Monica Chaudhary talks about putting on 20 kilos for SonyLiv’s Salt City
She also shares her thoughts on fat shaming and other body image issues women face on a daily basis
In a world that is going gaga about having the narrowest waist size, young actor Monica Chaudhary has taken the road less travelled by putting on 20 kilos for her role in SonyLiv’s Salt City. She steps into the shoes of a young girl Ela Bajpaie who deals with the woes of fat shaming day in and day out, especially ahead of her marriage. Monica who has previously been seen in Radhe (2021), Apharan (2021), and Rudrakaal speaks her mind in this article about the female body image, what made her take the risk of adding kilos, and her upcoming projects. The young lady is working on her first Bollywood project which will hit theatres soon.
What is your character like in Salt City?
My character is called Ela and she is the youngest daughter of the Bajapaie family, who happens to be adopted. Throughout the series, she is constantly fat-shamed, more so because Ela id just about to get married and there are certain pre-conceived aspects she is expected to fit into. The story unfolds with her journey of dealing with these hassles.
While there’s a rat race out there to lose as many pounds as one can, you put up 20kgs for this role. What made you take the risk?
I am extremely fond of working out and that does not just involve strength training but sports as well. I enjoy being active, so when they asked me to put on some weight, my first instinct was it shouldn’t be more than five-six kilos at max. I was absolutely blown away when they told me it was 20 kilos. This challenged my entire perception of body image that I personally hold, owing to my age. However, I took it up still because the script seemed extremely intriguing and it somehow pushed me to tell Ela’s story. I questioned the makers why they would not opt for someone who fits the bill already. They told me they wanted to show a transition and they require someone who could carry that transition. It was a difficult decision for sure but I realised the love I hold for my craft is greater than the love I have towards my body, hence I took the road less travelled and did whatever was required of me.
Have you faced body-shaming off the reels? How have you challenged that?
I think it’s not just about an actor, but every woman in our society is questioned, judged or criticised continuously. This leads to most women questioning their self-image and defining it just on the basis of bodily aspects. I remember when I had put on 20 kilos for this role everybody around me found it distressing and questioned my decision. On the contrary, back when I had defined abs someone walked up to me to tell me that abs don’t look good on women. I have come to a point where I believe it’s impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations, so it’s my duty to keep a check on my health and make sure I feel fit no matter what shape I am in.
What helped you get into the psyche of Ela?
The acting process is extremely intimate and personal, so to describe what one does to get into a character’s psyche is extremely difficult. I usually dedicate some days ahead of the shooting schedule for me to get into the brain space of the character, and I read the script multiple times. I try to speak to people who might have gone through similar experiences my character is defined with. I think all the characters an actor plays are relatable to off-screen people you have met in real life.
You began with theatre and have now shifted to the OTT space, as well as movies. Do you wish to continue with theatre?
I believe once you get involved with theatre, it makes you loyal to the stage forever. However, I used to practice theatre back in Delhi and after having moved to Mumbai it has become a little difficult to keep up with the rehearsals. Theatre requires one to put in a lot of focus and it can’t happen in multiple shots like in movies. My commitments are tying me up and hence I am not being able to put in as much effort as I used to back in Delhi. I truly wish to do a solo play sometime soon but that will require me to take a break from other commitments, hence I am holding it up at the moment.
I am currently shooting for my first Bollywood film, and there are two more down the pipeline. There’s also one web series but I am not allowed to speak much about any. My first Bollywood venture is expected to release within the first half of next year while the second one will follow next.