Monisha Ajgaonkar on Photography, Acting & LGBTQ+

In this exclusive interview, we spoke with Mumbai’s creative powerhouse, Monisha Ajgaonkar, who is blending art, activism, and inclusivity.

Monisha Ajgaonkar on Photography, Acting & LGBTQ+

"It was heartful and painful to make"

A multifaceted artist, Monisha Ajgaonkar wears many hats with an effortless grace that leaves you in awe.

From the moment you meet her, the Mumbai native exudes an aura of warmth and vivacity, her unconventional looks adorned with tattoos telling stories of her adventures and passions.

But it’s not just her appearance that captivates; it’s her dedication to her craft and her unwavering commitment to making a difference.

As the founder of The Photo Diary, Monisha Ajgaonkar has carved a niche for herself with her spontaneous and candid style.

Her talent hasn’t gone unnoticed, earning her the Best Candid Photographer (Mumbai) in 2019 and being recognised at India’s Most Prominent Women Empowerment Awards in Delhi.

But her journey doesn’t stop behind the lens.

Driven by her boundless creativity and desire to break barriers, she has stepped into the world of acting with a boldness that mirrors her life philosophy.

Her foray into the Marathi reality TV show, Jau Bai Gaavat, showed her undeniable charisma on screen.

Yet, Monisha’s artistic endeavours extend far beyond the glitz and glamour of showbiz.

As an LGBTQ+ activist, she uses her platform to amplify voices and advocate for inclusion and representation.

Through her work in films like Mazhe Pan Lagna Hohil and Love. No Boundaries, Monisha courageously explores themes of love and identity, challenging stereotypes and celebrating diversity.

But perhaps what truly sets Monisha apart is her unwavering belief in the power of art to effect change.

Whether through workshops, ad campaigns, or documentaries, she is committed to using her talent to uplift her community.

As Monisha Ajgaonkar sets her sights on the world of OTT and web series, she does so with a clear purpose.

She wants to portray meaningful, authentic characters that resonate with audiences and pave the way for a more inclusive future.

So, DESIblitz was excited to chat with the artist about her incredible journey and the importance of her work.

What made you transition from photography to showbiz?

Monisha Ajgaonkar on Photography, Acting & LGBTQ+

Being a wedding photographer has been a dream come true, capturing moments and lifetime memories for a family.

My company, The Photo Diary, are still doing weddings – that’s our bread and butter.

I was feeling a little incomplete in life but in 2023, on my birthday, I got an email to act in a music video.

I thought why not give it a try?

During the shoot, the co-star and director were happy with my work.

I thought why not learn more so I started joining workshops a lot.

I started getting auditions and I got my first TV break within two months for a reality show on Zee Marathi.

Alongside that, I was doing ads and auditioning for other work.

In the future, I’m planning to join more workshops and classes to improve. As an actor, you have to keep learning every day.

Apart from this, I’ve been working on a documentary pitch, which has been one of my projects for the last three/four years.

I’m hoping this picks up soon!

I felt like a few queer lesbian artists are coming but you still don’t see them on screen much. I thought I will give it my all and do my best as a queer lesbian actor.

So, I guess looking back on it, I wanted to represent my community as much as possible in different arts. 

How will your roles enhance the visibility of the queer community?

I have made short films, music videos, animated videos and documentaries on my community.

In two of them, I acted and I had a very clear message in all stories.

I didn’t just talk about coming out, but also I shed a light on celebrating the journey of queers and love.

“I hope with my look and style, I get to play more queer and straight characters.”

Because I feel like if straight people can play queer characters, then why can’t queer people play straight characters.

I think it all depends on the script and the production house, as well as who you work with.

I want to work with Zoya Akhtar, Reem Sengupta, Loudmouth Ad Agency and many more where my characters fit the role.

How have your personal experiences influenced your projects?


Mazhe Pan Lagna Hohil was done during the lockdown.

I was feeling very low and wanted to make and create something.

So, I spoke to the directors, Chandrashekhar and Raunaq, to ask if my ideas could be made into something.

They suggested we talk about my journey and submit the film to a festival.

I spoke about my life and spoke to my father to hear what he thought about me and my lifestyle.

It was heartful and painful to make.

We never thought that we would win so many awards. I was in tears. 

