“Focused work better than hard work”- Muskaan Chowdhary
One of the best things about talking to artists is looking at mundane life through their interesting perspectives; sometimes a joyride, at other times an intense experience through their journey and on special occasions, magical stories that show you how majestic it is to be your own person, think the way only you can dare to think and spread your talent as far and wide as possible. IAD’s soulful chat with Muskaan Chowdhary is one such heartfelt moment. From anchoring to television to a future bright with many interesting projects, Muskaan’s inner actor shines through her words.
Channeling the actor in Muskaan:
I think I was born an actor. I haven’t learnt acting or anchoring. Whatever I do are things I learnt on the job. I mean, I realised pretty early in life that I wanted to be an actor, that I was not cut out for a desk job and that early realisation came as an advantage because I have so many more years of experience. So whether it’s acting or anchoring, I fit in easily.
I was born in Mumbai but raised in Hyderabad. I started learning Telugu only in college. In fact, I started with swear words (laughs). My first break was in the movie Hyderabad Blues 2 which is a Nagesh Kukunoor film. I was very excited because I was the only one selected from my whole college. At the time working with Nagesh Kurkunoor was supposed to be a big thing and it’s true my role was very small but I knew this was the path I wanted to be on.
Journeying through the acting galaxy:
My journey has been ridden with highs and lows. I did a show called Shishira Vasantham in Telugu for Doordarshan. Srikanth Productions spotted me and then I started working on the serial called Chakravakam. I was working so hard at Doordarshan when they killed my character off and didn’t tell me why they were doing it. I was very low when I got a call from Srikanth Productions asking if I had dates free for their show. That’s when I put it all together.
I was then doing so much work in the Telugu television industry that I couldn’t handle it myself but that gave me the opportunity to work with so many people. The life of an actor in Hyderabad comes with a lot of freedom even as a daily show artist. You don’t have free days and cannot plan holidays but you can call your shots. You can say you won’t work beyond at certain time and people understand. That’s how people manage shooting for two shows a day.
The fall and then the rise:
I was thinking if I am already doing daily shows why not do them in Hindi. Daily shows had really boomed and I was greedy and wanted to make a big impact. But it didn’t come easily. I got sick with chicken pox. My producers were telling me they would either have to replace me or kill the character. They were all also worried about what the pox would do to my face. But miraculously it did not touch my face at all.
Around this time, ETV Urdu was looking for an anchor. I had to go to Ramoji Film City for an audition. Meri Hindi achchi hai but Urdu is a completely different ball game. There was another girl who was very good but I knew I was gonna crack this. Anchoring and acting came spontaneously to me but they didn’t mention about Urdu at all and just expected I will get it.
This was also when I had taken up a job at a call center. It was either a job or marriage and the pressure was mounting. My mum was like you are doing both things because acting is not giving you any income at this point. So I told mum I had to do this as it is my calling and that the universe was sending me a sign. So I worked for a month in the night at the call center and in the afternoon shot for ETV Urdu and I went mad. The air-conditioned studios and the perfection that my job demanded was getting very difficult for me to the point that I wasn’t enjoying it very much but when I saw myself on camera and realised this was my bread and butter, I knew I had to give it some love otherwise it won’t work. So slowly I developed my own style.
Dil Se on ETV Urdu was the show I was doing where people would write letters and I would read the letter and respond to it. First it was letters then they transitioned to calls which became more popular. Suddenly I had a lot of fan mail. But I had to travel to Ramoji everyday. I would get up at 4 am, download sher shayari and what not and by 6.30 am my cab would come; 9 am I would need to be high energy. We would play songs for our callers.
The channel wouldn’t air latest songs and so I would just ask the caller to sing it and they would request me to say some shayari. So the entire show ran on what I was doing. I would return home at 12 pm. I was very happy with the way things were going. I had the job I liked and was getting paid. It was super. I did my creative bit by developing a style in terms of my look. I wore tube tops to traditional clothing and it all worked very well. This got me live events.
Aadaab Doctor happened. They were keen on a female anchor and most common topic of discussion was on infertility. The hospital or doctor would pay the channel and that source of income was very important to the channel. They loved me. It was freelance work for me and from once a week it became twice a week. Life was good. I was with ETV Urdu for three years. Then the actor in me wanted to do more. I was still in Hyderabad and i wanted to come to Mumbai because the style of working here is very different.
Then Srikanth Productions called me again and then I had another show with them for 9 months and if it wasn’t for that, I would have moved to Mumbai earlier. I started working on Mogali Rekulu where I play this character that was a total rebel and it was revolutionary for Telugu TV. This stuff was so well written and the best part is, my character’s name was “Meghamala” in Chakravakam and in this new show it was “Meghamala” as well. But I guess everything has its saturation point.
Working with Chiranjeevi– It was very nice working with Chiranjeevi Sir. People first thought I will be petrified but it was not like that at all. He told the director that I am a very responsive actor and he told me he thought I had potential.
Meeting Sushmita Sen– I interviewed her when I was working with N TV. This was in 2011 or 2012. They needed an anchor who knew all languages. I have always been a big fan and I would do it even without any money. Her aura Oh my God; it was magnificent. Everything around her became so large and beautiful.
One of the most precious moments being told that I was a firecracker on set for the retakes I did for Youtube Viral.
Working in Bombay:
There’s lot of work no doubt but also lot of actors here. So if you’re not choosy and ready to work hard, it’s easy to get work but for someone like me, who had already done daily shows, I wasn’t ready to slog until 3am in the morning. It was also monotonous and so I did not enjoy it. I realised this after I moved to Bombay. The show which I did with Sanjeev Kapoor is on air right now. Wonder Chef has different projects and few of the shows coming up. Other than that Playthings by Swa Anand is something I really enjoyed doing.
Trusting your instinct and focus:
I was quiet a bright kid always. While working on Aadaab Doctor I researched about thyroid and infertility and knew enough to impress the doctors. I always trusted my instincts and I think most women have instincts. I tested it out after coming to Mumbai. I realise it is not about slogging. I somehow don’t believe in that. If I push myself to go to auditions when I am feeling lazy, then the results are not a hundred percent. But when I go with a hundred percent conviction, it always works out.
For the Honda Activa ad, I had to do retakes because technical issues and I am a spontaneous actor who finds it difficult to repeat the same thing. I can’t rehearse too much either. But I was so focused I could do it 6 times the exact same way I did the first time. That is hard work but focused work better than hard work.
It’s like meditation. In that moment I am there, then am gone. This kind of work is way better than memorising your dialogue and saying it.
Penchant for solitude:
I try to meditate daily. I came into contact Nitya Shanti who is a guru, a few years ago. He is a cool guru and does not preach going to the Himalayas. I learnt from him that there is no need for hard work if you just do what pleases you. Then if you believe in yourself, the world will believe in you and things will fall into place. I am an actor and actors when they read a book, they imagine everything. So if you are an actor who has spent time acting, it imbibes that skill in you. That is learning as an actor.
You can follow Muskaan Chowdhary‘s work on: Youtube