INTERVIEW | 'Sita's character is written like it is written once in a decade': Mrunal Thakur on her role in Sita Ramam, her Telugu debut and why Hyderabad feels like home
She spills the bean on her role in her Telugu debut and why she feels like a Telugu girl already!
An actress whose career is defined by unconventional roles, Mrunal Thakur, is known to come back stronger with every film. Her impressive performances leave an indelible mark on audiences for her nuanced portrayal of diverse characters. She’s also a multi-genre star who loves to experiment. From Love Sonia (2018) where she voices the social issue of human trafficking to working in the horror genre with Ghost Stories (2020) and then playing a pivotal role in sports movies like Toofan and Jersey in 2021, the actress is constantly in pursuit to offer something new every time. However, Mrunal’s mass appeal does not only arises from the roles and genres she chooses but also her love for regional cinema with impressive credits in Hindi, Marathi and now Telugu film industry.
Recently, the grand opening of her Telugu debut Sita Ramam is a testament to the fact that regional cinema audiences are equally showering love on her. The period romance-drama is stupendous on every scale. It features a stellar cast of Dulquer Salmaan, Mrunal, Rashmika Mandanna and Sumanth Kumar with Hanu Raghavapudi in the director's chair. The film is shot in the beautiful valley of Kashmir with stunning views of the snowcapped mountains, that from time to time, get twistingly blotched with the dark war-torn narrative of the 1960s.
However, romance still permeates the air. The film has Mrunal playing the lead opposite Dulquer in the titular role of Sita Mahalakshmi. She is depicted as an embodiment of the ravishing Indian beauty who exudes an old-school charm in lovely saris, loosely braided hair tucked with flowers that speak of her feminine allure and a bindi on her forehead establishing her as a woman of honour. In Mrunal’s own words — “Sita is divine.” Post the film’s release, the actress shares with us about her enticing role, her Telugu debut, finding a new audience and her takeaways for life.
Did playing Sita change you as a person?
Sita’s character is written like it is written once in a decade and I am incredibly happy to be playing her. She is depicted as not just kind and empathetic but as a woman of substance. She is somebody who is decisive and in that era of the 1960s, to be able to take tough decisions and stick to them was a big feat. We need more women like her who can stand up for themselves and be firm about what they want in their life. Personally, it was very rejuvenating to play her as I have come to know myself better as a human during the process. I have become calmer when it comes to understanding what life is about. Also, with this project, I ticked one of my bucket list by working with Hanu sir, Dulquer, Sumanth garu, Gautam garu and so many talented people who have brought a myriad of emotions for the audience. The best part of the film is that it’s a visual treat where each frame looks like a painting. I believe I must have done some great karma in the past (laughs) to be part of such a vision.
In many of your films including this one, you remind people of classic Indian beauty. Is that old-world charm innate in you?
I do feel that Indianness is so much within me as I am very old school in my demeanour. However, I thank god for not being born in the olden era of Madhubala ji and Shridevi ji who truly manifested the idea of timeless Indian beauty. In modern times, I am trying to keep that tradition alive by valuing our roots and flaunting a certain kind of fashion that’s reminiscent of the old-world charm. With Sita Ramam I was able to revive that era where a heroine like Sita adorns traditional Indian ensembles, and romances with a touch of effervescent magic, just like the olden heroines of our classic cinema.
Any moments of camaraderie or takeaways you had from the sets?
There were times when Hanu sir would come very excited and start explaining a scene to me in Telugu but then I would say… ‘Sir can you please translate it to me’(laughs) so by the end of the movie, I felt my Telugu and Hanu sir’s Hindi got better. For Dulquer, I’d say he has made such a huge name in Bollywood. However, I was not aware that he had such a massive impact on Telugu audiences as well who are crazy for him! I believe in working with actors who are versatile and Dulquer is not just that but has an eye for choosing good scripts as well. What I learnt from him is how you need to adapt to situations. He has a relaxed demeanour and expresses through his eyes. These are the qualities I would like to emulate from him. Moreover, during the process of shooting and being with him, I developed on an emotional level. Like earlier, I was very particular about how I wanted things to be but after the film's experience, I learnt to be flexible. That’s a takeaway for life.
Do you feel that you are on top of your game in the Telugu cinema?
Of course! Every time I thought about making my Telugu debut, I wanted it to be epic and there could not have been a better film than Sita Ramam to accomplish that dream. I don’t know if I am on top of my game in the Telugu industry but I know that I am on top of my game in my career. I feel I have come a long way without having a godfather in the industry. It has happened due to the support of people who remain by my side.
Who do you consider as your greatest support in the industry?
I must say it is Ashwini Dutt sir. He has created more than 70 films in his life and he still makes them with a passion for cinema. He takes care of me like I am his own daughter or granddaughter. While the rest of the people in my professional space look out for me, he is the one who looks after me! Even on the sets, he used to tell me stories about veteran actresses that left me pondering on their struggles, experiences, and qualities that set them apart, something that I could imbibe as a performer. So Ashwini sir is that one dependable person that I look forward to while taking my career decisions. He literally means everything to me!
Over the years, how have you grown as a performer?
I have evolved a lot as an actor. There are days when a performer does not feel at the top of their game. They feel mentally unfit, or there is some physical injury or disturbance in life that poses a distraction for them and hinders their work. However, in my journey, I have matured a lot to keep distractions at bay and give my best. Take for instance Sita Ramam — every time I would enter a frame, I used to completely forget about any impediments. I used to feel like there is nothing better I could do with my life, at that moment, except be in front of the camera. This visual delight is made with so much love, passion, hard work, countless sleepless nights and travels that one will feel like completely immersing themselves in the making.
After your Telugu debut, do you wish to work more in Tollywood?
The kind of love I have received from Telugu speaking cities like Hyderabad,Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam is unparalleled! In fact, Mumbai bhi feeka padgya in front of the appreciation and admiration I have received here. My friends from Mumbai have been asking me if the Telugu industry has taken me away from Bollywood(laughs). Honestly, I already feel like a Telugu girl here with so much warm acceptance to my work. Now Hyderabad feels like home. I would love to work with actors and directors here. I am also learning Telugu and next time, I hope to do interviews speaking in Telugu!(laughs)
Sita Ramam is showing in theaters