Daughter of Kashmiri immigrants, Monica Dogra is a US-raised musician, who grew up listening to Hindu devotional songs, ghazals and hits of Lata Mangeshkar. Having made Mumbai her home, acting just happened to Monica when Kiran Rao spotted her on the cover of a magazine.
She made a non-glam start to her Bollywood career with Dhobi Ghat while simultaneously pursuing her music with indie band Shaa’ir and Func. However, she has managed to walk the tight rope between her twin professions — acting and singing.
Now, in Bejoy Nambiar’s David she has undergone a transformation of sorts and turned retro. She plays an outspoken Muslim girl, Noor, the love interest of gangster David played by Neil Nitin Mukesh. Her story, set in 1975, is shot in black and white as the film is about three people with the same name in different eras. “No one has seen me in a traditional role. It was challenging for me as I am playing a conservative Muslim girl who is fiery in her own way. I even had to learn Urdu.”
She adds that the experience of working in both the films was very different because, “Bejoy’s style is dynamic and action-oriented whereas my debut film was more languid and feminine in its execution.”
Though she wasn’t seen in any film after her acclaimed performance as a foreign-returned photographer in Dhobi Ghat, the past two years, Monica says, have been her “busiest and craziest”. She hosted two seasons of the musical show, The Dewarists and released three music albums.
Talking about the future, she says, “I have sung for the title track of Inkaar and am working on my fourth album. I will also be seen in Fireflies.” Talking about her twin passions, she says, “I am a performance artist. Be it a stage or the sets, The only thing I am particular about is innovating constantly so that I can take my audience by surprise.”