it as a historical character of a bygone era or today's contemporary
women, actress Mrinal Kulkarni has etched a place for herself
with selective, yet substantial roles.
In the past, Mrinal has portrayed the daring young Maratha
queen Ramabai, in Swami,
and Devi Ahilyabai Holkar, a legendary queen of Indore who
left an lasting impression as a good administrator after looking
after her kingdom for nearly 44 years, in Sanjay Khan's Great
Maratha. She also played central roles in Meerabai
Mrinal's initial tryst with television was pure chance, where
talent met opportunity. It was during a college annual gathering
that Shrikant Moghe, an eminent actor-director (Marathi) spotted
Mrinal while she was performing. He immediately offered her
the role of Ramabai. Mrinal was only 17 then.
Acting apart, Mrinal continued her studies and went on to
pursue a Masters in Linguistics from Poona University. Soon
after graduating she married her long time friend and it was
goodbye arc lights for the next three years.
She marked her second coming in television with Great
Maratha. She has also acted in a few Marathi movies, the
more recent being Jodidar, a social film that dealt
with the marital relationship where she plays a double role,
not of twin sisters separated in childhood, but of two modern
Currently, Mrinal is doing a range of roles and is seen on
all the main Hindi channels - Khel (Sony), Son
Pari (Star Plus), Sambhandh (SabeTV), Draupadi
(Sahara) and will soon be seen again on Zee, which is set
to show re-runs of Hasretein, Sparsh and Teacher
While in Son Pari - a fantasy serial for children -
she plays fairy godmother, in Sambhandh she enacts
the role of women who drifts away from her husband and children
in pursuit of success. In Khel she plays a daughter
eager to seek love from her estranged father who is a successful
businessman and unaware that she is his daughter. However,
it is in Draupadi that Mrinal has full scope for histrionics
as she essays a complex character (wife of the five Pandavs)
from the woman's perspective.
Indiantelevision.com's correspondent Harsha Khot met the actress
to get a glimpse of what Mrinal Kulkarni is like.
Excerpts from the interview:
What pulled you back into acting?
My son was just two years old when I received a call saying
Sanjay Khan was keen to meet me regarding a role in a historical
serial. Being with my family meant more so I wasn't too keen
on acting and informed them accordingly. But after much insistence
we met. Despite my reservations, he casually asked if given
a choice to essay Ahilyabai Holkar and Mahaji Scindia's wife
which character would I prefer to do. Ahilyabai Holkar I replied
without a second thought because I had already played
Ramabai and did not want repeat the role.
seemed quite impressed with the answer and right away asked
me to do the role. The shoot was at Jaipur in Rajasthan and
with a two-year old son I was very reluctant to sign on. He
assured me that all the comfort on the sets would be looked
after, especially as regards my son. So after much persistence
I agreed to do the role. And it was while doing Great Maratha
that the I felt a fresh spark for acting.
Did your background help?
Both my parents are professors at Poona University. And my
grandfather was a novelist. Being born into a culturally rich
background, acting, singing, dance and painting, among others,
were inculcated as things one should know.
even the scripts gets changed at times, so what eventually
matters is a good banner, and good team spirit and rapport
between a good director, writer and yourself.'
What do you look for before agreeing to do a role?
As an artiste I look forward to doing a variety of roles.
But with so many channels, almost everything has already been
shown. When a production team approaches me with a story idea
of a new serial, they always say that they have got something
new. But often I feel that the different role that they promise
is not possible all the time. Almost all the themes have been
explored and there is very little room left to do something
new and different. So now what matters is how differently
the serial is treated, how it is portrayed. Today, even the
scripts gets changed at times, so what eventually matters
is a good banner, and good team spirit and rapport between
a good director, writer and yourself.
It gets very dicey when the writer or director gets changed.
So I strongly feel that one has to be sincere regardless of
other things and be dedicated and put in good effort.
