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Working in regional cinema means I am evolving

Having dabbled in Hindi, Punjabi and Telugu cinema, former Miss India and actor Simran Kaur Mundi has successfully broken the language barrier. Now, with two of her films – Mundeyan Ton Bachke Rahin in Punabi and Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi in Hindi, up for release on the same day next week, the leggy actress is a bundle of nerves. In a candid conversation with Box Office India, she tells us about her journey and what the future holds for her

After winning the Miss India title, when did your journey as an actress begin?

It all started after I won the Miss India title. After a degree in Biotechnology from Indore, I came to Mumbai and started working at Fame Adlabs as a guest relations executive. My job involved selling tickets to celebrities and making sure that the Pepsis, popcorns and samosas were reaching them! (Laughs)

That’s how Bharat and Dorris spotted me. They asked me to participate in the Miss India pageant and, of course, I never thought I would win the title. After I won, there was no looking back. I was determined to continue modeling. Since almost every girl who wins the Miss India pageant eventually ends up acting, I deliberately chose an off-the-beaten path. I had made up my mind that I would be different and become an international supermodel and make a mark there.

But, eventually, you realise that the next best step after Miss India is acting; modelling becomes monotonous after a while. I wanted a change and that’s when Jo Hum Chahein happened.

How did you land a role in that film?

It happened in 2011. I was looking for a change in scene. I auditioned for the role and went through two rounds of auditions. Pawan and Aman (Gill) had auditioned a lot of girls but wanted to meet me. It didn’t happen for a while because I was abroad for a show and was the last girl to audition for the part. I kicked ass during the audition and they loved me and took me on board. I literally swept them off their feet! (Laughs)

Typically, the struggle really begins with one’s second film. How tough was it getting your next project?

Yes, I think the main struggle starts when you have to find your second film. But Jo Hum Chahien actually put me on the map. My performance in the film was appreciated and I received a very good response. I got Best Of Luck after that. It was a Punjabi film with Gippy Grewal and Jazzy B. I was shooting in June and July, and from October, I began shooting for Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi. After that, I shot a Telugu film with Manchu Manoj, which was called Potugadu and then Mundeyan Ton Bach Ke Rahin.

Your Punjabi film Mundeyan Ton Bach Ke Rahin and Hindi film Kuku Mathur… are releasing on the same day (May 30). How hectic has it been?

(Laughs) Yes, it’s very rare to have two films releasing on the same day. I don’t think I can name an actress who has been in that situation. I mean, there are actresses who have releases within a week or two weeks of each other, which is also super hectic. But imagine, two of your films releasing on the same day!

But if one film is in Punjab, the other is in Mumbai, and there is no direct flight between Mumbai and, say, Ludhiana. So there’s a lot of planning that goes into it. I really wish I could clone myself! But it’s a lot of fun too. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I don’t think I will ever experience it again. I am trying to cherish it as much as possible.

Since you have a background in modelling, was acting really tough?

No, I have been a nautanki since childhood. I believe I was born to act in films. How I know this is because I remember I watched Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… and saw Kareena Kapoor’s character Poo and I was so fascinated by her that I began to impersonate her. I would literally talk to myself in front of the mirror and mouth her lines from the film with full-on expressions, saying, “Tum itni khoobsurat kaise ho sakti ho?” I am not kidding, I have done these crazy things and my brother has caught me doing them and made so much fun of me! He even told my mom that I had gone crazy. Of course, I never dreamt all this would get me into acting, that’s just how I was. I think I was destined to be where I am today.

What kind of roles do you like to portray?

A Kareena Kapoor in Jab We Met is the kind of role I relate to most because that’s just how I am. Or maybe a Kangana Ranaut from Queen or Tanu Weds Manu. These are characters I relate to because I have grown up watching their films.

How close are you to the character you’re playing in Mundeyan Ton Bach Ke Rahin?

I am playing Simran in the film, so I am pretty much playing myself. She is a very real character; she is a girl of today; she knows the kind of harkat the boys do these days; she also knows how to put them in their place when necessary. So she has called these two boys to see who suits her best as she wants to settle down. Then, these two guys want to impress her and win her heart. It’s a fun film and has plenty of humor. As a role, I believe it revolves around me because both the guys are trying to impress one girl. So, as a role, it’s very important.

How different is it from your character in Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi?

The two characters are completely different from each other. There (Mundiya Ton…) I am playing a girl who is very sorted, which is very me. In Kuku Mathur… she is the girl-next-door, she is very Delhi. ‘Totta’ of her colony, to use typical Delhi slang. And she is somebody who is very materialistic, just like Delhi girls are… agar aapke paas paise honge, toh woh aapko bhaav degi warna nahi degi. So that’s pretty much what my character is, the typical Delhi girl. And she is with someone who has his own scene, and Kuku ka apna alag scene hai, he is madly in love with her. It’s the typical North India scenario. So Kuku is in love with her for seven years, maybe he has married her in his head. And this girl doesn’t even know Kuku exists.

