After receiving huge appreciation in film festivals in London and Melbourne, Tabrez Noorani’s Love Sonia is set to release in India on September 14. The film highlights the horrors of human trafficking and how millions of girls are trapped in this web across the globe.
Here’s chatting up Mrunal Thakur, who plays the lead character of 17-year-old Sonia and is also making her Bollywood debut. Excerpts:
You have worked in daily soaps. How different is it working on the big screen?
The two platforms are very different and so are the working styles. In a television show, you play a character for two years and you live the character every day, so it is easy when compared to playing a character in a film for which you have to prepare a lot. You have to attend workshops and various on-field interactions. Bulbul (the character played by Mrunal in Kumkum Bhagya on Zee TV) and Sonia are poles apart. Bulbul’s character is exactly how I am in real life, but Sonia is completely the opposite. Sonia’s character required a different body language and a different look. I also had a lot of pressure because it was my first Bollywood film. I did several rounds of the audition and finally, Tabrez picked me.
How did you prepare for the role?
I was actually preparing for a different project and while I was doing that, I lost a lot of weight. I lost around 12 to 13 kg and started looking like a 17-year-old. Unfortunately, that project did not happen but instead, I bagged the role in Love Sonia. My father always says, ‘whatever happens, happens for the best’. Tabrez also took us to Sonagachi in West Bengal which is believed to be Asia’s largest red light area. We went there and interacted with the girls to study the body language and their lifestyle. Tabrez also showed me videos of the girls who go through the hardships in reality. Besides, there were two girls from Kolkata who were constantly on the sets with us. One of the girls named Kia helped me get under the skin of the character. She used to describe the incidents she went through. I related to her pain and gave it all to my character. Love Sonia is my dedication to all those women who go through so much in life. They have inspired me so much, they are my She-ros.
How was the experience of working with actors like Manoj Bajpayee, Richa Chadha, Rajkummar Rao and Demi Moore?
I was actually not aware of the cast until I got selected for the role, and I was really nervous because they are such talented actors. But all of them were very supportive and I had an amazing experience working with them. Manoj helped me a lot while dubbing. He also guided me to get the right emotion according to the situation. The cherry on the cake was knowing that Demi Moore was also a part of the film. I was extremely thrilled and excited. All my friends were so jealous of me because I got to meet her and perform with her. I also had an amazing time with Riya Sisodiya, who plays my sister Preeti in the movie. Love Sonia is her debut movie too, and we bonded so well on and off screen.
While it is great to be a part of a film which is doing the rounds of film festivals, it could stereotype you as a serious actor. Were you scared of such a branding while signing the film?
I just closed my eyes and told myself, ‘Mrunal, you are doing this movie because you want to save the girls’. And that is the main objective of the film. I want to leave an impact on the audience and also make them aware of what the girls go through. I want people to remember me as Sonia. Through this film, I want to spread awareness of human trafficking and how the victims are treated. Girls get trafficked in the worst conditions. Containers are used to transport them from one place to another. They have to eat, pee and poop in the container for several days on top of which they are drugged, and in such extreme conditions, many girls lose their lives.
Were you aware of the gravity of human trafficking before you started working on the film?
I wasn’t aware of it at an extreme level. But after the audition when I came back home I searched for it on google and I was shocked. Every other minute there is an incident of human trafficking. After knowing this, I was all the more sure that I wanted to be a part of this movie.
What was your takeaway from the film?
It gave me the best cast to work with and also the best cause to work for. I am glad that Love Sonia is my debut film. I was dying to do something so meaningful all this while and I feel so accomplished after being a part of this beautiful film.
Are you working on any upcoming projects?
I just finished shooting for Super 30 with Vikas Bahl and Hrithik Roshan.