During the Indian Premier League 2014, an Amazon advertisement did the rounds on television. The premise was a series of bets between a husband and wife as they watch a cricket match. Whoever wins the bet gets a product of their choice. The atmosphere is rather competitive and the wife wins all three rounds. She punches the air with a victorious roar as the husband sinks into the sofa holding his head.
The advertisement clocked close to 55,000 views on YouTube. But strangely, the 92 comments posted below the video enquire about who the girl in the advertisement is. And we don’t blame them. There is something about Meher Mistry, which makes it impossible to look away from her. It could be her wide, Julia Roberts-esque smile, her wild curls or her infectious energy.
A relative newbie to the Mumbai theatre scene, Mistry is not, however, a stranger to live performances. She has been performing on stage since she was five, at school and college festivals. Now, at 26, she is set to dazzle a 2,500-strong audience on October 23, at Disney’s premiere of the musical, Beauty and the Beast.
Not so long ago
“I have been in the city’s theatre circuit for the last four years and have enjoyed myself. I find a sense of peace and belonging when I am on stage,” says Mistry. Growing up, she never considered making a career out of theatre. After graduating from Jai Hind College, Churchgate, with a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology, she flirted with the idea of teaching, before moving to the US in 2011.
“I worked with my uncle, who runs a regional theatre company in Sacramento, California. I was an assistant stage manager and was responsible for props and costumes. I think that is when I found my true calling,” she reminisces. After returning to Mumbai in 2012, Mistry worked with renowned theatre personalities, including Sunil Shanbaug (in Stories in a Song, 2012) and Alyque Padamsee (in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2014). She also acted in ad films for brands like Pepsodent and Havells, where she got a chance to work with Gauri Shinde, the director of English Vinglish.
Despite her quick success, her family is still apprehensive about her choice of profession. “No one in my family belongs to the industry. The uncertainty of this profession scares them. But, they have been immensely supportive of my decision,” she says.
Music to the ears
Mistry happens to be a trained western classical singer and is devoted to music. “I started learning music when I was in school (JB Vachha High School, Dadar). I have learnt from a series of teachers, including Deirdre D’Cunha, who pioneered western classical music in Mumbai,” she says.
The knowledge came in handy when Mistry performed the solo, On My Own, from Les Misérables for her Beauty and the Beast audition. It cemented her role as Belle in the production. “I messed up my monologue during the audition and was mortified. But then I sang my piece, and, well, here I am today,” she laughs.
Having grown up on a diet of Disney films and characters, she considers her break in Beauty and the Beast a dream come true. “Belle is my favourite character. She is a straightforward, mature girl, who has a dry sense of humour, which is her greatest strength,” says Mistry.
And much like Belle, Mistry, too, admits to being able to laugh though awkward moments. “I believe laughing at it is the best way to go about life,” she says. Interestingly, she credits her cheerful attitude to the city of Mumbai and its undying energy. “This city has taught me to take things in my stride and to move forward, no matter what,” she says.
The road ahead
Four years into this profession, Mistry is just as excited and nervous about going live on stage as she was the first time around. “Performing on stage is an addictive rush. In addition, I have put in so much effort into this production, the excitement to come so close to its completion is almost nerve-wracking,” she says.
A firm believer in the take-it-as-it-comes philosophy, Mistry hopes to do good work in the future. “I recently finished filming a short film, and it was a brilliant experience. Indian cinema is opening up to theatre actors. It’s an exciting time,” she says.
What: Beauty and the beast
Dates: October 23, 8pm / October 24 and 25, 3pm and 8pm / October 30, 8pm / October 31, 1pm, 3pm and 8pm November 1, 3pm and 8pm
Where: Dome@NSCI, SVP Stadium, Worli, Mumbai
Tickets: Bookings open on bookmyshow.com
Price: Between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000