When Mugdha Godse arrived in Bollywood with Fashion in 2008, little did she know the impact the film would have on her career. Even today, reel pundits recall her performance in Fashion when they talk about her. Mugdha was an A-lister in the modelling circuit before she broke into Bollywood. She cut her teeth in modelling in the early 2000s, when college kids of the time had posters of home-grown supermodels like Sheetal Mallar, Madhu Sapre, Noyonika Chatterjee, Jesse Randhawa and Mehr Jessia adorning their bedroom walls. Mugdha joined the league pretty quickly. “The year 2000 was exciting for fashion in India. It was during that time the first India Fashion Week took place; it was the first time a group of designers came together and gave the business of fashion a professional edge and heft,” says Namrata Zakaria, editor and columnist at Mumbai Mirror. “It also marked the rise of supermodels who walked beautifully, had the right attitude and brought so much oomph and personality to the floor.”
Though modelling was Mugdha’s ticket to Bollywood, it had the inherent danger of being typecast. “There were people fretting over the fact that acting might not come easy since I was a model,” says Mugdha. “This was true in the case of any newcomer for that matter. If you were too glamorous, you were stereotyped easily. She is glamorous, she has got a model-face, so she is a vamp.” As the story goes, she broke the glass ceiling.
Mugdha is largely her own person who guards her privacy with both hands and fumes when someone dares to trespass. She muses over small pleasures and is enchanted by the indiscriminate use of the red heart emoticon. This, in itself, is not the recipe that makes Mugdha Godse a name with an instant recall value 12 years after she made her acting debut. The 36-year-old, with her unbeatable passion for learning, a killer instinct for survival and an irrepressible urge to stay relevant, charted out success on her own terms. Her role in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion—a straight-faced model who gets married to a prolific gay designer (Samir Soni)—not only wowed the industry but also affirmed her acting skills. She was nominated for the Filmfare Awards for Best Female Debut and won the Apsara Award for Best Female Debutante.
In 2009, she took a plunge into the comedy genre with All the Best: The Fun Begins—a Rohit Shetty film that came straight out of a college canteen. Her character, Vidya, was notable, but as Jaideep Pandey, who has been reporting on Bollywood, says, getting into the comedy genre may not have been her best decision. Serious roles, he says, suited her better, as her work in Heroine testifies. “The scripts offered to Godse after her debut didn’t do justice to her acting talent,” says Pandey.
From a cameo in Kareena Kapoor-led Heroine, which was also one of Bhandarkar’s hits, to her role in Jail, she has done some non-meaty yet memorable roles. But there have been several others, including Bezubaan Ishq, Sharma Ji Ki Lag Gayi, Gali Gali Chor Hai, which failed to make an impact or were simply scripts with poor box-office possibilities.
“Mugdha is a very fine and a balanced individual, who has made a name for herself in an atmosphere of cut-throat competition. The problem is that she never got to play a lead. Only select films did well. But on her part, she performed to the best of her abilities. The kind of scripts that come to you are beyond your control,” says an industry source who wishes to be anonymous.
However, box office successes alone are not always a yardstick for measuring one’s prowess and talent. Setbacks did not kill the go-getter spirit in Godse. In 2015, she made her Kollywood debut in the Jayam Ravi starrer, Thani Oruvan. The film, reviewed as ‘a deliciously twisted, pulpy action drama,’ eventually went on to become one of the biggest blockbusters of that year. But the credit for the film’s success was not properly apportioned. Impervious to the injustice, Mugdha believes there is more to life than box-office success. “Nothing went wrong after Fashion. My last hit movie was Jail. The projects after that did not really work out. But I did not feel low. I was confused though, and wondered why it was happening. However, I refused to succumb to that darkness. Looking back, I thought to myself, here is this girl from a middle-class family who has come so far,” she says.
She has had a taste of everything from ramp shows, both national and international ones, to big banner films. “People still want to talk to me after 12 years of my hit film. I am grateful for that and I don’t think I deserve to have a low moment. The sun will rise again tomorrow,” she says with a spark in her voice. Mugdha will soon be seen in a special appearance in Sharman Joshi-starrer Fauji Calling, based on a family who lost a soldier. She will also be playing a grey shade in a crime thriller and her first web series, A Crime To Remember, with MX Player.
For now, Mugdha, like the others in the glitterati world, is on a cooking spree. Under lockdown, she learnt how to make chole bhature. For a virtuous eater who had barely ever stepped into the kitchen for most of her life, it was a moment of self-revelation. Locked at home with her Punjabi boyfriend Rahul Dev, who is a hopeless foodie at heart, Mugdha has been under a culinary spell for the past couple of months. Their love story began seven years ago when they met at a common friend’s wedding. They have been inseparable ever since. Rahul, who is 14 years older to her, also enjoyed unparalleled glamour and popularity. Not only do they have an industry in common between them, they also share a mutual love for meditation and quiet, and look up to the same spiritual master for soul healing. “After Rahul’s wife passed away in 2009, he was in a dark space as a single parent. We are our ying and yang,” she says. The couple also have complementing opposites between them. “While I’m a morning person, he is a night owl. So, when I am up, all utensils are already done,” she says. Apart from the lockdown cooking spree, she has been also catching up on housekeeping and claims to have an incorrigible OCD to keep all things sparkly clean.
With several interesting projects in her kitty, Godse is looking forward to an interesting time in her career.
ONE ON ONE
What is your view on pedigree and nepotism?
It is one’s attitude that matters.
How did you bag the role in Fashion?
I was a supermodel at the time. A few others and I were in all the runways and fashion shows.
Why do you think some of your projects did not work?
There were so many that worked. The films were good and I still receive calls of appreciation from fans across the world.
What do you think about hand-holding newcomers in the industry?
I do not advise people, unless asked.
A time when you were surprised by your own role in a movie.
It has to be Fashion. I was quite surprised at the maturity with which I emoted for the role in the film.
A particular role you look forward to.
In the new cinema, protagonists are mostly grey with multiple layers to the character. I’ll jump on any new story that comes my way.
How has fashion and modelling changed over the years?
It isn’t as easy as it looks. Also, now every model does not want to be an actor.
What do you think is the reason why supermodels are not known by their names like in the bygone days?
Modelling has changed so much. It is crowded with a lot more people entering and everybody has six packs and chiselled looks. Also, the metrosexual look that is peculiar to the present times is a different look/trend altogether.
The three things you would grab and run if your house is on fire.
My master’s photo, wallet and passport.
Your prized possession.
Your biggest strength.
My master’s blessings.
Almond milk with cacao.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself as an actor?
WHAT’S ON HER PLATE
Mostly vegetarian, she eats eggs and prefers to stick to two meals a day—breakfast and early dinner. In between, she indulges in a smoothie or a fruit. Eggs are mostly consumed at the time of breakfast. She claims to be off sugar.
Mugdha practises Ashtanga yoga every morning. During evenings, she prefers to walk, jog and swim. She also does functional training.