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Mallika Dua: ‘I Take Solace in Comedy Because I Feel Awkward Being Myself’

India’s favorite comic on conquering the Internet and why her fear of open mics is keeping her from stand-up

Urvija Banerji May 22, 2017
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Mallika Dua

Mallika Dua photographed by Juhi Sharma for Rolling Stone India. On Mallika: Cotton top with bow detailing on both sides, denim dungarees ””both by Pepe Jeans; Shoes by Clarks.

Mallika Dua’s ascent to Snapchat and Instagram fame didn’t happen overnight, but the actual time it took wasn’t very long either. The actor and comedian saw an exponential rise in followers since she first started out on the Dubsmash app a year and a half ago. Today, she has over 210K followers on Instagram, where she also posts her Snapchat videos. Some of her funny-filter vignettes touch upon topics from the tax on pads, while others are short sketches based around her made-up caricatures like Makeup Didi and Shagz Di. Her recent sketch with All India Bakchod, “A Woman’s Besties,” was quick to go viral for its progressive take on female sexuality.

Dua studied as a theater major at U.S. liberal arts college Franklin and Marshall and later worked a copywriter in New Delhi before she quit and moved to Mumbai to pursue her acting career full-time. “It took me a while to decide [to quit my job in advertising], because I’m someone who’s very risk-averse.” Now that Dua’s made the switch, she’s looking to establish a foothold in the Bollywood scene, and even sees herself pursuing live theater someday, true to her collegiate roots. She also plans to venture into stand-up eventually, once she’s worked up the chops. “Why I take great solace in comedy and acting is that I feel very awkward being myself. I think I just need to get over my fear of open mics, and once I do that, I’ll go on stage,” says Dua, who features in the May issue of Rolling Stone India alongside fellow comics Kaneez Surka, Radhika Vaz, Mithila Palkar and Bharti Singh, among others.

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While her content is largely observational and women-centric, Dua explains it was never about proving her mettle as a ”˜woman comedian.’ “I had never planned that ”˜Oh, I’m going to build up on this particular medium and now I’ll make sure that people follow me here,’” she says, adding, “I literally just saw it as, ”˜I need to be someone that people know.’ Even when I used to perform on stage, it didn’t matter to me that I was the best girl performing on stage. I just had to be the best performer.”

The 27-year-old comic has also got to be the one person in her comic circle with the widest array of work in the shortest span of time. In the past few months, she has officially endorsed films on Instagram (Noor, starring starring Sonakshi Sinha and fellow comic Kanan Gill), walked the ramp at Lakme Fashion Week, appeared on an online kids’ art and craft show (Mad Stuff With Rob) and interviewed Bollywood A-listers for a fashion magazine, among other projects.

Last week, she made her Bollywood debut with a cameo in the Irffan-starrer Hindi Medium. Is she actively auditioning for film roles at point in her career now? “Absolutely,” she says. “I don’t go to just about any audition, because there’s no point doing that. But I generally do for the ones I’m called for. That too just specifically called for, not like a general audition call, I don’t show up for those ones.”

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Dua is certain she won’t ever play an “insignificant supporting character.”And being a comic means there’s the usual trap of typecasting that she has to avoid too. “I get typecast all the time. Every day I get at least one call for some kind of casting. I could have made a lot more money and I could have just overexposed myself had I said yes to every opportunity that came to me.”

Click here to check out the digital edition of Rolling Stone India. 

Watch Mallika Dua deliver some solid comebacks for nosy aunties and their inquiries below:

Photograph by Juhi Sharma
Art Director: Amit Naik
Fashion Director: Kushal Parmanand
Junior Stylist: Neelangana Vasudeva
Hair & Makeup by Jean-Claude Biguine India

Location Courtesy: G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mumbai

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