dassani,” says Thakur. After scoring big in her films over the last two years, which include Super 30, Batla House, and the critically acclaimed Love Sonia, Aankh Micholi marks her debut in comedy. “The challenge with comedy was of attempting something new, the timing, and the improvisation.”
In fact, it is novelty that has been the deciding factor when it comes to choosing her projects. Whenever a script comes her way, the first question is, have I done this before? Where Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia (2018) delved into the world of sex trafficking and prostitution, Super 30 (2019), starring Hrithik Roshan, was based on the life of mathematician Anand Kumar, and Batla House (2019), starring John Abraham, was inspired by the fake encounter in 2008.
Her upcoming ones are poles apart too — Jersey is a remake of the Telugu film, about a middle-aged cricketer making a comeback, and Toofan, starring Farhan Akhtar, has Thakur in a wild, crazy avatar. For someone who had to leave college because she was constantly at auditions and working, and never really had a godfather or star connections, Thakur has carved a niche for herself. “I’ve always been inspired by the likes of Preity Zinta and Priyanka Chopra. These ladies made their own place in the industry,” says Thakur, who has a ‘Plan A and B’. “Preity was noticed in a Cadbury ad, and I realised that commercials were one way of getting eyeballs, so I signed up for them. I was even willing to go for Miss India or Miss World to be seen on the big screen,” she says.
Kumkum Bhagya on Star Plus gave her access, but she quit the small screen in 2016. It wasn’t easy. “Television actors are often taunted by filmmakers even if they are looking for a fresh face. But I refused to buckle under pressure. You have to develop a thick skin,” says Thakur, who is also part of Mahim Beach Clean Up in Mumbai.
Today, for guidance, she looks up to the people who gave her a break — Ekta Kapoor, Tabrez Noorani, and Karan Johar, with whom she recently did Ghost Stories for Netflix. In fact, she will soon be seen reprising the role of Sivagami in Baahubali series on Netflix. “It’s kalaripayattu and horse riding practice these days,” says the actor, relishing the cuts and bruises that come with it. “It’s a small price to pay for being an actor.”
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