19/09/2016 12:49 AM IST | Updated 26/09/2016 9:14 AM IST

For The Longest Time, I Felt Guilty About My Privilege: Sonam Kapoor

The actress opens up about her career, family, Bollywood, reading, vacations and Donald Trump.

Baz Ratner / Reuters

While grappling between idlis and a portion of masala dosa, Sonam has framed nepotism as something of an obstacle rather than an easy all-access pass.

"I lost out on a lot of films because of my father. Salman Khan didn't want to do Prem Ratan Dhan Payo with me. He was like, 'Anil Kapoor has been my close friend. How can I romance his daughter?' It was really difficult and weird."

She points out that all the directors she's worked with—from Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Saawariya) to Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Dilli 6) to Ram Madhvani (Neerja)—have never been professionally associated with Anil Kapoor. She seems keen to establish that despite being Anil Kapoor's daughter, the work she has got was solely on her merit and not because of her father's goodwill or his connections.

"Farah Khan is one of my mother's best friends and yet I haven't done a Farah film, nor does she look at me as an actress she'd want to cast. It's a different, non-work relationship," she says in a self-assured tone.

It's a business and nobody will invest crores in the film's production, and another few in marketing only because you're related to someone.Sonam Kapoor

She says that she's spoken about this in the past but nobody wants to give it credence. "It doesn't suit the popular narrative, which is that of an industry girl having it easy. This version almost contradicts it. At the end of the day, people, including journalists, are biased and believe in what they choose to believe in," she says, sharply. I wonder if she is worried that her words will yet again fail to win against the popular view of actors from film families, or worse, stand their ground under deeper scrutiny.

After all, Sonam's brother Harshvardhan Kapoor got his debut film, the yet-unreleased Mirziya, because Rakeysh Mehra saw him on sets of Delhi 6, on which he was an assistant. While he may have genuinely been inclined to the craft of filmmaking, it could've also happened because he was Anil Kapoor's son and the brother of the film's leading lady.

But Sonam contradicts that with a well-thought argument. "It's a business and nobody will invest crores in the film's production, and another few in marketing only because you're related to someone... and completely talentless. It just doesn't add up. You audition. I auditioned for Saawariya along with Shivani Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. There's a process and we are all equal when we go through it. I even auditioned for Delhi 6 and projects for Yash Raj Films. I didn't just wake up one day to have all these films in my roster!"

Fair enough.

Ishaan Nair

The elaborate breakfast is done, and we call for Dakshinayan's famous filter coffee, a must-have. I ask Sonam how she spends her free time when she's not telling off prying fans and inquisitive journalists.

"I fly off for vacations (Maldives is one of her favourite vacay spots) with my girlfriends. They are a bunch of non-industry friends who I'm the happiest with. I'm also a voracious reader so books pretty much keep me occupied when I'm not reading work-related stuff," Sonam says.

Her most memorable vacation, so far, has been to Italy with her family, about seven years ago. It was the first family vacation the Kapoors took.

"It was so incredible to spend time away from Mumbai as we all realized that being actors we're constantly engaged mentally, physically and emotionally. Italy really brought the whole family together and numerous holidays later, I still cherish that vacation as it changed dad's view on what vacations are for! He was always reluctant to take one."

As we sip on the coffee, I ask her what she's reading currently. "I'm mostly consumed by a lot of articles online as I am closely following the Trump campaign. Now imagine if that guy becomes the leader of the free world! It disturbs me to even think about that, it's wrong on so many levels. As if things in India aren't bad enough already."

Sonam is referring to the the country's growing saffronization, from increasing censorship to the Film And Television Institute of India controversy to the beef ban to cow vigilantism.

"It's disgusting to see how restrictive things are getting. And people don't seem to know what's happening around them, it happens at such a subliminal level. You should read what I posted on Independence Day."


What did she post?

"It's by Rabindranath Tagore," she says, before going on to quote the first stanza from the poet's "Leave This Chanting".

"Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!

Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark

corner of a temple with doors all shut?

Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!

He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground

and where the path-maker is breaking stones.

He is with them in sun and in shower,

and his garment is covered with dust.

Put off thy holy mantle and even like him

come down on the dusty soil."

It's nearly time for us to wrap up our breakfast, which she says was heavier than intended.

It's been fascinating to get this glimpse into the world of Sonam Kapoor, someone who's been labelled as a fashionista so forcefully that it's rare to hear her talk about something other than fashion.

While the label in itself is rather well deserved, it obscures other dimensions to her, causing her to be seen as someone who might have an opinion solely on sartorial choices and vacation spots."That's my problem with labels. I dream of a country where people aren't identified by types. A homosexual isn't called a homosexual but just another human being. Where LGBT are just letters and not a community that is stigmatized. Where there is no distinction based on anything, not even between men and women. Where you're free to love who you love, where you're free to make a movie on whatever you like, where there's complete freedom to exist. It's a lot of wishful thinking, but then why not?" she says, gesturing for the check.

Sean McMenomy​ for Harper's Bazaar Bride ​

This is part of HuffPost India's exclusive interview series, Breakfast With HuffPost, presented by Lufthansa. The other interviews in the series are here.