It seems like yesterday when this young girl from Bhagalpur in Bihar entered our homes, with the dream of becoming a Block Development Officer. Over the next one year, Krishna Raj was a part of most families in India, both urban as well as rural. They smiled with her achievements and gloom descended when she was sad. That Afsar Bitiya could connect across generations of television viewers was proof of the effortless acting prowess this Nagpur-girl
MITAALI NAG possesses.
Almost a decade later, Mitaali’s life has changed – she is married and has a three-year-old son, Rudranshh. On the professional front, she has her YouTube channel – Badmaash Banno, even as she waits for the right kind of roles to land in her kitty. After Afsar Bitiya, she was part of Welcome – Baazi Mehmaan Nawaz Ki, Draupadi, Fear Files and Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon Season 3.
“I have never tried hard for a role as I know that I am not a ‘fair and a tall’ girl – only very limited characters will come my way. What’s more, I have two scars on my forehead which further reduce the chances,” says Mitaali, sarcasm writ large in her tone.
“Fair and tall? Still? Haven’t dusky heroines like Smita Patil, Bipasha Basu, Konkana Sen, Nandita Das and Kajol achieved success at box office?” I ask, taken aback.
“These are exceptions. When these actresses were active, there were a majority of others who were fairer and taller than them. There is only a 10 per cent chance of duskier actresses making it to a movie as the lead,” says Mitaali.
Times have not changed. “Even today if one gets an audition mail or requirement for a role, be it for television, web series, advertisements or movies, it is clearly mentioned – Wanted a fair and cute looking girl. Or in case of male leads – fair and cute looking boys,” shares Mitaali, quickly suggesting that auditions should be colour blind. “It is not necessary to show poorer character as dark-skinned. There should be some standard procedure in all the streams,” she adds.
Back in 2006, Mitaali had moved to the Financial Capital of India from the Orange City of Nagpur with the aim of becoming a singer. “It had to convince my parents for the same. I even took up a job with a BPO as soon as I got there. I didn’t want to be dependent on them. I had no Godfather so didn’t know how much would it take to get a break,” she shares.
While working with the BPO, Mitaali did some reality shows. “But juggling between these took a toll so one fine day, I quit. Then, I started working with Cinema Vision India which produced the show, Surbhi where I got a lot of exposure to things I wanted to know,” she says. A few more reality shows and Mitaali started giving auditions for TV shows and ads. At the time when she was doing these reality shows, Mitaali had joined IPTA Mumbai and later Big Bang Theatre to hone her acting skills.
Luck smiled on her in 2011 when a friend whose short film she had done called to ask if she was interested in a role for a serial. “He knew the casting director and had shown him the short film as well as my blackberry phone messenger DP. The director liked it. But I couldn’t appear for auditions since at that time I was on way to Nagpur. On my friend’s suggestion, I videotaped my audition and sent it. Back in Mumbai after 10 days, I did a couple of mock shoots and then signed Afsar Bitiya as the lead,” shares Mitaali who also participated in X Factor India on Sony TV with an all-girl band, Three Musketranis.
Mitaali strongly feels Afsar Bitiya was a dream break. “It was a pathbreaking role, different from others being aired across channels in those days. People remember me as Krishna Raj even today,” she says. During this period, she was offered the role in Manjhi: The Mountain Man, the one which later went to Radhika Apte. “I had a meeting with the producer Deepa Sahiji and director Ketan Mehtaji as they were keen on casting me but when one is playing the lead on television, getting leaves at a stretch is impossible so I couldn’t accept the offer,” shares Mitaali.
“I did a play while I was pregnant as my friend actress Seema Azmi was directing it. I feel women are blessed so they can do what they want to. I did Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon when my son, Rudranshh was six months old. He was always there with me on the shoots,” adds Mitaali.
What about her YouTube channel, Badmaash Banno? “It is the place where I am trying to put out my songs. Till now, there are four of which one is the cover. I am also v-logging in it,” says Mitaali, adding she wants to be cast in roles where the audiences remember her for acting skills and not say, “Arre, isne bhi yeh sab kar liya!!”