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August 20, 2001

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'I joined films because of Shah Rukh Khan!'

Monal She gets up at dawn to jog in the streets of Madras. She loves swimming. And she usually sleeps when she gets a break from shooting.

She collected 15 prizes at an acting school. A student of Mithibai College, Bombay, she is sister to the famous Simran.

Monal has three releases to her credit. Parvai ondrum pothum, Bhadri and Lovely.

Bhadri (opposite Vijay) was actually her first film, but released second. Born on Republic Day, she calls herself a realist, unlike a typical Aquarian.

She won an award for best dancer in an inter-collegiate competition in Bombay. The same year she became Miss Bombay. In Delhi, she had already won the Miss Media title. She has also modelled on the ramp.

A Ganesh Nadar spoke to the young actress.

Tell us about your childhood.

I did my schooling in Delhi and college in Bombay. I am doing the second year of Bachelor of Commerce in Mithibai college.

My parents used to say that I should concentrate on studies and do films only if I get a good role. Sitting at home and waiting for a role is useless. So I joined college. At the same time, I did some modelling, fashion shows and beauty contests.

That's when I got a break in the Tamil film industry.

What made you get into films? Was it your sister?

My sister started acting recently. I wanted to become an actress at a very young age.

I acted in school plays regularly. I made a deal with my mother. I would act in only one film. If it clicked, I would continue acting. If not, I would complete my studies.

Does it help to have a star sister?

Oh yes! People recognise me immediately when I say I am Simranís sister. But the sad part is that they start comparing. It is just not fair to compare the Monal of Parvai ondrai pothumai with the Simran of Priyamanavale. That was my first film and Simranís umpteenth one.

Maybe after a few films, when I am experienced enough, they can compare.

Itís like comparing Madhuri Dixit and Kareena Kapoor. There is no comparison. They have their own capabilities.

Who is your favourite hero ?

I love Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. My favourite actresses are Madhu Bala and Madhuri Dixit.

If you could choose a male co-star, who would it be?

Shah Rukh! In fact, I joined films because of Shah Rukh Khan!

Monal When I was in the seventh standard, I told my mom that I wanted to do a film with Shah Rukh. But after entering the industry, I know how much I have to slog to reach that level. I will have to do at least a fifty films to get there!

And female co-star?

I would, of course, love to act with my sister. And even Kajol. She is such a talented and challenging actress.

Which directors would you like to work with?

In the Tamil film industry, I would love to act with Shankar and Mani Ratnam.

I had visited the sets when Simran was acting in a Mani Ratnam film. I could feel the difference there. He is really special.

I went also to a K Balachander set. Even that was great. Subhash Ghai, Karan Johar and Yash Chopra are my all-time favourites.

Coming to your films, how did Parvai ondrum pothumai happen?

Parvai ondrum pothumai was my second film, though it released first.

My stills appeared in magazines. The Parvai ondrum pothumai people must have seen them. In between shooting for Bhadri (my first film), I was sitting in Bombay. They called me and asked when I would be in Madras. When I came down for shooting they met me. They narrated the story I liked it. So I agreed.

You never seem to get the man you love in any of your films...

That's because the character demands it! I am not a loser. I knew the story before I agreed. I realised that there is a chance to display my acting talents so I agreed.

In Bhadri I leave the hero because he is a liar and in Parvai ondrum pothumai we sacrifice our love for the sake of friendship. In Lovely also I lose the guy.

Do you see Tamil films as a stepping-stone to the Hindi film industry?

No. I am already acting in a Hindi film opposite Arbaaz Khan, Salman Khanís brother. The film also stars Tabu and Sunny Deol. I have a contract with them that I won't do any Hindi films till it is released in September.

Besides that, I am acting in three Tamil films. Samudram and Charlie Chaplin (co-staring Prabhu Deva).

Do you prefer comedy, tragedy or glamorous roles?

Comedy. I think that is the most difficult emotion. Timing is crucial there. Govinda is excellent in comedy roles. Anyone can cry anyone can do a romantic role but it is very difficult to do a comedy. I want to do it.

Have you heard of the 'casting couch'?

Yes, I have. I did not have that problem. I am very sure of myself. I know what I want and when I got the role I wanted I agreed.

My first film was opposite Vijay, who is a big star. I came through an acting school called the Namit Kapoor Academy in Bombay. Hrithik Roshan also studied there.

Do you like to sing and dance?

Monal Oh yes! We had singing in my acting school. In fact, I got the first prize for singing.

Dancing was also a part of the course. Besides that, I am learning Bharat Natyam in Madras.

Is your voice dubbed in your films?

Yes. Savita, who dubs for my sister, dubs for me as well.

So will you always have someone to dub your voice?

No! While shooting, the associate director gives me my dialogues and I understand them. I write down all the dialogues, with their meanings. In fact, I maintain a file. I always memorise them.

I try to understand the words. In both my films, my directors were very happy with my performance.

People around me speak in Tamil. At home, I speak to the maid in Tamil. Once I become fluent in the language, I will do my own dubbing.

I cannot learn from a teacher because I am not a small child anymore. I have passed that stage. I will learn from my colleagues.

Are you doing anything besides acting?

No. I am concentrating on my acting career.

I am happy. I am earning and heading towards my goal of acting with Shah Rukh Khan. Of course, that doesnít mean that once I act with him, I quit films!

Any marriage plans?

Marriage plans are there but not right now. My career comes first.

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