I want to do mainstream Bollywood roles: Mallika Dua | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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I want to do mainstream Bollywood roles: Mallika Dua

Mallika Dua is a bona fide millennial star: she found fame on Snapchat and became a social media celebrity in just one year. Now, she wants to make it as a mainstream actor

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Feb 04, 2017 15:51 IST
Manali Shah
Actor Mallika Dua at her Andheri apartment
Actor Mallika Dua at her Andheri apartment (Photo: Aalok Soni/HT)

Mallika Dua is a bona fide millennial star: she found fame on Snapchat and became a social media celebrity in just one year. Now, she wants to make it as a mainstream actor.

There are books tucked away wherever you look in actor Mallika Dua’s (27) Andheri residence. She is currently reading two novels at once, she says. One in Mumbai (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Oleander Girl). One in her hometown, Delhi (Girl Online, by Zoe Sugg). “I don’t like depressing books. I wish Anuja Chauhan would keep writing forever.” Dua moved to the city last August for work, but keeps going back to Delhi for some TLC.

Dua has previously lived on her own as a theatre student in Pennsylvania, USA. “It’s important to get your ass kicked.” But Mumbai, she finds, is an easy city to transition into. “I have a close friend from college here, but she’s in south Mumbai. We didn’t realise how much of a problem that would be. We meet as often as traffic permits,” she laughs.

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In most of her showreel so far, she has portrayed the exaggerated stereotype of the Delhi girl: loud, acerbic, with an affected English accent. In person, she’s quite the opposite — soft-spoken, unassuming, and mild-mannered. “People keep saying, ‘Oh, you do the act so well.’ But there are so many types of Delhi girls,” she says. To drive the point home, Dua created and acted in a sketch for a lifestyle website, which parodied the various types of women in Delhi.

The video went viral (a little over 1 million views). And Dua was suddenly a name to know. This was in January, 2016, when she was still working as a copywriter. In a matter of months, she garnered a following for her Dubsmash videos and Snapchat video series (Makeup Didi), quit her job, and moved to Mumbai.

“Luckily, I shifted cities at a time when I had enough work lined up. A big part of an actor’s life is just waiting, and loaded with insecurity,” she says, adding, “I like my own space. So now, my pet joke is that, every time I throw a tantrum or I’m being unreasonable, I tell my boyfriend, ‘You’re dating an artist’.”

Talking shop

Recently, Dua was a part of comedy troupe, AIB’s sketch Flirty Messaging League, and also a part of the main cast of a web show, The Trip, in which her character provided the comic relief. It’s surprising, then, that she hasn’t tried her hand at stand-up comedy yet. “Everyone’s been nagging me about it. They think I’ll be brilliant at it. But I don’t observe the world like a stand-up comic. I’ll try it this year, though,” she promises.

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For now, her main focus remains acting. “A part of me is scared I’ll be typecast as the funny Delhi girl,” she admits. “I would love to do Bollywood. And I want mainstream roles, not that of the heroine’s friend.” Dua has a gripe about the way the industry only casts conventionally beautiful actors as protagonists. “I’d be happy to lose weight if the role demands it, but why can’t we accept a slightly chubby actor in the lead as long as they’re good performers? I’m comfortable in my own skin. I am OK with people not jerking off to me.”

In the genes

Dua is the daughter of veteran television journalist Vinod Dua. Growing up, she was conscious of the respect her father’s work commanded. He might be dignified and serious on television, but in her Dubsmash videos, the Padma Shri awardee reveals what a sport he can be. “Growing up, my biggest influence, comedy-wise, was my father. He’s funny and irreverent. Sometimes we just start talking like two typical auntyjis who gossip. He also likes Make up Didi and gives me suggestions. Then I explain that Snapchat needs to release such a filter for me to be able to implement his idea,” she chuckles. “He doesn’t even call himself a journalist. He says, ‘I’m a communicator’. I say, ‘You’re a hipster’.”

Dua did briefly consider taking up journalism, but her interest always veered towards being on stage. “In school, I loved being a part of debates, public speaking, and acting.” She was popular for imitating teachers. She was also a day-dreamer. “In kindergarten, my teacher nicknamed me Sotu Ram (sleepyhead), and my first grade teacher called me ‘Gawachi Ga’, which is Punjabi for lost cow. My head was always somewhere else.”

For now, Dua is working on some “non-comedy stuff” that she can’t talk about just yet. She says she’s someone who never gives up when she wants something. “And I want this pretty bad.”