After Dhobi Ghat, Monica Dogra will be seen romancing Neil Nitin Mukesh in Bejoy ‘Shaitaan’ Nambiar’s David. t2 caught up with the Shaa’ir+ Func hottie in the run-up to the February 1 release.
How did David happen?
Initially, I took it up just for Bejoy. I love how informed and passionate he is about the independent Indian film scene. Then I watched Shaitaan and was amazed by how actors I had seen previously in other films had performed much more dynamically and beautifully in Bejoy’s hands. Then it was about understanding the role and the script and realising how fantastic it was.
Tell us about your role.
My story is set in the London of 1975, the one in which Neil is playing David. I play Noor who is one of the head servants of the house of the godfather of a very close-knit and conservative Islamic community. She’s fiery and stands up for what she believes in. She’s the voice of reason and strength in a background which is very orthodox. I feel the role is very relevant for the woman of today.
I had to shift my whole body language in terms of how a Muslim woman of that time, and in that background, would behave, walk and talk. The coaching in Urdu was tough. It’s a very dynamic role with a range of emotions.
How was it sharing screen space with Neil Nitin Mukesh?
Neil is an incredible actor. My first thought in front of the camera was how I felt and how to show it. Neil is very good with the technical aspects of cinema and I feel that we played off each other very well. At first we were very standoffish, but we became good friends by the time the shoot ended. We had no choice but to get close considering we had to do a lovemaking scene and a sensuous song (laughs)!
You apparently were very nervous while shooting the lovemaking scene…
It was uncomfortable for sure because there were 50 other people in the room! But you know, love is love and at the end of the day, we were creating art. While filming the scenes, I kept myself really focused and very respectful towards my partner. Neil was very cautious and kept asking me constantly if I was okay. His dad (Nitin Mukesh) was on set for a bit and that was… interesting! (Laughs out loud.) I had to slap Neil in a scene with his dad on set and I was like: ‘Uncle, I am sorry!’ And he was like: ‘It’s okay. Slap him harder, beta!’
What does Bejoy as director bring to David?
I think only Bejoy could have made a film like this. He’s easily one of the most passionate creative persons I have ever met. He’s always wanting to do more and he expects the same out of his actors.
How would you compare Bejoy’s style of filmmaking with that of Kiran Rao who directed you in Dhobi Ghat?
Dhobi Ghat was my window to Bollywood and a great first film for me. My role in Dhobi Ghat (that of a foreign-returned photographer) was more Monica, but Noor is light years away from what I am in real life. Also, Bejoy’s style of direction is more action-oriented and dynamic while Dhobi Ghat was more laidback and languid in its execution because that is what the story demanded. I am so happy that David is my second film because I know I will surprise people with this film.
Will singing always be a priority for you?
I think I am balancing it quite well. I have David up for release and the last two years have been my craziest and busiest. I have hosted The Dewarists. I have also released three music albums and recorded a few playback songs, the latest being the title track for Inkaar. I love performing, whether it is on stage or on set, and I will keep doing it as best as I can... till the time I can.
Is one half of the popular electronica band Shaa’ir+ Func that she founded in 2005 with musician Randolph Correia. Shaa’ir+ Func is considered one of India’s most successful indie bands.
Grew up in Baltimore, USA, and graduated in music from New York University.
Has sung for films like Break Ke Baad and Inkaar. Had a cameo in Rock On!!
Has hosted the last two seasons of the musical travelogue The Dewarists.
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