Not many could have predicted the trajectory of Meghna Malik’s life correctly, as she was born on 3 October 1971 in an apologetically urbanizing place, the heartland of Haryana called Sonepat. The long and lonely journey of this eldest child of Dr. Kamlesh Malik and Dr. Raghuvir Singh Malik, from Sonepat to the tinsel town of Mumbai, would have appeared improbable even to the most imaginative mind because she never contoured her life for the impersonal and professional world of entertainment. On a comprehensive review of her life and professional work one tends to be appreciative, not because she has performed well but because she has performed at all.
Socio cultural Background
It would appear unusual for many that Meghna Malik spent 23 years of her early formative life (till her M.A.) around places which from a cultural perspective were considered hardly fertile for creative instincts of an artiste. The general opinion around unanimously viewed performing arts like acting, dancing etc as a form of human aberration only and the socio-cultural community did not permit young girls taking to performing arts as their career. It’s a remarkable characteristic of her artistic self that she never allowed the seed of creativity pulsating in her to die down and yet never threatened the prevalent value-system around her by blatantly challenging it.
Meghna Malik was born to Dr. Kamlesh Malik (born 3 August, 1945) and Dr. Raghuvir Singh Malik (born 1 December, 1942). As the place where this creative child grew up did not offer many opportunities for interaction with the outer world, the parents were the main source of socialization for her. Both the parents were academicians in classical sense; both taught passionately at college level in Sonepat; both were very popular teachers and both shaped the personality and consciousness of their daughter in their own ways. In fact, both the parents allowed the child freedom and individuality to carry herself with dignity in life. The father took charge to groom the visible side of Meghna’s personality and the mother nurtured her inner self. Dr. R.S. Malik, the father, is a strict disciplinarian and has imparted to his daughter the virtues of orderliness, method and meticulousness. As he served as President and Secretary of Lions Club Sonepat (and in the latter capacity set world record in club extension during 1975-76), his daughter got opportunities to perform on stage during various events and functions of the club. Dr. Malik shares a special intimacy with his daughter which expresses itself less through words and more through acts of tangible support and guidance. Meghna Malik took many personal lessons on life from her mother, who is a Hindi and Sanskrit scholar. Meghna’s warmth, candour and openness in dealing with people around and her credulous nature as she interacts even with strangers, can be directly attributed to the mother’s personality. As the mother was herself a creative poet writer and recipient of many literary awards, she noticed the creative abilities of her daughter early in the child’s life and ensured that the flowering of her talent remains unimpeded. In spite of the fact that Meghna now stays physically away from her parents,they are and have always been the anchor for her existence itself. Even now she tries to find time to travel with them to foreign lands almost every year. During these travels, she relishes the role reversal as and when she rescues them from odd situations. Meghna Malik was lucky to have had the company of her younger sister Mimansa Malik (born 7 August 1974) during her childhood and early youth. Mimansa did Masters degree in mass communication and decided to join ZEE news in 1998. A recipient of many awards, she is the most noticeable and vivacious presence as anchor, practically the face of the news channel currently. She is based at Delhi and holds the position of Senior Anchor and Producer with Zee news. Almost three years younger to Meghna, Mimansa gave her sister excellent company during some of the stage performances in school as an artiste. Mimansa has also been a source of support and motivation for her elder sister.
It would appear unbelievable to many who see Meghna delivering thunderous dialogues now that during her early childhood her mother seriously believed that she was pathologically an introvert. But this non-ordinary child had the uncanny knack of creating small spaces for her creative and performing self. She made her first appearance on stage at an unbelievable age of four, holding a calendar picture of Subhash Chander Bose during the cultural function of Holy Child School Sonepat, an institution run by Christian missionaries, which she joined for schooling and from where she passed her matriculation examination in 1987. The school provided her with some minimum breathing space for creativity in the form of performances made by her during various school events. As a child, she eagerly used to look for occasions to be on the stage at the events of Lions Club, Sonepat and enthusiastically enjoyed her stay there. As a child she found herself inexplicably attracted toward the world of acting and she would remain glued to the black and white television of those days during late hours when all family members were asleep. She used to spend long hours watching and enjoying television programmes ranging from Satyajit Ray’s cinema to world cinema in incomprehensible languages. It is also a strange co-incidence that she got an opportunity to appear as a child actor in a dance sequence in one of the early Haryanvi films at an unbelievable age of fourteen only.
