The ever-transmutable Monica Dogra is now in podcast mode with Reverence

Monica Dogra’s podcast on JioSaavn, Reverence, takes forward her exploration of the intersection of art, activism and spirituality.

Never content to rest, Monica Dogra straddles the worlds of music and acting with equal ease. On stage, she’s a live-wire act who can easily own the role she slips into while on screen. The 34-year-old now wants to bring the phrasing and timing she’s known for to her original JioSaavn podcast titled Reverence, which became available this week. Each episode features prominent South Asian artists and creators, like Anoushka Shankar, Karsh Kale, Masaba, A.R. Rahman and others. Here’s more from the Jungli Warrior singer.

With podcasts, do creators have to work from scratch to build up a connection?

I think podcasts are a specific medium for an audience that wants to dive deep. I’m not so sure I’d say that creators have to work from scratch…. In my case, because I have carved a space in film and music, I think it translates to this new medium I’m now exploring.  

The word ‘reverence’ is about showing respect for one’s achievements…

Well, I named the podcast Reverence specifically because I wanted to dive into the spirituality of the ones who have shifted the cultural landscape of India. Most of my guests are people who I have had personal connections to over the years, so I knew first-hand that they are dreamers and believers… and often the conversation would explore what was sacred to them… their relationship with dreaming… with the unseen.

Where does the JioSaavn podcast fit in with your music and film career? Podcasts take time to make.

For sure, podcasts are time consuming! I am very blessed to have an amazing team supporting the making of this at both Represent and JioSaavn. I think Reverence fits in with my exploration of the intersection of art, activism and spirituality…. I’ve been doing that through many different mediums for quite some time. For example, on The Dewarists, as a judge on The Stage, or even just with my spiritual musings on my Instagram… much of my music is about my seeking… songs like Naraye mastana or Jungli warrior shot a few years ago at the Kumbh.  

Podcasts are something people are hooked to while working from home. Do podcasts improve one’s efficiency? Does it offer more relief than watching a short video?

I listen to podcasts that immerse me into the mind and heart of either a person or a story. I think that they are a different kind of consumption… not the quick mindless short form influencer content that is very popular on Instagram or TikTok. Don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff sometimes! But podcasts are refined… they’re their own thing… not to be compared.  

When was the first time you came across podcasts?

I don’t have a lot of free time, but I’m on planes a lot and I’ve gained so much from listening to things like Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays and On-Being or Broken Record.

The episodes will have conversations around “love, heartbreak and reality check”. What do these mean to you today compared to when you were in your 20s?

For me, love means ‘expansion’ — the quality of growth. When I was in my 20s, love was something that was guided by passion. But quick fire means a quick burn.

What’s been the biggest reality check you have experienced? Or your worst heartbreak?

I’m in a current major reality check… but every time I experience a lull after a big high, something in me sparks… that reminds me how precious each moment is and how quickly things change, for better or worse. I’ve had quite a few heartbreaks in this lifetime. My worst heartbreak is no doubt yet to come… but it was very hard when I was estranged from my mom for 10 years. That was a very difficult time in my life.  

Early in the career, most take criticism on a positive note but with age, somewhere down the line there is a breakdown. How do you handle criticism now compared to how you did it at, say, age 20-21?

In an interview I saw of Ellen’s… she said she doesn’t believe the good that is said about her, because if she did, she’d have to believe the bad. I thought that was so beautifully expressed by her. You grow up to realise that whatever is said has nothing to do with why you do what you do, if you express from the heart and make things as truthfully as you can… you’ve created for the love of creating… that’s quite enough. I think I’ve grown up to realise that is the point of doing anything at all. Some may approve; some may disapprove but that doesn’t change the fact that I need to make the art I’m making because it’s who I am and it is my most authentic offering to the world.  

Around 2008 you were kind of worried about how things would turn out in India. You could have packed your bag and left for your US address. You didn’t. What’s making you stay in India, at least most of the time?

I didn’t leave a good life in America. I left a life of struggle. I have always wanted to make art that makes a difference in the world and live a beautiful life doing it. I think India gave me that precious gift of realising that dream.  

Instead of asking where do you see yourself in 10 years because these days that seem like a long time, where will you be in the next 10-12 months?

I’m hoping to release a lot of the material I’ve been working on for the last three years. To be honest, the last three years have been some of the hardest years of my life. I want to close this chapter by releasing my work from it and welcome in a lighter lifestyle where I am closer to nature on a more regular bases.

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