MONICA DOGRA

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POET,PERFORMER,PERSONALITy..

..she is all that and more.

You may have seen her as an actress in Bollywood, hosting shows, doing stunts or judging talent on reality TV, performing on stage, as a model in magazines, narrating poetry with a piece of her mind at TED Talks, or heard her songs on iTunes. She stands out not just because of her physical appeal or her talent but majorly because she has individualistic opinions that maybe too bold for the Indian society but she has the courage to express them anyway. This is why this female powerhouse is a #BADASSBOSS

Known as one half (she is Shaa'ir) of Shaa'ir & Func, partially Indian through genes, completely global in her approach and one hundred percent authentic. She is Monica Dogra!

In this exclusive chat with BeBadass, she reveals her potent thoughts on sexism, creativity, destiny and much more.

What is Femininity according to you?

For me femininity is creative force. It is the infinite potential found in space. It is nurturing. It is flow. It is healing.   

Do you think artists are born, or you think they can be made?

It really depends. Both are possible. The former is undeniable. The latter is reliant on a fair amount of very worldly factors.  

What’s more important, hard work or talent?

I believe in the power of hard work. I do think that skill can be cultivated.

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Don’t you think that mainstream/pop and alternative/indie are merely opinions and not really genres?

No, I don’t actually.  Of course, there is quite a lot of grey.  Music has always forayed into socio-political spaces...a person’s musical taste can inform the way they dress, speak… I think that “Alternative/Indie” has, in the past, represented a lifestyle...but, I’m not sure if that still stands true in 2018.  But, the genres remained defined.  There is no getting around the fact that Top 40 hits sound a certain way with very few people who arrive on those charts breaking the audio trends of that time.  Some people do though, for sure.  There are always exceptions.  There is always the grey.  I love grey...personally.  I have been known as pure Indie for much of my career and I have mainstreamed more than most of my peers without going into bollywood.

Do you think that indie/alternative can ever go mainstream while current pop becomes a minority?

Doubtful.

Do you believe in luck?

Not really.  I believe in Karma.

Are music and spirituality connected?

For me, yes.

What about sexuality and spirituality? Often people consider them to be opposites.

For me they are completely intertwined.  Everything is God.  The more I study and the deeper within I dive, the more I understand that divisive thinking is a construction of the worldly human.  The connected soul pursues union - to me that means the breaking down of dualistic thinking.  

You come across as an independent fearless soul. How can one be that?

I am full of fear.  It is just that I am committed to facing my fears.  I am independent because life dealt me a certain deck of cards and my circumstances were such that I needed to make my own way.  That was my Karma.  If I wanted to be someone and do something bigger than the position I was born in, I needed to develop a fond relationship with DIY - maybe that appears to people as fearless and independent.  But many people helped me along my journey.  Many people continue to be my earth angels.  I try to pay it forward.  I feel very fortunate to be where I am.

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Have you experienced Sexism? 

Oh yes.  All the time.  When I first started touring on the circuit there were very few women in most of the spaces I performed in.  Sound engineers would only talk to my male bandmates.  If my male bandmates got pissed off about something and spoke their mind, they were listened to, whereas if I expressed stress or got heated, I was written off as being an erratic “chick” having a “diva fit”.  This is sexism.  I see it all the time even today.  Sexism has many many faces - and the contributors are often unaware of the monster they are fueling.  It can be subversive...I often feel the subversive undercurrent of sexism that pervades the social and economical constructs of every corner of entertainment is actually incredibly damaging.  Women are always compared and pitted against one another… I mean, it is just endless.

 

What about ‘mansplaining’? 

It doesn’t happen to me anymore. I don’t radiate the kind of energy that allows for any kind of condescension.  I am lucky to now be around a lot of incredible and beautiful men.

What is your take on Feminism in India?

I am very excited by the progress and very aware of how much catching up we must do.  In Ani DiFranco’s words “Feminism is not about equality...it is about reprieve”

How would you describe the Indian entertainment industry?

I mean that’s a loaded question. It is incredibly diverse. I am only just now getting to know a lot of it. Recently I did Khatron Ke Khiladi, and got to know so many TV actors who are really really beautiful people.  They are so hard working and genuine.  But, the style and language of the entertainment that they contribute to is totally foreign to me!  As mine is quite foreign to them.  If there was something I’d wish for,  it would be for all of the various pockets of entertainment industries that exist in India today to begin supporting one another….to drop the judgments and secularism.  I think we would all benefit from that.  

What are some tips and tricks for an outsider who is trying to get into the industry?

Opportunities can be created...they don’t always appear.

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"I am an Introverted Extrovert"

Do you think compromise & career go hand in hand? In your industry and otherwise.

All experience has an effect.  If you desire something...you must pay for it.  Thats the way this world was designed.  

Do you think your cultural diversity and exposure plays an important role in your sound?

Yeah, I think so.  But to be fair, I just saw Oceantide DJ at Supersonic and he was playing Baltimore club.  Haven’t heard that genre in India ever.  And he is Indian - born and raised.  So, I think the world has become small - and anyone from anywhere can do anything.  

How would you describe a “Badass Female”?

Someone writing their own story with grace, kindness, and courage.

Name some Badass women who inspire you.

My sister.  My bestfriends are all badass.  Anjli Vyas creator of Saloon Vintage and Maa Cafe the organic restaurant in Goa, Shilo Shiv Suleiman (fine artist and activist), Shibani Dandekar (Actor/Host), Anu George (at Mixtape Live)....my managers… I mean, it takes courage to be a woke woman in todays world.  It is what it is.  I am privileged to walk next to so many.  I practice keeping my ears open to their stories and my eyes focused on the teachings that color every picture in my experience.

Your message to young girls who aspire to be as Badass as you?

The most radical thing you can do….is to love yourself.

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The most radical thing you can do….is to love yourself.

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Monica Dogra


IMAGE COURTESY : MID DAY, HINDUSTAN TIMES, TELEGRAPH INDIA, ROLLING STONE, MONICADOGRA, newseastwest