‘I felt my voice was being exploited and cashed upon’

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Monali Thakur 28, Singer-Actor
Monali Thakur 28, Singer-Actor

You’ve been a contestant as well as a judge for music talent shows. Are they helpful?
Talent shows are helpful in providing you with a platform where you can gain visibility. They hone your personality and help you become stage-smart. But everyone has to start afresh to buld a professional career. There is no way past struggles.
What insecurities or challenges did you encounter?
A bunch of them! I used to pant a lot during talent shows. While I’m at ease with a stage performance, the notion of competition and the presence of judges used to get to me. That’s the reason I never tried doing it again after Indian Idol! It was difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone and move away from Kolkata. Living alone and taking charge of finances isn’t easy either. But I’m glad it happened.
Did you face any stagnation in your career?
After Zara Zara Touch Me and Khwaab Dekhe for Race, I was typecast as a sensual voice, and started getting offers for only item songs. I felt my voice was being exploited and cashed upon. Not many were ready to experiment with it. So I decided to wait until I was offered something, which was not only commercial, but also creatively satisfying.
Any trait you could do without?
I have a tendency of not releasing pent-up emotions at the right time, which keep accumulating and then erupt suddenly.
Was becoming an actress a part of the plan?
I’d like to think of it as genes at play, just as it was with my singing — my father and uncle were involved in theatre. Destiny also played a major role in my first project Lakshmi. I wasn’t ready to undergo the struggle of an actor. Now I can sing, act and will hopefully get an opportunity to dance soon too, as it’s another of my passions.
How difficult was it for you to play a 14-year-old in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi?
Initially I was apprehensive about playing the lead in Lakshmi, because it’s utterly difficult to comprehend and slip into the psyche of a young teenager who has undergone immense exploitation. I took workshops, had to discipline my body language and understand her psychology. A lot has gone into bringing out this honest narrative.