Schooling at Rai and the England Trip
Another opportunity which Meghna Malik received to hone her abilities as an actor without getting detected by others around (as acting for girls was seen as a deviant behavior) was when she was sent to a boarding school, Motilal Nehru School of Sports, Rai (Sonepat), from 1987-89 for her secondary schooling. The new school interested her less for the purpose of academics but more for providing her with sufficient creative freedom. It is a strange coincidence that during her stay at Rai, an opportunity came when the school had to send a group of students to travel to England with a play which was to be staged at various schools of Cambridge, Oxford, Marlborough and Milton Keynes. The play was to be followed by a cultural cum exchange programme to England. Meghna competed well and found a place not only in the play but also in the cultural exchange programme. Incidentally, her father had also planned a visit abroad with his friends during the same time. As the family could have meted the expenses of only one trip, the father sacrificed his own to allow his daughter embark on a journey which gave her a real-time opportunity to interact with the live world of theatre and a new socio-cultural life. In England, Meghna Malik watched live performances at National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company with a sense of inquisitiveness and wonder. The England tour exposed her to many unseen facets of creativity and made her dreams as an actor soar to new heights. During her stay at Rai School, she was declared as the Best Child artiste for her performance in the All India Cultural Programme held at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi.
However, this newly found creative freedom didn’t last for long and much to her displeasure, she had to once again come back to Sonepat for her graduation studies 1990-92. In the process, she not only lost the invaluable company of interesting friends at Rai but, more importantly, also the hard earned creative space. During graduation, Youth Festivals were the most eagerly awaited events in her academic calendar as these were the only occasions to show her talent as a performer. During 1990-92, she won various prizes in different events at Youth Festivals and also stood first in her graduation studies. This was the most dormant and challenging period for this artiste without friends and company, during which she practically rehearsed her emotions to her own self and in absolute privacy. She was working as a director, an actor and the audience for herself!
Time was running out quickly for her professional career, and she suffered back to back lean phases of creativity when she found herself pursing M.A. in English Literature (1992-94) at Kurukshetra University. At a time when most of the professional girls of her age were already well settled in entertainment and performing industry, she was moving off the track with respect to real goal as an actor. At Kurukshetra also, she tried to make the most of whichever artistic opportunities she came across. The department of Youth and Cultural Affairs was her favorite destination, not the department of English Literature. During this period, she won the best actress award in the All India Competition held at Pathankot, which kept her hope of joining the world of acting alive. At Kurukshetra, she also tried to seek creative satisfaction by participating in a radio-drama at the All India Radio.
