We caught up with actress and singer, Monica Dogra who gained recognition in Bollywood with her roles in movies like Dhobi Ghat and David. Now she has two more films lined up – Haaye Dil and The Spectacular Jihad – of two completely different genres.
Tell us about your movie Haaye Dil.
Haaye Dil is a gut-busting, fun, fresh, new take on a romantic comedy. I play a character named Jaya who is a loveable man-hater, who is slightly OCD, but the most loyal friend and the kind of woman who can cut any man down to size, but is really a softy underneath it all.
You were great in Dhobi Ghat! Now you’re doing a rom-com and a crime drama. Are you shooting these simultaneously? If so, it must be tough, right? – Transitioning from one role to another.
No, I shot The Spectacular Jihad last summer, and it is releasing now. I am going to the theatres in NYC to see first day first show! Haaye Dil, the rom-com, I have been shooting for the last few months… so I’m pretty compartmentalised in terms of my head space at the moment.
Tell us about your characters in each of these films? Which character do you identify with the most?
In Haaye Dil, I play Jaya, as I mentioned earlier. In The Spectacular Jihad, I play a criminal investigative reporter named Sabrina Jiwan. I would say I identify personally with Jaya more than Sabrina. Though, oddly enough, I’ve been cast in such serious and weighty roles much more often than I have as the funny, crazy, loveable one. Also, during the process of shooting for Haaye Dil, I was allowed to improvise quite a lot by my director, so naturally I inserted quite a bit of action that was my own instinct.
Will you be singing in any of these films?
I sang a song for Haaye Dil, and we are looking at me trying my hand at a few others. Let’s see!
What is the best compliment you’ve received for your acting?
I often hear that I am very “natural”… which I find interesting, because acting ought to be a mirror of our lives, and therefore very realistic and natural… but I suppose, it’s not that often enough, that my style of acting stands out.
You started your career with singing. So, how did acting happen?
I studied musical theatre in college at NYU, so I am trained in Dance, Drama, and Voice. I’ve always had the intention to act, just not necessarily Bollywood. Kiran Rao, the director of Dhobi Ghat, saw me on the cover of TimeOut Magazine Mumbai, with Shaa’ir and Func, and called me in, to audition for Dhobi Ghat. That’s how Indian Cinema happened to me!
You look great! Do you workout a lot?
Hey! Thank You! Yes, I do work out a lot. I recently have taken up Ashtanga with Deepika Mehta, and it’s changed my life.
What is your favourite workout?
I love Ashtanga Yoga, and long distance running. I do a bit of high-intensity interval training as well. I love swimming. I like to mix it up.
What according to you is a healthy breakfast?
I drink smoothies in the morning and it’s really helped me stabilise my weight. I love mixed berries, a bit of soy, watermelon, musk melons….chia/goji/spirulina. I’m a health freak.
Your favourite ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ dishes?
I am in love with Bombay Salad Co, and a huge fan of their ironman salad. I eat it like four times a week. Unhealthy would have to be pizza. A bad day gets better if I eat a pizza.
What would you cook for Team MissMalini if we ever came to your house?
I’m really into elaborate breakfasts. I’d make you one of my aforementioned smoothies, shakshuka, hummus, beet and feta salad with a sprinkle of toasted almonds and pomegranate, strawberry and homemade granola in yogurt, and I’d serve you some raw organic chocolate from the US… that’s my jam.
You have a great fashion sense. What is your one fashion must-have?
You guys are too sweet. I think my current fashion must have would be… hmmmm… ahhhh. I’m so bad at this. Maybe because the whole world has classic Ray-Bans, now is the time to switch to round-framed Ray-Bans… they are classic and will last forever. Also, now is a good time to invest in a badass leather jacket that will age beautifully and never go out of style. I know it’s about to start raining in Bombay so maybe another must have would be an epic pair of stylish gumboots for the rain?
What cosmetics do you have in your bag right now?
Elizabeth Arden 8 hour lip balm. Benefit Cha cha tint lip tint. Essential Oils (Bergamot/Gardenia Leaf/Lavendar)
Who is your celebrity crush?
Aditya Roy Kapoor.
One director you are dying to work with?
One thing you love and hate about being famous?
I am grateful people care enough about my work to give it attention. I am not the biggest fan of how impersonal red-carpet events can feel, and how judgmental media can be of clothing/hair/makeup.
One thing you wish you could change about yourself?
Nothing! I’m becoming more confident every day, I needed to work on that before… I think self-love is the most radical thing you can do.
What was your craziest date experience?
Honestly, I’ve never really been swept off my feet… I suppose that is why I work in the movie business! I can do it in film all the time!
Who is your favourite singer?
Bjork and Ani DiFranco.
Such a lovely woman! We wish the multitalented actress/singer all the very best for her upcoming movies and other works.