In this week’s edition of The Role That Changed My Life, Mona Singh reflects back on her debut TV show Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin and the overnight stardom that came with it.
When Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin began airing in September 2003, it was an immediate sensation. The show followed the life of a self-proclaimed ‘ugly duckling’ Jasmeet Walia aka Jassi as she navigated her love life and career when she lands her dream job at a fashion company. The show launched Mona Singh, a new face, and catapulted her to overnight stardom. 20 years on, Mona reflects back on the show, how it transformed her life and career, and her learnings from it.
Mona says she was fortunate to get a role that demanded so much of her so early in her career. “Such kinds of roles rarely happen to actors in their lifetime. It happened to me so early that I consider myself very lucky,” she says.
But nothing prepared her for the kind of success the show had and the cultural impact it created within months. Mona recalls, “My life changed overnight. It was instant validation, overnight stardom, everything that I had ever dreamt of, I got that from one show.” But that stardom had a sobering effect on Mona, she says. “It made me more humble, more aware of the fact that now the next project has to be even bigger or something as different as Jassi. I knew I couldn’t do the regular stuff. That was a tough call. Over the years, the industry has taught me a lot of patience. If you don’t want to repeat yourself as an actor, you have to wait it out,” the actress adds.
And of course, there was the secrecy. For the first year or so, Mona’s real face was kept hidden from fans and the media. Her identity was a secret and she wasn’t even allowed to talk about it with her friends and family. Recounting that phase, Mona says, “It wasn’t stressful at all. I was just 21 and just exploring things. So, it felt like a new, different high for me. I couldn’t show my face, there were lots of security guards from the channel protecting me, and there was a very strict NDA. Even my co-actors didn’t know what I looked like. I felt like a superhero with a secret identity.”
In a way, Mona says that starting with such a ‘hatke’ role and project defined her career choices from then on, be it on TV or in films. “I started with the most unconventional choice. The future becomes very unpredictable when you are choosing only unconventional roles. You are at a risk. There are some fears and insecurities about whether you’d be forgotten. But you have to believe in yourself. Yes, Jassi did set the standard for me but I wanted to try everything. So, I did hosting, participated in reality shows, I did theatre, films, and now I am doing OTT. I tried everything,” she says.
Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin aired on Sony TV for a little under three years, telecasting 550 episodes. By then, Mona was a legitimate TV star. She went on to star in several successful TV shows like Kya Huaa Tera Vaada and also hosted reality shows like Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. Mona made her film debut in 2009 with 3 Idiots and has since acted in a handful of films, most recently Laal Singh Chaddha. Mona was last seen in two web series – Kafas and Made in Heaven.