Acting to hosting to entrepreneurship, Mouni Roy has her fingers in many pies. The stunner now assumes the role of host, aka ‘Queen of Hearts’, on the Indian adaptation of Temptation Island. Currently streaming for free on JioCinema, the relationship reality show has several couples agreeing to live with a group of singles of the opposite sex, in order to test the strength of their relationships. Actor Karan Kundrra is Mouni’s co-host. t2 chatted with Mouni on the show and beyond.
What drew you to Temptation Island India?
It is a show that can’t be scripted, it’s very organic and you have to go by how the couples are behaving or you know what their reactions to situations will be.
It is a part that I am playing for the first time and I am also kind of learning the ropes. I was very, very nervous on the first few days, but I think that I have now found my groove on the show. What drew me is the fact that it is happening in India for the first time and that is a novelty. My reaction to everything is always: ‘Why not?’
I obviously had a lot of questions but I am the kind of person who likes to understand things first. I asked all possible questions, like whatever I wanted to know and understand about the format before deciding if I would be a fit in the show or not and finally, I thought I could be.
When I was in college and even now, all my friends call me for either relationship advice or even when they are having an argument with a friend or have a bad day at office, I always try to put myself in the situation where I am fair and unbiased and I make sure that nothing I say hurts them. So, which is why I thought I could do this and thankfully, I have been able to navigate this.
So are you like a love guru of sorts to your friends?
I think I am more of an agony aunt (laughs).
What have been your biggest takeaways from the Temptation Island India experience so far?
They have given me the designation of ‘Queen of Hearts’ and when I signed on I thought: ‘Okay, I am going to go in and understand the situation, give my unbiased opinion and come out.’ My biggest takeaway from this is that I feel like I am a part of a social experiment. Human emotions, you can’t avoid them. When somebody is feeling something, you feel the pain, you feel the hurt, you feel the tears... When you are happy, you feel like it happened for them. So, that is something I am still kind of understanding. I always find myself feeling all the emotions of the contestants.
What do you think are your biggest strengths in this new role that you have taken on?
I am honest but I refuse to be rude. I refuse to say something that can hurt the contestants. I will stay positive with as much dignity as I can. I was very clear from the beginning that I can’t say something in any way that can cause any amount of pain or hurt to someone. I took up the show, knowing that I am good with navigating human emotions. That’s how I saw I could fit the part of what they were looking for.
Honestly, the Temptation Island India team also doesn’t want this. They don’t want sensationalism. Just in the concept itself, there is so much that we don’t really need to say more to them. Also, relationships are most personal to people who are in it. You can’t really get in between or say something. The contestants have willingly chosen to be a part of this love experiment, this social experiment, because they have questions. If they were so rock-solid, then they wouldn’t be on this show to begin with.
Some people have come to test their relationship. There are a lot of questions that they need an answer to. There is a couple that has been together for 11 years and they don’t know now whether they should be together. And then there are people who just need to know if they are ready to take the next step or not.
Relationships are hard work, whether on camera or off it....
Every day. Every single day!
You have had quite a bit of success on streaming in the last year or so. How are you leveraging that going forward?
I have been on TV, OTT, films. I want to do everything. I am an entrepreneur now (Mouni owns a chain of restaurants called Badmaash). I don’t want to have a small vision and say: ‘I am only capable of this.’
I want to do everything. And thankfully, I have a very good team working for me, supporting me and my cause. And they bring me different stuff and ask me if I would be interested. And from whatever platform, whatever offers that I get, I want to strike a balance and do of all kinds of work and also pay attention to my personal life. I’m very clear about that.
I think the creative boom benefits a lot of people. And not just in OTT, but also in the social media space, digital, theatres, content creators. There’s so much for everybody to do. I truly believe that there is no shortcut to hard work. I have been in the industry for more than 15 years now and I have realised work begets work. So you have to just keep working, you have to give 100 per cent to it.
Fifteen-odd years ago, what was your first day on the set of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahi Thi like?
Honestly, I only remember being very scared and nervous. Everything else is a blur. I remember the first day of my shoot was in Hardwar with Smriti di (Smriti Irani). And before my shot, it was her shot in the Ganges. She finds a baby, she picks it up. It was my character, Krishna Tulsi. I remember the director said: ‘Rolling’ and she (Smriti) started crying. I was watching my role model crying. It gave me goosebumps!
Is there a plan to do a Bangla film anytime soon?
Please tell somebody there to ask me, I will do it right now! Apart from Dance Bangla Dance, which I judged and thoroughly enjoyed, I haven’t been offered anything from Calcutta.
You have always spoken about your love for books. With such a hectic schedule now, are you still able to devote time to reading?
Not really, I haven’t been able to in the last couple of months. I read a few books in a year, for sure. But I am not as avid a reader as I used to be. I would sometimes finish a book in a single night. Reading regularly again is a habit that I want to bring back to my life. As well as dancing. I just need to find some time where I go and learn a new choreography or a new dance style. I really, really miss these two things.