Does Mouni Roy call the UAE home?
While not yet a local resident, the Bollywood star spent much of 2020 enjoying the country.
It’s not every day you have the opportunity to sit down with a bona fide television and movie star over a cup of something nice in Dubai (especially after essentially crowning them your celeb of 2020 in a fawning paragraph published a few days previous), but that is exactly what occurred last week at the Raw Coffee Company in Al Quoz. It was around lunchtime when Bollywood’s Mouni Roy walked into the trendy warehouse cafe. Unassumingly glamorous, dressed in a white ruffled top and black trousers, the mandatory mask did its job at first given we didn’t immediately clock it was one of our favourite actors. Perhaps this alluring person was just a regular member of the UAE glitterati? Then from beneath the face covering emanated that familiar voice: “hello, I’m Mouni.”
Pleasantries ensued over two cups of black java while first impressions formed. Here sat an entertainer who has seen and done it all on the small and big screen and yet what followed was a conversation you could have had with a friendly acquaintance. Had she read the shameless flattery we’d written? Yes. Though despite the potential cringe, there were no airs, graces nor assumptions, just fun chat.
First we had to clear up whether Roy considers herself a new Dubai-an.
“I wish!” came the reply. “Not yet, though. The last year I have spent almost eight months here. It does feel like home. My sister lives here. My childhood friend is married and lives in Abu Dhabi, so you can call it another home for me for sure.”
Just before the Indian lockdown in March as a result of the pandemic, Roy had traveled to the UAE for a week’s trip to visit her family. When it became obvious a return to Mumbai would be impossible, the performer settled into life in our land for the long term.
“I had only 10 days of packing,” Roy said about the luggage situation. “But it was an adventure for me. For three months we were on a complete lockdown in Abu Dhabi. My sister’s father-in-law is 70 and mother-in-law 69, so we didn't want to go out even for coffee runs. It was fun! It felt like a High School musical with a full house and me wearing my niece’s clothes.”
In June the breakthrough came: an offer of work to star in virus-spreading bio terror thriller London Confidential shooting in the English capital.
“After a 12-day quarantine, I shot there for a month and a half and then came back to Dubai.”
The film made its debut on a popular streaming platform, a forum Roy has welcomed, as theatres back in India remain closed for new releases.
“As an actor I just want to be a part of great stories,” she said. “I am glad people can sit in their homes and decide what they want to watch. Every genre is being made. There’s so much choice.’
Having said that, Roy revealed nothing can come close to the silver screen experience.
“The first film I saw after the #StayHome measures in Dubai was Tenet. I didn't care about the film, although it’s a lovely one, but I just kept thinking ‘oh my I’m in a movie theatre.’”
Aside from heading to the malls shopping, which Roy says is always a frenetic affair, the 35-year-old sees Dubai as a place to relax. Waking up ‘late’ at 7.30am, sitting down to a good book with a cup of coffee is a typical morning before a long meditation session to centre the thoughts.
“I’m a complete homebody. I love cooking. If my friends are willing to come over they come,” she said about rounding off most days. At a push the artist can be found at establishments including DIFC’s Mint Leaf or TresInd for dinner, but such occasions are rare.
If you have a burning interest in more social details browse Roy’s Instagram and, as with the majority of famous accounts, you’ll be confronted by stunning images and beautiful locations. The curation has attracted over 15 million followers for goodness sake! However, the countless photos’ subject says she doesn’t take posting too seriously.
“It’s more a necessity,” said Roy. “For all actors and people in the creative business it becomes an extension of your work profile. People know you through it. I find it a great way to connect with fans and friends.
“I feel you have to get on the Gram and then get out of it. It is very important not to spend too much time on social media.”
Because of the trolls?
“Initially when I joined I used to get very affected because we are all human beings and they write some nasty stuff. But then you realise these are just faceless people hiding behind their screens: ghost profiles. It is pitiful if a human being feels the need to write such hurtful comments to another person. You don't need to give it that much attention. I don’t read any of my comments unless it's a friend and it’s at the top.”
Far more enthusiastic when talking about work, as a way to close we tried to probe Roy on the long-awaited Ranbir Kapoor/ Alia Bhatt action fantasy Brahmastra coming out later this year.
“I can’t tell you anything about it!” Roy implored before relenting a tad. “I’m playing an antagonist for the first time. I am really looking forward to it. We are very grateful to live in times where we can play a villain and the heroine at the same time. It used to not happen. It was a taboo even 10 years ago, especially for women not men. Women were put in the good girl or bad girl role. Thankfully that has changed.”
Mouni’s rapid fire round
Rom-com or thriller?
Sweet or spicy?
Beach or city?
Cinema or sofa?
Club or library?
How did working in TV help you prepare for the movie world?
“For nine years I worked when I was sick, when I was hurt and when I was having bad days because if the telecast has to go tomorrow, the audience doesn’t care or doesn’t know what you’re going through the day before. It’s commitment. Once you’ve done TV a lot of the things you have are discipline, the ability to handle any problem. When I started doing films things would go wrong and the crew would look at me and say: ‘we really thought you’d act differently.’ I would say: ‘I have done TV for years, there’s nothing I haven’t seen.’ When there’s a problem look for a solution. Don't make it worse by being negative or screaming. It doesn’t help.”