By Muhammad Asad Ullah
Much has changed about Sonam Kapoor except her plainspeak. She’s still as bold as beautiful as she was when she made her Bollywood acting debut with Saawariya in 2007. Sonam has completed a decade-long journey in the Hindi film industry. The daughter of veteran actor-producer Anil Kapoor ventured into the world of filmmaking in 2005 as an assistant director for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie Black (2005), where Bhansali spotted her and offered Sonam a role as an actress for his next production Saawariya and the rest is history.
Being a star-kid, Sonam Kapoor has definitely broken the stereotypes attached to the tag and created a special place for herself in Bollywood. She’s a big movie star now. With Sanju (2018), Padman (2018) and Neerja (2016) kissing the box-office mark, she’s grabbing the eyeballs.
Yet, there were several false starts after Saawariya. While she doesn’t admit it, she had indeed become the whipping girl for her movie turns.
Her image as a fashionista loomed larger than her image as an actor. But anyone who’s a Sonam Kapoor fan, can see it in her eyes that there’s an all-together different girl behind the elaborate Ralph & Russo gowns and her Burberry stilettos. You know her as a fashionista, a title in which she absolutely takes pride, but then you really don’t know who she is.
Once the lights are off, the paparazzies are moved aside and she enters her personal space, Sonam Kapoor has another, reserved side. Time and again, it peeps through her not so conventional roles in the films that are not commercial but actually contribute significantly, to the story of the film. Be it Neerja, Padman, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) or Raanjhanaa (2013) — she has gone grounded in the choices she makes.
Known to be unabashedly honest, dressed in a blush pink Anaamika Khana saari and an elaborate maatha patti, Sonam spoke to Community in an exclusive interview whilst visiting Qatar for Fashion Trust Arabia as a Jury Judge Member and revealed why and how A-list heroes supporting a woman-centric production is the need of the hour and her biggest teacher — her illustrious father.
Sonam tied the knot last year with her long-term beau Anand Ahuja. Based in Delhi, Anand Ahuja is the founder of Bhane, a well-known clothing brand. He also started India›s first multi-brand sneaker boutique, VegNonVeg.
So how has Sonam’s life changed post-marriage?
“Not that much, besides the fact that I live in and out of three places: Delhi, Mumbai and London. I’m working just as much and doing just as much as I used to.”
It is generally believed that marriage affects the career of Bollywood actresses. Where men of all ages can be heroes, the moment an actress gets married, it’s almost a dead end for her career. But Sonam believes otherwise.
“I think this is something you could’ve said probably 15 or maybe 30 years ago. It is something media puts it out there more than what the audience thinks because whether its Dimple Kapadia, Nutan, Nargis, Madhuri, Waheeda Rahman and so many other actresses, they all continued working (after marriage). So, it’s a little redundant to talk about it now.”
Neerja, a biopic about a 22-year-old head purser who gave her life trying to save 359 passengers onboard the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986, did for Sonam Kapoor what Queen did for Kangana Ranaut. While watching Neerja, we all had trouble remembering that the girl onscreen is Sonam. It was difficult to trace the exact point when Anil Kapoor’s daughter becomes Neerja Bhanot. She worked at sounding like the Bombay-bred Neerja, hair and make-up artists supplied the bob and look with 80s wigs. But Neerja was more than that. Sonam actually went on to meet the people who knew Neerja in real life, including her friends, family and colleagues, to understand what made this seemingly ordinary girl do something deserving of three bravery awards from three countries posthumously. Sonam went on to great lengths to prepare for the biopic. What excites her as an actor, she says, “Just to do better no matter what happens and how much acclaim you get.”
To put it out there, the new cinematic awakening has been a relatively recent development, triggered by periodic bouts of deep professional introspection. In such a time lies a huge responsibility on an actor’s shoulders for the kind of scripts they choose.
“Since the beginning of my career, I’ve been trying to make choices that are responsible — that are not racist, homophobic or sexist, that our industry tends to be,” Sonam adds, “If you’re educated and aware, it’s important to make those choices. It’s a responsible thing to do.”
Since Raanjhanaa, Sonam’s films have been doing well on box-office and in cinemas. Is there any special formula to follow? “It has almost been a decade since I did Raanjhanaa. All my films have done well and have been critically acclaimed since then. I think people like to get entertained by my films and also like to see what I do. It’s only because there’s honesty to what I’m trying to say through my work and that’s important,” says Sonam.
Pakistani actor Fawad Khan may not be starring in Bollywood movies anymore because of the ban but his co-stars still look up to him with respect and love. He made his Bollywood debut in Khoobsurat (2014) opposite Sonam Kapoor and charmed everyone with his acting ability. Talking about stint with Fawad Khan in Khoobsurat, Sonam said, “Art has no boundaries. I think Fawad was a consummate professional. We had a great chemistry and I look forward to working with him again.”
When asked to recall a moment from the film sets that she will cherish forever, Sonam proferred: “It was working with my sister on Veere Di Wedding (2018). It was the most successful film opening by the female leads ever and also the biggest film ever, led and produced by a female,” added Sonam, “So I think it’s a huge step towards the movement of female empowerment in India. It is something that will always remain close to my heart, because I did it with my sister.”
Since Sonam was in Doha to judge the emerging designers from Mena for Fashion Trust Arabia, she talked about the plagiarism debate that’s happening in the fashion industry right now. “I think everybody is inspired by everybody,” she says.
On talking about the potential of FTA contestants, Sonam said, “There’s potential everywhere in the world. It is just encouragement that is needed.”
With social media revolution, there are some drastic beauty standards that have been set up which are difficult for common people to follow. Is it fair? Certainly not. And Sonam is all in with us about it. Few years ago, Sonam wrote an open letter ‘I didn’t wake up like this’ as a response to Shobhaa De, Indian columnist who wrote a blog post saying that Sonam Kapoor ‘just doesn’t cut it in the appeal stakes’, and others who take over body-shaming and judge people for their appearance — and not in a good way. “It’s still relative. I have written so many articles about it. So, you can refer to that,” Sonam said by way of brevity.
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