Even though she left no stone unturned to promote her new film, which is based on the life of late flight attendant Neerja Bhanot, on a recent visit to the Hindustan Times office, along with director Ram Madhvani, it was revealed that Sonam Kapoor, unlike popular perception, is quite an “introvert”. The duo also discussed cinema, their latest successful film, and their careers in general.
Ram, what is the best thing about Sonam, the actor?
Ram: At the trailer launch, I had to introduce Sonam, so while on the plane (from Goa), I asked my wife, ‘What do I say about Sonam?’ Then, I realised that I can’t define her. The media might be able to define her on the basis of their perception of her, but I can’t. And that is despite knowing her really well. But I think it is great when you can’t put a person in a box no matter how hard you try, and that person also says, ‘Why are you putting me in a box?’
So, are there any similarities between you two?
Ram: We are both introverts, but we know that we have to step out and speak. We are really shy people. I have now told myself that I am going to learn how to be an extrovert.
Ram, the character in your latest film is that of an everyday girl. So, why did you choose Sonam for it? She hardly has the ‘everyday girl’ persona.
Ram: You haven’t seen Sonam in jhalla (casual) clothes at home (laughs)… not wanting to get out of bed.
Well, that is definitely not the public persona. People perceive her as this style icon, a fashionista.
Ram: First of all, let’s get the value system completely clear. Sonam has the power to say yes, I don’t have that power. So, she was the person who said yes. The person that I’m very grateful to is Atul Kasbekar (producer). We have worked together for a long time, and it was Saiwyn Qadras, writer of Mary Kom (2014), who approached Atul with the film. He then called me and told me that Sonam was the person they were thinking of for it. And I was very happy with that. What was great was when Sonam and I met, we shared a ‘like-heartedness’, which is a much better word than like-mindedness. Somehow, the latter takes away the heart. It makes you feel you are on the same mental wavelength. But Sonam and I are like-hearted. When we have conversations, we understand each other.
Sonam: Speaking of the public or media’s persona of me… I love wearing beautiful clothes. I think most girls like to.
Sonam, your real persona has a stronger impact than your on-screen presentation.
Sonam: It’s so strange because my directors don’t seem to think so… [But] I can’t keep defending myself, it’s so tiring (laughs).
Are you made to feel guilty for looking good?
Sonam: No, it’s just that I don’t think it is okay to put Ram in a spot, and say, ‘Why did you take her?’, when I’m sitting right next to him (laughs).
Also, people don’t know that you’re a voracious reader.
Sonam: This is also true. But that doesn’t make for a great story, does it?
Your father, Anil Kapoor, was very sure that you will make a mark with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015) and Neerja.
Sonam: He is my dad, what else is he going to say? Whatever I do is going to be ‘mind-blowing’ or ‘amazing’. Aren’t dads like that? How can we take him seriously?
But, you know, just like these coming-of-age films, I, too, had to understand what I wanted to do. I had to find myself, and I still haven’t. I’m a work in progress. For girls, especially, there are preconceived notions about how they need to do certain things at a certain time, and you have to conform in many ways. I feel it is very difficult for Indian girls to be happy in their own skin. I remember I had this beautiful encounter with Dhanush (actor) while we were shooting for Raanjhanaa (2013). I was very sad, and I told him that there’s this saying, “Nothing grows under a banyan tree.” That’s when Dhanush said, “But if you shine bright, your shadow will grow on earth (sic).” My dad is the banyan tree here. I have to be okay with having such an awesome dad, but I also have to work twice as hard.
People came out of the theatre in tears after watching your latest film. Not many movies get such a reaction…
Ram: Yes, we’ve had standing ovations. In fact, some people even lit candles in theatres in San Francisco, USA. We have also read articles about kids planting trees in Neerja’s name. It really is something else.
Sonam, your performance has been critically appreciated. The masses also liked it.
Ram: We’ve made a film to remember Neerja; to remember people we tend to forget.
Sonam: We tend to forget our female heroes more. I know I sound very feminist all the time, but we do. And especially in a country like India, we need our female heroes, right?
In terms of the character too, people could relate to Neerja. She was an everyday girl.
Sonam: That was my main reason for doing this film, because she was so ordinary, so beautiful. Every time people asked me why I was doing this, my only answer was that every ordinary person has the capability of being extraordinary, of becoming a hero. And that’s the one thing that this film showcases.
Did this movie affect you as a person?
Sonam: We are on earth to do more. Everything I do in life is to help me evolve. The reason I did this film was the story; the other was that I was appalled that I didn’t know about this incident. I consider myself quite well-read. And I was like, why don’t I know about it? The other thing was to work with the people involved in this project. There was a lot to learn from Ram.
Watch: Sonam Kapoor in Neerja trailer
Sonam, do you give Ram credit for the performance?
Sonam: For sure. In fact, the directors have to be given credit for my performances in all my films.
Ram: A director can only push the actor, but it’s the actor who has to deliver.
Sonam: With all my directors, I have learnt something. With Ram, there’s a certain kind of tonality in the visuals and treatment.
Ram, there were reports that you were making a film called Talisman?
Ram: Yes, we were, but we didn’t like the script.
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