Also, Love. No Boundaries is close to my heart.

Being a wedding photographer, no one had made any ads or concept videos that involved queer lesbians. 

The short movie was made in 2018 and was about how the bride’s mum is happy for her but can’t be there for her wedding. 

What challenges do queer lesbian artists face in the industry?

To be honest, I feel everyone is quite accepting now.

We exist, we existed before also, and now the voices are heard very loud and clear.

A lot of brands are supporting queer lesbian artists, but we need to see that in mainstream arts and media.

I am also learning. For me, it’s been seven months of understanding how the entertainment industry is.

I lost a few movie roles and have been replaced in ads last minute. But, I feel like every day, you have to have a brave face and keep pushing on.

“The legal rights by removing 377 is the one thing that has happened on a massive scale.

Social acceptance is also changing and I feel like after the lockdown, a lot of people knew more about other communities.

But, there is more work to be done and we have to keep fighting.

Through community lawyers, advocacy, our art, our education, and passing knowledge, we have to spread our messages to people.

How has your art served as a platform for empowerment?

Monisha Ajgaonkar on Photography, Acting & LGBTQ+

‘If you believe in your art, it will be recognised irrespective of gender, age and sexuality.’

For me, this quote means you always need to trust your instincts.

For example, I’m in my 30s now and had never thought I would go into acting.

I feel like everything can be understood by art. Being an artist, I want to keep myself busy doing many things, learning, living, and enjoying life.

As a queer lesbian, I never thought I could do this and it’s happening. And I’m not going to stop.

I want me and my art to inspire people. Regardless of who you are, your sexuality, age, and looks, there are a lot of things you can achieve in life.

How did your role in Dove’s ‘Shattering Beauty Stereotypes’ add to you breaking barriers?

It’s not easy being gay in India.

I had to break ties with my folks who found out about my sexuality after reading an article in a leading newspaper where I had voiced my opinion about LGBTQ rights.

Also, I lost my mother quite early on, and my father was never there for me.

I grew up in a family environment where I barely received any love, but constantly faced criticism for being overweight and unfeminine.

“School was no cakewalk either, I hardly had any friends because of the way I looked.”

Things took a turn when I went to college, I lost almost 25 kg, and while this may sound cliché, people started seeing me in a different light. 

I also decided to put my professional skills to good use and showcase the challenges of the lesbian community in India.

Being in the campaign championed diversity and I feel women could relate and identify with me.

It allowed people to see that it’s not just all stick-thin white-faced models in entertainment.

But it also emphasised how more of this inclusivity needs to be done by bigger brands. 

How do you believe photography and cinema aid storytelling?

Monisha Ajgaonkar on Photography, Acting & LGBTQ+

In photography, I shot my first series ‘Unmasked’ which was a story about a queer couple where one partner is in the closet and the other is asking her to acknowledge it openly.

My ‘Blossom’ series, which I shot with Sushant Divgikar, was about coming out and society accepting this.

This was quite important because it allowed people to see that photography is about storytelling without words, which is quite hard.

It’s all with the emotions and characters planned that tales in images can come across.

Whereas in acting, I feel you need to fully understand the character and the backstory that you’re portraying.

You have to show many emotions in dialogue, delivery, and expression. 

Both are fantastic in what they do and can convey a lot of stories and relationships.

But, I do hope a lot more queer stories are seen on bigger platforms and we aren’t just seen as background groups. 

What type of narratives do you hope to explore in the future?

Well, I’m open to OTT platforms and web series. 

I love Zoya Akhtar’s work so it’s my dream to be in one of her projects.

But, I want us (queer/lesbian) to be seen as important and meaningful characters, not just seen on screen having an affair. That stigma is still there.

“I am hoping to do a lot of acting in ads too, as well as some LGBTQ+ documentaries.”

In concluding our conversation with Monisha Ajgaonkar, it becomes abundantly clear that her journey is about driving meaningful change.

Monisha’s dedication to her craft, be it through her captivating photography, performances on screen, or her unyielding activism, is fuelled by a deep-seated belief in the power of representation.

In the end, Monisha Ajgaonkar isn’t just an artist; she’s a catalyst for change, a force for good, and an inspiration to us all. 

See more of her work here

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Monisha Ajgaonkar.

Videos courtesy of YouTube.

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