When I take up a role I don't mind the length of the role
as long it is significant enough. For instance I portrayed
a slightly aggressive character of "Asmita" in Hasretein,
a serial based on a Marathi novel called Adhantari.
The book has just a brief mention of "Asmita". It only mentions
that her husband, despite her being beautiful and very attractive,
falls in love with another women. This role was to span 10-12
episodes only. Yet I took it up.
What is your approach to essaying a character?
In the initial stages, a rough outline of the character is
sketched. If I know how the character is going to develop
I just have to match it. There are quite a few changes made
in the character, as per the channel's demands, as per the
popularity demands, an actor may want to leave, so you have
to adjust accordingly and prepare for any changes.
No doubt it requires thinking. But if you grow as an artiste
it comes naturally to you. It comes from observing people
around you, talking to them and how you perceive things. To
portray a victim of rape, it needn't at all mean that you
get a taste of it to project it as close and realistically
So as you grow you become more observant and receptive. Suppose
you notice someone's peculiar ways and mannerism it gets stored
in your mind. Later on you pick and choose what is suitable
while sketching out a character. You have to give it a try.
It may work or it may not.
For instance the whole team was so excited about Jootha
Sach. We had to wear white wigs and unglamorous make-up.
Since most of us were from theatre this experiment was very
exciting. The serial begins with us at a ripe old age and
then takes a leap back to our youth. We thought audiences
would really like it since it was so different but no, it
didn't go down well at all (laughs). So such things too, happen.
is a never-ending process. You should never get contented.'
What is your approach to essaying a given character?
Do you do any sort of research or homework before you come
on the floor?
Yes. While portraying Draupadi I felt the need to read
up about her. The character is from Mahabharat, an
epic written by Maharishi Vyas. Every line is said in context
to something and has a meaning, especially the scene when
Draupadi gets married to five men. She never wanted to marry
five men. She was so beautiful and intelligent herself. She
was called sarva kala parangat a multi talented girl.
Why would such a gifted person want to marry five men. It
really isn't a joke to marry five men!
Since the Mahabharat is originally written in Sanskrit
it was not possible to read through it but there are translations
which were of immense help. I went through Pratibha Rai's
Draupadi, and there are various other books written
on the Pandav's so that I could get an idea of what their
personality was like. I also read up on Krishna who plays
a major role on Draupadi's life. Then there are a few books
written in Marathi. So I try and find out what people had
Then for Meera my director had asked if I believed
in God. I told him that I didn't believe in God but I believe
in humanity. I mean devotion to humanity is understandable,
but devotion to an idol for nearly 50 years I just could not
relate to. So we went to the Rajneesh Ashram (in Pune). Rajneesh
has devoted eight cassettes only to Meera. Each cassette's
duration was one-and-a-half hours long. I was taken aback
by the level of Meera's devotion to Krishna.
In Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, I was playing a role of a
person (DR Ambedkar's second wife) who is still alive at 83.
I was so excited and had so many questions to ask but I hardly
got to speak to her. Still, I thought I portrayed the character
well and was very happy with it. But when Mrs Ambedkar saw
the scenes she was unhappy with it and so most of the scenes
that I thought were good had to be chopped. I was a little
upset about it … but it's okay.
Like in Sparsh we had a bound script which was very
helpful. But again every time getting a script in advance
is not important. Acting should not be rigid but a natural
and continuous process. Once you get the feel of the character
then all you need is to get the dialogues in hand. Like for
instance even now I haven't been able to imagine what must
have gone through Draupadi's mind while going to each of her
husbands … it's no joke.
But television has got it's own limitation. No matter how
poor a background the character comes from the sets are shot
in a bungalow. If the location shown is a bank even then it
has to be shot in a bungalow simply because you need space
for the camera to move properly. So these things have to be
taken into consideration. Acting is a never-ending process.
You should never get contented.
I portray a character people should feel that yes this
is what must have happened.'
What does acting mean to you?
Acting is self-expression but you also add something to it.
