This article is from Open Magazine.
By Priyanka Pereira
"I always like to have all firsts to my credit," says actor Sonam Kapoor when asked about playing a con girl in the film Dolly Ki Doli. For someone who is known for speaking her mind out at all times, and often inappropriately, a statement like that isn't novel to the Kapoor girl.
When we meet at the Sun-n-Sand Hotel in Mumbai's Juhu suburb, she is dressed in a short tube dress from Geisha Designs. Her hair is gelled and combed back. Chunky earrings and a bright red lipstick complete her look for the day. She is quick to credit it to her younger sister Rhea Kapoor.
Sonam, we all know, loves clothes. She has been on the cover of all major fashion and lifestyle magazines in India ever since she made her cinema debut. Strict workout regimes and disciplinary diets are an integral part of her life. As a teenager, she was overweight and had to work pretty hard on herself to achieve her desired body weight. Stylists and designers who have worked with her vouch for the fact that Sonam is technically sound when it comes to fashion, unlike most other actors, who rely rather heavily on stylists. She is always asking questions about cuts, silhouettes and drapes. Sonam says her mother has a lot to do with her sense of style, and it was her exposure to kaarigars at her mother's workshop that led to her interest in fashion. Today, she is the leading fashionista of the Hindi film industry--her style edgy, quirky and highly original.
No conversation with Sonam Kapoor is complete without her discussing her fashion preferences. Our conversation naturally begins with her talking about the dress she is wearing, as she describes her look to the minutest detail. While most actors want to get done with an interview, Sonam likes to observe her interviewer, to the extent that you will often find her complimenting your hair, footwear or even a bag you are carrying. This time, it is the red lipstick I wear that she is quick to spot and compliment. In the same breath she switches gears and adds, "I hope it's L'Oréal. They have the best red shades." It is the brand she endorses and claims to use regularly.
Sonam Kapoor with her father Anil Kapoor (photo: Ranjit Kumar/Times Content)
Over the last few weeks, she has been busy with the promotions of Dolly Ki Doli, a film which is mostly being marketed as a Sonam Kapoor starrer. Rajkummar Rao is her co-star in it. The film falls into the women-centric genre that Hindi cinema has lately been having an affair with. She plays a bride robber in the movie, who gets men to fall for her, then cons them and leaves them high and dry. The film's producer Arbaaz Khan is full of praise for his leading lady. "Sonam has a lot of spunk and character--which was required of Dolly. Many actors on many occasions are afraid to drop their guard and take on something which is out of their comfort zone. Sonam is always up for a challenge. This is perhaps a trait she has borrowed from her father," says the producer.
Sonam Kapoor with Fawad Khan in Khoobsurat
A light-hearted, fun film, Dolly Ki Doli has received mixed reviews, but the genre is completely in her comfort zone of light romantic comedies. More and more, Sonam has been trying to corner the chick flick space in Bollywood. Playing the impetuous, young, attractive and bumbling heroine is not a far stretch from her own personality. Her first production with father Anil Kapoor and sister Rhea was Aisha (2010), a remake of Jane Austen's Emma. Last year, the family produced Khoobsurat, a remake of the 1980 Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, which introduced Pakistani heartthrob Fawad Khan. The two will reportedly appear in another romcom family production, a remake of popular writer Anuja Chauhan's novel Battle for Bittora.
Her offscreen appearances have tended to overshadow her work as an actor. She is a favourite on chat shows, where she has always managed to make noise, although unwittingly so. In the last two seasons of Koffee With Karan , the two most entertaining episodes have had one common factor: Sonam Kapoor. On her first appearance on the show, where she was accompanied by her industry colleague Deepika Padukone, she left the host in a tizzy when she claimed that the entire industry needed a stylist and then went on to say that Ranbir Kapoor lacked sex appeal. Ranbir's father, actor Rishi Kapoor, had then reacted strongly to her comments, for which she retaliated saying, "Unfortunately, my dad doesn't fight my battles for me. He thinks I am strong enough to do them on my own."
