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Thursday, May 30, 2024

 My passion for storytelling drew me into movies: Mrunal Thakur

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In conversation with Sita and Yashna aka Mrunal Thakur, the gritty girl from  small-town Maharashtra, who’s today among the top stars of the Telugu industry

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She captivated audiences with her portrayal of Sita in Sita Ramam, leaving us spellbound. The moment she glanced back in a black handloom saree and a nose pin as Yashna in Hi Nanna, our hearts skipped a beat. Her involvement in a panel discussion on human trafficking, following an invitation from the UN, led us back to rewatch Love Sonia. Mrunal Thakur, both on and off screen, is a certified charmer. Having been brought up in several towns such as Dhule, Nasik, and Nagpur, this talented storyteller always harbored a passion for acting. The 31-year-old college dropout started with modeling gigs during college. She eventually landed a role in the TV series Kumkum Bhagya, patiently awaiting her breakthrough, which came with the impactful role in Love Sonia. While she’s been honing her craft since 2014 in both TV and film, it wasn’t until Sita Ramam in Telugu in 2022 that she truly made her mark. Following her success as Yashna in Hi Nanna, she now has an exciting lineup of films, including Family Star with Vijay Deverakonda. Beyond her acting prowess, Mrunal advocates for women’s causes, earning her a platform at the UN. Undeniably, she’s become a shining star in Tollywood. WOW! catches up with her to delve into her remarkable journey and explore what lies ahead.

Your performances often carry depth and authenticity. How do you prepare for your roles, particularly when delving into intense or emotionally challenging characters such as Yashna in Hi Nanna?

Thank you for the compliment. For Hi Nanna, I delved into the complexities of Yashna’s character. I had to understand her position of having had memory loss but also having a deep innate sense of connection to the characters of her life gone by. Understanding her journey and the circumstances allowed me to bring authenticity to her portrayal, capturing the nuances of her emotional rollercoaster. In contrast, Family Star (releasing on April 5) required a different approach as it’s a full-on masala family entertainer. Here, I focused on embodying the vivacious energy and larger-than-life emotions inherent in such films.

What initially drew you to the acting world, and how did your journey into Bollywood begin? 

My passion for storytelling and the desire to portray diverse characters drew me into movies. Coming from a small village like Dhule in Maharashtra, I had other social issues important to you? big dreams but limited opportunities. However, my determination and hard work led me to pursue a career in acting. My journey in Bollywood began with auditions, doing some modeling, and roles in television shows. My breakthrough came with the film Love Sonia, where I portrayed the character of Sonia. It’s not every day a debutant gets a chance to essay the titular role.

From Love Sonia to Super 30 and Sita Ramam, you’ve portrayed a diverse range of characters. Which role has been the most personally impactful for you, and why? 

Playing Sonia in Love Sonia was a deeply impactful experience for me. It was emotionally intense, portraying the journey of a young girl caught in the harrowing world of human trafficking. The role demanded a lot emotionally, mentally, and physically, as I had to delve into the psyche of someone experiencing such trauma. It was a challenging yet rewarding opportunity to shed light on such an important issue through storytelling.

As a panel speaker on topics like human trafficking, how do you plan to use such platforms to raise awareness?

First of all, I am thankful to the United Nations for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts on a prestigious platform. Participating in a dialogue on human trafficking, and the impact of sexual violence on women offers a valuable platform to amplify awareness. My portrayal in Love Sonia enabled me to delve deep into the subject matter, providing me with first-hand insights into the girls in Kolkata’s redlight area Sonagachi. Through such panels, I aim to spotlight the harrowing realities of human trafficking, emphasizing the need for collective action and policy reform. I intend to collaborate with NGOs, leveraging social media, and engaging with communities to initiate grassroots movements.

What can audiences expect from Family Star and what drew you to this script?

Family Star is a complete package of entertainment, blending action, romance, drama, and comedy seamlessly. Audiences can expect an exhilarating cinematic experience that resonates with the essence of family bonds and values. What drew me to this project was the script of the film. And also the opportunity to work alongside a talented actor like Vijay Deverakonda, who brings a magnetic presence to the screen. Moreover, the director’s vision for the film intrigued me, and I have full faith in his ability to deliver a compelling narrative.

How has your approach to acting evolved over the years, and what lessons have you learned along the way?

Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of versatility and depth in portraying characters, honing my skills through diverse roles and experiences. I’ve also learned the significance of patience, perseverance, and continuous growth in this industry.

From the vibrant streets of Hyderabad to the bustling sets of Bollywood, how has your cultural background influenced your career and artistic choices?

Hyderabad has influenced my career and artistic choices. My journey began with my first Telugu film, Sita Ramam, which allowed me to immerse myself in the rich culture and traditions of Hyderabad. The warmth and hospitality of the  people, the diverse environment, the delicious food, and the vibrant cultural scene all left a lasting impact on me. Being a Maharashtrian working in Hindi cinema, I have always cherished the unique perspective and experiences that my cultural background brings to my work. It has instilled in me a deep appreciation for diversity and a willingness to embrace new challenges and opportunities. Transitioning between Hyderabad and Mumbai has been both exhilarating and enriching for me. I enjoy the contrast between the two cities and the different energies they bring to my life and work.

Are there any dream roles or genres you aspire to explore in the future?

Being a huge Marvel fan, the idea of being part of a Marvel movie is incredibly exciting to me. I would love to also do a biopic or a full-blown action role. Balancing a demanding career with a personal life can be challenging. 

How do you prioritize self-care amidst your busy schedules?

I maintain a balanced diet, focusing on nutritious foods that fuel my body and mind. Additionally, regular workouts to stay physically fit and relieve stress. I also make it a point to indulge in healthy eating habits and incorporate home remedies to address minor health concerns. By prioritizing self-care in these ways, I can perform at my best, both personally and professionally. What advice would you give aspiring actors, especially those from smaller cities or backgrounds similar to yours, who are looking to break into the industry? Follow your passion relentlessly. Despite the challenges and obstacles you may encounter, don’t stop dreaming. Stay focused on your goals and not let negative factors demotivate you. Believe in yourself, hone your craft, and trust that your talent and dedication will eventually lead you to where you want to be in the industry.

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