You add people's views to it. This is a borrowed knowledge
that you give to people, it is not something you have experienced.
When I portray a character people should feel that yes this
is what must have happened. It is said that an actor lives
many characters in one life. It is much more dramatic. The
time gap shrinks on the screen. Say the age of the character
sketched ranges over 20 years, and this has to be shown within
a span of a year. To essay these 20 years you have to match
the emotions or draw the emotions from real life.
So in this process you grow as a person a little more. You
tend to get more sensitive, and I believe this is a major
Commercially Hasretein was very popular. But I really
had to struggle with the character. Since "Asmita's" character
was negative. She was beautiful yet her husband neglects her
and goes for another women, so she seeks vengeance. Pulling
hair, passing negative marks was part of that character which
I would find very amusing and funny and would often tell my
director that this really isn't the way to show "Asmita".
It was very hard to portray, because I played something that
didn't belong to me but I could portray that. But then the
character got a tremendous response, and it was stretched
over 200 episodes and people enjoyed watching it.
Meera was very close to my heart somehow. Even though
while playing the role I would often have to assure myself
"this is not happening to me."
Any good director that you've worked with?
Ved Rahi. He is a Kashmiri poet and writes beautifully. He
has a literature background.
The thing about directors who are also writers is that there's
depth in them, in the way they perceive the characters. And
it always helps working with a director who is also a writer
because they are very clear about the character that is to
be portrayed. Ravi Rai and Imtiaz Khan are also good directors.
What qualities in a director bring out the best in you?
I need assurance. I need to be told whether or not the character
I play is on the right path. Otherwise I begin to feel uneasy.
On the sets there has to be a common connectivity that binds
everything together. To avoid people, co-actors, or anything
from meandering from the main storyline there should be someone
with a sharp mind to keep a tab on things. It is like everything
is bound with a rope so in case someone meanders, the director
can spot it and set it right. Working with such a director
Any work that you weren't happy with?
There are a few projects that I felt were my mistakes. Fortunately
most of them wound up very early. It so happens that when
you get the outline of a story and a good character. It excites
you. But… when the script comes to you there is something
amiss … further on with changes and other things it is all
very hotchpotch but by then it's too late to walk out.
But all that matters is do your work properly and sincerely,
yet learn to be sound. Even a God like Ram made mistakes.
Have we seen the best of Mrinal as yet?
I don't know. But there is much more work to do. I have been
very keen that I shouldn't repeat any role - get-up wise,
script wise and looks wise. One serial, one get-up. Like for
Sparsh I have cut my hair while for Draupadi
it's two hours of make-up being done. So you should experiment
with yourself wherever possible.
What kind of roles wouldn't you want take up?
No bar at all. But I want to do a completely non-glamorous
Any fine actress on television?
Shefali (Shah) is good. She is not seen enough though, I don't
know why, but she is good. Then Pallavi Joshi, Renuka Sahane,
a lot of new faces on television act well, I just don't know
their names. They are very sensitive. Pallavi is a good actress
but somehow I feel her talents are yet to be explored properly.
What inspires you?
Good work, as in a good painting, a book… it gives you a high.
About your role in Marathi film Jodidaar? How was
your experience playing a double role?
The script was very neat and clear which helped a lot.
Both characters were contemporary. I was very keen to do it.
While one character is a divorcee and a mother of a child,
the other has a family and at the same time works.
What is lacking in the second woman was since she a working
mother and also had to do household chores she had an unkempt
look about her. While the other women was fairly well off
and since she had enough time in hand to take care of herself,
the husband is attracted to her.
You've acted in Marathi and Hindi serials, did you have
to work on you voice?
I had to work on my Hindi. The thing about people speaking
in Marathi and Punjabi is they tend to have a heavy accent.
So to get the Hindi pronunciation right I approached Mr Khan,
a professor in Poona University, and requested his help to
get my diction right. For two months I would read aloud for
two hours each day. That helped me. Till date nobody ever
has had a problem with my pronunciations.