Name to know: Monali Thakur

What 28-year-old Monali Thakur wants more than anything right now is to appear exactly half her age. The playback singer makes her acting debut as a teenager who’s trafficked into the sex trade, in Nagesh Kukunoor’s wrenching new film Lakshmi this month.

Physically, she has it made: her pert, doll-like features and tiny frame help her cause. Etching the rest of the character, though, was a challenge: Lakshmi is abducted, forced into prostitution, disowned by her parents and must survive extreme violence. Thakur describes the process as “intense” and credits Kukunoor with helping her get it right: “He’d share simple insights like how teenagers often appear uncomfortable with their hands, how they constantly fidget.”

Already, Thakur’s second film is ready and waiting in the wings. In the summer of 2014, she’ll be seen in Abbas Tyrewala’s rom-com, Mango. (Incidentally, it was at a party at Tyrewala’s where Kukunoor first spotted her.) “It’s about five people whose lives are somehow connected,” she says, divulging only that hers is the title role. But she hasn’t abandoned her singing career. (Catch her breathy vocals in films like Lootera and Krrish 3.) She’s most excited about singing for her own parts now. “I’m really not forcing my directors to let me do this,” she promises, and we believe her. She’s just that good.

Woollen appliqué dress, Pankaj & Nidhi. Pearl earrings, Curio Cottage. Leather and metal bracelets, Accessorize

Photograph: Raj Shetye; Styling: Daniel Franklin; Make-up and Hair: Sunita Brace



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