Exclusive: "I Have Always Wanted To Be Oprah Winfrey" - Malishka Mendonsa On Being A Serial Multi-Tasker

Divya Rao , 10 Feb 2018
RJ Malishka
RJ Malishka

Malishka Mendonsa – a name we’ve all heard of on the radio for years but have finally gotten to see more of on screen. If you have followed her journey, you’ll know that 2017 was her year. Most people struggle to find a footing in one medium, but this girl went on to conquer not just the world of radio, but also that of film and television! And wait for it – she was named one of the 50 most influential women of the Indian media. After making her Bollywood debut in Tumhari Sulu alongside the supremely talented Vidya Balan, Malishka has now decided to foray into Television with her latest show, Entertainment Ki Raat.

In between hosting and shooting for her various shows and just being an overall boss lady, I got to catch up with Malishka at her home (yes, the same one that is now popular, thanks to the BMC… and also made Malishka a digital media star overnight!). I sat by her window, and she came in with a bottle of wine saying, “Sorry, we ran out of water but I have wine instead!“. I would’ve almost believed it had it not been for that little grin on her face.

But behind this playful face is a woman who is extremely ambitious, has worked hard to get where she is and knows exactly what she wants.

Here are the excerpts from our conversation:

You’ve had a great run so far. You’re the only person who’s doing radio, television and film at the same time.

Ya, I want to be the girl with the Midas touch. I like thinking of myself like that. When I was a kid, there was this astrologer who came and said that wherever she goes, Laxmi (Goddess of wealth) will follow her and I have loved that line. I don’t believe in Astrology but this line is so beautiful to hold onto and so nice to tell people. Also, when we were kids, I would enter shops that were empty and suddenly people would come in and before you knew it, people would start coming into the shops. So, my family would often tell me that the shop will prosper because you came in. (laughs) So, the radio life is going supremely well. There was this big hoarding across Mahim that said ‘Malishka ko mat sun’ (Don’t listen to Malishka), and it’s very cool because radio has come to that place where you can have those kind of hoardings because it really is not news, it’s entertainment and you can put it out there. 

How have you gone from being a voice behind the mic to a face that is now on the screen?

There was the BMC song which went nuts last year, but I can boast of the fact that the movie anyway happened before that. The TV show happened post that. It was very cool. I think TV requires you to be a face already which I think is weird because if TV doesn’t give you a face then how are you going to become a face? Anyway, thankfully my space in radio was a rather cool one and I put myself out there more.

So, you have in a way spearheaded this change…

Yeah, in a way… and that has also changed because earlier, you needed to be faceless. The radio face was a reality. The enigma of it was true. But this isn’t the case anymore because of social media. I’ve always wanted to act and I’ve always wanted to be Oprah Winfrey. I wanted to explore media as a much as possible and explore entertainment through media. And what I get to do is brilliant.

I think what you do is commendable. You associate yourself with a lot of causes that most people would shy away from, and that’s perhaps why the audience connects with you?

Yes. I figure when you can, you must. I feel like even Malini has the same philosophy of giving back. When I asked her why she has written this book she said said that everyone has their own journey and ‘you want to give back‘. I think that should definitely happen. You establish yourself as different things and radio is a space where people have to come back and listen to you. What’s in it for them apart from so much advertisement and the same songs? I think everyone needs to figure their purpose in life. I find it so purposeful to go out there and give them some Bollywood gossip saying ‘oh this trailer came out and Bollywood did this’ or that XYZ star’s coming to the studio or telling people that there are potholes on the road, so lets make a song on it – all of this is so fulfilling for me. I pick up a social cause and get to do it in an entertaining manner and if the BMC lands up in your house, then so what? This is the reason I’ve been able to do this medium for so long. It won’t go in vain and people will learn something because of me.

What has this foray into the world of television been like for you?

My ideal goal is to be a version of Oprah for this country because I can be, and at the same time, be Ellen by playing games and all that. The first step to that is to get your face out there as much as possible. In this show, which is called Entertainment Ki Raat, I’m doing almost what I’m doing on radio and a little more. My face is being seen. Yesterday, I got to do an act where I played Basanti from Gabbar and my team was so entertained and they kept encouraging me. They wanted me to do more acts, which got me excited. And in all of this, I began to really enjoy it. New things are exciting!

Has Tumhari Sulu changed life for you?

It has, because the other day a couple from Jaipur came and met me. I asked them where they know me from because a lot of people recognise me as the ‘Bharosa naika‘ girl and they said “weren’t you in Tumhari Sulu?” And it made me so happy that they remembered! (smiles) It’s not a very large role – it’s adequate but you’ll notice me. It’s sweet. A lot of people from different countries recognise me now and I hope to do a lot more films. Life is about the hustle and it’s great to do that. It’s also about breaking people’s perceptions. People today still put ‘RJ’ before my name and I hate it because there is nothing as RJ. You don’t say ‘actor so and so’ unless its a doctor. I find that limiting because the medium is lovely! Hopefully, someday, they’ll know me as just ‘Malishka – the artist’.

Everyone has different perceptions of what it is like to be an actor. What’s the one notion you went with and realised is not true at all?

I went in with lots of them. First, with the fear that I will  be completely sidelined and ignored, and I still feel like that could’ve probably been real in another world or situation, but in this one, I was like ‘shit! this is a different world’. I was made so comfortable and treated so well. The thing is that Vidya Balan is bloody awesome. You know, we’ve known each other since college and this story, I’ve told a million times that she helped me fill my form and I thought to myself ‘she’s such sweet girl’… and then, before you know it, she became Vidya Balan. She’s awesome on set, so you know, the fear I went in with went away instantly! And I think the first few days even I was a little reticent because people imagine ‘Oh ye toh Mumbai ki Rani hai, she’s you know boisterous, loud‘, whatever. She’s probably going to own the space but it’s not like that. Its a different set. You get quiet. And then Neha Dhupia and Vidya came on set and laughed it off! By the end of it, we were all gossiping, talking about everyday girl things. I was like “Wow this is like going to office!” Secondly, I realised that you have to bloody work hard. You are fully on-duty the whole time. You could work extremely hard but that may not even make it to the final cut!  But on the other hand, everything is done for you. You land up, you show up, and it’s a great experience on set. I was pampered. I’d be sitting in my vanity eating apples, chilling… Movies are a great experience and everyone should get it. I even got to do a dance in my first film – Hawa Hawaii! Interestingly, I danced to it in the 6th grade and won the first prize. This obsession with the song has been in my head since then.

So, life has really come a full circle, hasn’t it?

I’m telling you, it has, and I was so excited because everyone always told me “wouldn’t you like to do a Bollywood film?”. This is the kind of stuff I can tell my kids about. (smiles)

She’s taken over the radio, the silver screen, TV screens, laptop screens – she’s everywhere! And yet, we’d love to see more of her. Here’s to you, Malishka. More power to you for whatever it is you want to do next. #WorldDomination? :)

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