|Interview with actor Mrinal
quit this industry the minute I lose the power to choose my
|Posted on 26
was only 16 when she made her debut on television as the Peshwa
Queen Ramabai in Swami. At that time, this self-confessed
bookworm was content to pursue her MA in Linguistics and continue
with a PhD. But then came Shrikant, a serial based on Saratchandra
Chatterjee's novel, and several meaty roles like those in The
Great Maratha, Meera, Draupadi, Hasratein, Meera, Teacher,
Draupadi, Sparsh or Sonpari, which she just couldn't refuse.
Before she realised it, Mrinal Kulkarni had taken up acting full
time. Today, her author-backed role in Avantika on Alpha
Marathi has made her a household name. She talks to Indiantelevision.com's
Janhavi Samant about when and how the acting bug
bit her and how it is treating her now:
how did the PhD aspirant turn to acting?
it was at an inter-collegiate festival in 1990 that Gajanan Jahagirdar,
who was making Swami, spotted me. I wasn't looking for roles
or anything. Since Swami was a prestigious project, I agreed
immediately. Even then, I continued with my studies, took my graduation
exams. Then I was offered Shrikant. I did it in order to
work with talented actors like Farooque Sheikh. Yet, I was so sure
that I wanted to finish my PhD. I wasn't comfortable doing the kind
of roles that were being offered to me. So I enrolled myself for
research at the SNDT University. Meanwhile, I got married. I had
a son. The offers kept coming.
in 1996, Sanjay Khan offered me a choice of roles in The Great
Maratha. I refused it outright, but he insisted that I should
at least hear him out. He offered me a choice between playing the
role of Mahadji Scindia's wife and Ahilyabai Holkar. By the end
of the meeting, Ahilyabai Holkar's role had caught my fancy. It
was then that I thought that I'd take up acting as a profession.
did it go from there?
career has risen evenly so far. After The Great Maratha,
Hasratein happened. My role was appreciated in Teacher,
Draupadi, Meera, Jhoota Sach and Sparsh
too. I was never interested in the quantity of work, I wanted
quality. At any given time, I had four serials on air, which is
a good record. So far, I have had the opportunity of working with
the best directors of the lot: Ajai Sinha, Ravi Rai, Sanjay Khan,
Vikas Desai and the like. I have also done Marathi films like Jodidar,
Gharabaher and so on.
been clear from the start that I wanted to do only meaningful and
dignified roles. Which means frivolous roles, running around trees,
vulgar dances were out. I am not saying that people shouldn't do
those kind of roles, it's just that I am not comfortable doing roles
which I'd be ashamed to show my parents and son. Given those kind
of role restraints, I have been quite successful doing what I have
10-year-old son loves the fact that he has a star-mom and
adjusts very well to my busy schedule"
did your family react to your decision?
Very well. My family, both mine and my husband's, is quite broad-minded.
I was always told to pursue whatever I thought was best for me.
So nobody objected to my becoming an actor. But it was also ingrained
in me from the beginning to refuse any undignified or shameful work.
fact, my husband, who was involved in theatre at the time and my
father-in-law, who was the director of All India Radio, whole-heartedly
supported me in my decision. My 10-year-old son loves the fact that
he has a star-mom and adjusts very well to my busy schedule.
us about the serials you are acting in right now…
Son Pari and Jeet on Star Plus, Zindagi Teri Meri
Kahani and Arzoo Hai Tu on Sahara Manoranjan and Avantika
on Alpha Marathi. Son Pari is hugely popular with children.
Yet so many people warned me against doing that role. But I still
did it because I always wanted to do a fairy-tale role. While choosing
work, I have been quite adventurous. I have worked in all serials:
historicals, mythologicals, socials, soap operas.
have been your favourite roles so far? Why?
Actually, I like all my roles. There were exciting shades to all
the characters I have played. For instance, in Jeet, I play
this almost-perfect professor on the surface. But there is an ugly
past she's trying to hide. In Gharabaher, I played the role
of a meek girl who is not able to express herself. I spoke only
twice in the film. It was challenging because I had to convey all
the emotions without speech.
was also a learning experience, her devotion to Krishna was overwhelming.
So was playing Draupadi. I was actually surprised when I
was offered the role. I mean I can understand someone offering me
the role of Sita. But I thought the assertive personality of Draupadi
wasn't me at all. Once I started shooting for it I realised that
Draupadi was actually a character who underwent a journey of self-discovery
to emerge into what she was.
is also close to my heart. She is an intelligent girl who walks
out on her husband when she finds that he's been cheating on her.
It's a real life solution to a real-life problem. In our country,
our daughters are taught that marriage is the ultimate goal in a
woman's life. But we never teach them what to do if the marriage
doesn't work out. We don't teach them to be independent, to live
on their own. Avantika questions such attitudes. That's why so many
women personally identify with her.
also another reason I love doing Avantika. The show's shot
in Pune, where my son lives with my parents. Whenever I get two
days off, I rush to Pune to spend time with him. Because of Avantika,
I manage to see him at least once a week.
seem to empathise with women's issues…
Yes. I am a woman. I understand what all of us have to go through.
I have also been involved in editing Maitrin (female-friend),
a thought-provoking magazine for the modern woman. Avantika has
also made me accessible to many women and their problems across
Maharashtra. Soon I'll be editing a youth supplement for a popular
I genuinely feel that an actor also owes something to society. S/he
has to give back to society by doing progressive roles and also
supporting the right causes. I am also involved in orphanage activities.
I regularly visit an eye hospital, near Nashik, and a spastics children's
school to do voluntary work.
editing and social work. What's next on the cards?
really don't know. But I'm keeping my options open. The work the
television industry is churning is not at all encouraging. These
days, TV software makers just want to finish shooting episodes while
actors are only interested in how many days of the month they are
shooting. TV programmes are so senseless and regressive. Consumerism
has entered the industry and quality of programming has dropped
like never before. Audiences too watch TV for all the wrong reasons.
So many good artistes who have done such good work in the past are
I am still working on television because I can demand meaningful
roles. I'll quit this industry the minute I lose the power to choose
my work. After that, maybe I'll continue with my editing or start
my own production house or just retire to do social work. Who knows?
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