Entry into and stay at NSD
It was during the final year of her master’s course that she smelt the possibility of realizing her dream of receiving professional training in theatre by joining the premier drama school of the country –National School of Drama (NSD). But getting entry into NSD was practically an improbability as students from throughout the country dedicatedly prepare themselves for the entrance test. But she had no real idea of the nature and format of the test or its method of the evaluation. But see her bravado that she, in her heart of hearts, genuinely felt confident of getting entry into NSD! To everybody’s surprise, the teachers at NSD found her like a soft clay ,ready to take any shape. What clinched for her this crucial battle was her tremendous desire to learn, her willingness to be baptized in the finer aspects of acting. The joy which Meghna received on her entry into NSD defies verbal expression.The option of this young girl’s entry into NSD didn’t find favour with many. Family members, friends, relatives and well wishers felt apprehensive that she might be opting for a weird and uncertain career leaving behind a secure existence in the field of academics. But the girl moved ahead against all resistance almost with a smug smile to embrace the NSD campus whole heartedly. Meghna Malik’s three year stay (1995-97) at NSD provided her with the most enriching and self-actualizing experience so far. She was under the sway of strong feelings of child-like wonder and awe as she was exposed to many creative fields hitherto unknown to her, like carpentry, painting, costumes, make-up, lighting, trends of world theatre and various forms of traditional dance. The unconventional style of the teaching and the informal atmosphere of classes and workshops gave her a shock of its own kind. The whirlpool of various creative streams agitating her as an actor could be streamlined in some pattern now at NSD. She lived almost a surrealistic existence, dreams and reality mixing in mysterious ways. She was so thoroughly immersed in the school activities that she became almost cut-off from the happenings of the world around. And she was learning the finer aspects of acting and aesthetics at a frenetic pace as if making up for the time lost during her early life. In fact, the actor in her was born only now.
Journey to Bombay
Meghna Malik’s stay and training at NSD prepared her to live life as a professional artiste more hazardously than ever. And in 2000, she took a sudden decision to bid good bye to Delhi and her work there, that of the repertory company of NSD (1997-99), and embarked on a journey to Bombay as a professional actor at an advanced age of twenty nine years! Quite like a knee-jerk reaction, one fine afternoon she resolutely decided that her journey to Bombay must begin that very day. And as this passionate actor threw her suitcase in the moving train, she started her chase for survival in the new cauldron of dreams called Bombay. In sharp contrast to the utter discomfort of travelling in that general compartment sitting on her grey suitcase, she was being nursed by the hope of an ensuing life of a professional actor in Bombay. She enjoyed every single moment of her cruise to Bombay and even the stench from the adjacent toilet, could never overpower the fragrance of the prospects of a bright future in the Mayanagari. Look at the audacity of this passionate actor who could take a plunge in the ruthless city knowing fully well that she had nobody to fall back on in Bombay except one caring and helping couple from NSD. As she deboarded the train in Bombay in complete exhaustion, after balancing herself on her suitcase for the whole night, she took a vow to never get tired in her professional life.
Meghna in the Entertainment Industry
However, Meghna Malik once again challenged the odds and turned crisis into an opportunity with the help of her grit, determination and extreme hard work. Her spirited performance spread across numerous tele-serials and films goes on to prove that she defied improbabilities once more. Her splendid performance across media platforms particularly her scintillating performance in the tele-serial Laado illustrates how she, like some odd cracker, exploded late but exploded splendidly well. For any sensitive observer, Meghna Malik’s life as an actor would conveniently fall into two categories – struggleful and more struggleful. She didn’t have any advantage of a god-father, god-mother, influential lobby or prior family background in the intensely competitive field. Even nature didn’t bestow on her the looks and beauty which makes one readily sellable in the entertainment industry. Anybody with lesser resolution and perseverance or a less intense creative flame would have extinguished long back. But her total belief in herself and the appreciation from the audience, the real wages, kept her going from one period of struggle to the other. Notwithstanding the fact that Meghna Malik has been fighting a lonely battle in Mumbai for last 15 years, surprisingly, she refuses to get sentimental, emotional or stoic about it. In fact, she only focuses on the work at hand. And as she loves the work immensely, she is also able to negotiate the challenges successfully.
The Journey Ahead
Meghna Malik’s journey to Mumbai, which started in 2000, while she was sitting on a grey suitcase in an unreserved coach with all pervasive toilet stench around, still continues. The form of the journey has undergone slight change but the struggle contained in it has only intensified with time. The grey suitcase has been replaced by a blue BMW car and now it is a daily circular journey from Mumbai to Mumbai. She still finds the struggles involved in the journey worth its joys; the discomfiture can’t make her bow down or feel embittered. She only wishes to experience every single moment of her work in all its richness, eagerly waiting to experience the hitherto unexperienced.