You have worked in three different industries – Punjabi, Bollywood and Telugu. How different is the work culture from one to the other?

The industries are different but I think the only real difference lies is in the language. Apart from that, everyone works hard to make films and makes sure the masses like them. Working in the Telugu industry was most challenging because I didn’t know the language. Punjabi was a homecoming for me because I am Punjabi; I am a Sikhni but I have never experienced the heart of Punjab, the mitti of Punjab. So doing a Punjabi film was like getting to know my culture better. I got to learn so many new words. I always thought my Punjabi was faadu until I started doing Punjabi films and working with actual Punjabis. And I realised I suck so much in Punjabi! Working in the Hindi film industry was most comfortable because I know the language very well. Apart from that, all three industries have given me love and a name.

You started your career with Hindi films and then moved to regional, which very few actresses do. Usually, it’s vice-versa.

I don’t see doing regional cinema as going backward. In fact, I believe I am going forward because as long as you’re working, that’s all that matters. It means I am evolving as an actor and what matters is growing. I don’t believe in sitting at home and waiting for scripts to come to me. It’s a waste of time. How does it matter if it’s a Punjabi, Bengali, South, Spanish or even a French movie? It doesn’t matter as long as you’re working.

How did the Punjabi and Telugu films fair at the box office?

The Telugu film Potugadu featuring Manoj Manchu did good business. It released around the time of Telangana. It is a typical commercial masala film like Bachana Ae Haseeno and people loved it. Manoj Manchu has his set of fans and crazy cinema which he does, so it did very well. My Punjabi film took the third-highest opening at the box office in the industry. Obviously, if you’re acting with Jazzy B, who is also making his debut with you, it is a big thing. Then you also have Gippy Grewal, who is superstar in Punjab. So that got me into the limelight. In fact, the film put me in a position where I can chose my films in the Punjabi industry. I have not yet reached that position in the Hindi industry.

How were you cast in Kuku Mathur...?

For Kuku Mathur…, they were earlier considering Shraddha Kapoor and Saqib Saleem but the director took a call to cast new faces. It happened all of a sudden. I auditioned for the film and even though I didn’t receive a call for a good 15 days, I knew I was in the top three. I am quite use to getting shortlisted at auditions, regardless of whether I am finalised or not. So I was not very hopeful and was, like, okay shortlisted but now what? I was having dinner with my friends and I got a call, where I was told I had to catch the first flight to Delhi the next day as I had been finalised for Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi. I couldn’t believe it and simply said, ‘Aap meri jhand toh nahi kar rahe ho?’ And the person on the other end of the line said, ‘No, you really have been finalised.’ Then Bejoy called me and said the same thing. This was on October 15. And then he said, ‘You don’t know this but I wanted to meet you and take a look-test for Shaitan as I could see you in one of the roles but it didn’t work out then. So I think our association was meant to happen. So let’s just do this and rock this film.’ For a film to have Ekta Kapoor and Bejoy Nambiar working together, the set-up just had to be fantastic.

What kind of response have you received for the trailers of Mundeyan Ton Bachke Rahin and Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi?

Mundeyan Ton Bachke Rahin is getting a fantastic response as it is a complete masala entertainer and Punjab loves funny movies. It is also fresh. Moreover, in this film, the heroine is at par with the heroes, which was last seen in Jatt & Juliet. That movie took a fantastic opening as the audience enjoys the tutu-main main between a boy and a girl, a light-hearted rom-com, and I believe Mundeyan Ton Bachke Rahin is in the same space.

As far as Kuku Mathur Ki Jhand Ho Gayi goes, the response has been phenomenal. People are very curious about the film. The songs and the trailer tell different stories but they are both quirky. It is not like the usual Ekta Kapoor film. Everyone says it is different. I think it is the combination of Ekta and Bejoy that has made the film unique. Bejoy has his own creative take on things and Ekta has her own creative take on things. When you have the two best people in the industry coming together, the outcome is bound to be interesting. I am very keen to see how this film fares at the box office.

Do you follow box-office numbers?

I try my best to. If you’re in the business, I had better follow the trade. I believe box-office numbers are important because they decide whether a film is a hit or a flop. Sometimes, a film is commercially a hit and sometimes it is critically a hit. So I think it is very important to understand the business. I try to keep myself updated as much as I can. And I do follow Box Office India’s figures.

What else do you have lined up?

I have another Punjabi film in the pipeline but I am super excited about both my releases at the moment.

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