She carried on in her element in the second season as well, where she was accompanied by her father Anil Kapoor. This time round, Sonam went on to famously comment, "If you're not good-looking, they think you are a good actor. Just because you look ordinary and you talk loud doesn't mean you're a good actor." She received brickbats for these comments from her industry colleagues, but Sonam remains unfazed, as she says, "I am what I am and I will continue to be the way I am." The internet loves her tendency for perpetual foot-in-mouth statements. A viral video with a mash up of all her reckless declarations, popularly known as Sonam Kapoor's Selfie song, was released last year.
"I have often been told that as a public personality I need to be more discreet in the way I behave," she says, "But I know no pretence. I am not diplomatic at all, just spontaneous."
In a far cry from her image, Sonam during the interview is extremely considerate and hospitable, making sure you are comfortable. She is very garrulous. She can delve into just about any topic and talk about it for several hours at ease. She will talk about Paris and books, her career and Bollywood 'frenemies', all in the same breath. "I believe one should have world knowledge," she says, her eyes almost twinkling at the thought of talking about something other than her image and her work. You ask her who her frenemies are in Bollywood, she laughs it off saying, "That was a joke. Don't make that into your headline now."
"There is no point living in a cocoon like Bollywood. At the end of your career you may have several hits and accolades, but if you don't live your life now you are sure to regret not having lived your twenties to the fullest." Sonam's favourite story is that of how she packed her bags and left for Paris, just a few days before the release of Raanjhana, an offbeat film on obsessive love, which had her put in her most mature performance yet. "It was a very demanding role. We shot it in sequence and I remember by the time I finished the shoot I had lost as much as six kilos. The role was so draining that I had to rejuvenate myself. So I packed my bags and went with my girls to Paris where I visited museums, went for walks, read books and met new people who were far removed from Bollywood." She came back and dipped right into promotions, but this time it was a different experience for her.
This abrupt trip, she claims, was also a sort of turning point in her life; it made her look at life in a way she hadn't from the time she started working. "I realised how important it is to be a normal human being and not a psychotic person who is clinging on to the 'No 1' tag in the industry," she says in her usual animated manner.
Sonam is often identified as the typical brat from Juhu--born with a silver spoon who grew up having all her demands met. This is perhaps because of her tendency to speak her mind and the fact that she doesn't appear to be trying to please anyone or toe the line. But, at the same time, there is another side to her: that of a disciplined and hardworking actor. Her sister Rhea says of her, "Her most unique trait is she will only do something she is convinced about, and this doesn't apply only to her career but also her personal space."
The older two siblings have made a place for themselves in Bollywood. Sonam's brother Harshvardhan Kapoor will soon be seen making his debut in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's next.
Sonam claims that ever since her first film, she has always taken the road less travelled. She slogged it out as an assistant director under Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Black along with Ranbir Kapoor. Bhansali went on to cast both the young actors in Saawariya, a love story which tanked at the box office. For her second film, she bagged yet another biggie, Delhi-6, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. With this also failing her career prospects were not looking very bright. But she bounced back with Punit Malhotra's romcom, I Hate Luv Storys, which secured her a footing in the industry.
For her home production Aisha, Sonam left no stone unturned to make sure that the film was talked about much before its release. She saw this as her biggest achievement until then. "Our father was shooting in LA then, and we went about asking financiers for money on our father's name. He had no idea we had done this, but we had no choice. Many people even criticised us that just because we belonged to a certain family we were wasting money making an expensive film. But all the clothes that we used in the film, even those belonged to us," she laughs, recalling Aisha's production.
The last two years have seen her take risks. In 2013, she appeared in Raanjhana and did a small but pivotal role in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB). She did BMB for a mere 11 rupees, because she wanted to be a part of the film. The chance she took paid off. "One has to do this with a lot of faith. But the fruits of that kind of labour are so much sweeter," she says.
Sonam Kapoor in Dolly Ki Doli
With Dolly Ki Doli, she is again in a film that has her as the protagonist. Asked if Bollywood imposes too much pressure to carry a film on her own shoulders, she is quick to snap, "Would you ask this [of] a male actor? Why is it that a woman is always asked this question?"
Bollywood can be sexist, and indeed women do have it difficult. But, she says, "It is the choices you make. I have never chosen to play a flowerpot in a film and I never will. I may be choosing fewer films, but each of them has me doing something in it, and not just being a showpiece in a corner."
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