After the release of Neerja (2016), Sonam Kapoor took a break for an entire year. Now, she is back on the sets of her next film, relaxed and rejuvenated. What makes the return special is that her last film — Ram Madhvani’s biopic on the fearless PanAm stewardess, Neerja Bhanot — won the National Award for the Best Hindi Film. Sonam also received a special mention for her career-defining role in the film. As she gets ready to receive the honour in Delhi, Sonam sits down to talk about her ‘slow and steady’ journey in Bollywood and her National Awards win, with HT Café. Excerpts from an interview:
You didn’t speak about the National Award win at all, until now. What was keeping you busy?
I am really shy and awkward about these things. I am ecstatic with the Best Hindi Film award and of course, the special mention for me too, but I just can’t take credit for it solely. It’s such a happy occasion and I am elated that our film was recognised for this honour.
Your father, Anil Kapoor, couldn’t stop gushing about your National Award win. How does that make you feel?
He is too sweet. But it’s amazing because I am here with my parents and it’s a huge matter of pride. For me receiving the award being Anil Kapoor’s daughter is the biggest joy because I don’t lobby for awards. Funnily, I didn’t feel any pressure or nervousness, I just feel light because this is a huge validation. Contrary to what people think, I work really hard on every project and I do it with a lot of integrity. When a film like this wins an award, it’s reassuring as everyone is part of a competition and the rat race. It’s about putting your head down, being focussed and working at your own pace. I’ve realised that aggression doesn’t work in the long run. It affects you mentally and physically, and eventually burns you out. If you are kind, gentle, and true to yourself, that should be enough.
You have completed a decade in the Hindi film industry. How much have you changed in the past 10 years?
I don’t think I have changed as a person. But I have learnt that you have to keep gathering experiences as an artiste. Acting is my job, so, I haven’t set any targets for myself. It’s not like I will work till I am 34 and then quit acting to get married. I am not running a race, it’s my job and I am never going to stop acting.
You took a year off after Neerja released. What did you do?
As a human, the idea is to evolve and be a better person and artiste. I learned a lot about myself in this time off. I travelled a lot and also decided to work towards the betterment of society. I am involved with cancer awareness, raising awareness about malnutrition, and equal rights for LGBTQ. I want to be sure about the causes I support, so I spent a lot of time working with people, reading up and researching these things. Education, good roads and infrastructure are all issues that we definitely do need to deal with. But in a country like India, where the gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening, the focus should be on basic needs like food and shelter. I am a work in progress.
You recently wrote a piece for Hindustan Times on trolling. Was there an incident that triggered it?
It wasn’t anything specific that triggered it, but I try to have an opinion on things that matter. Even if it means only ten people will read it. I love writing and I am thankful that HT chose me for this initiative, but I do think I could have been more articulate. Unfortunately, I only had a day to write it. But I do enjoy writing and have written about issues close to my heart. I think it’s alright to say what you really feel and stand by it.
Photos of you on a vacation (with rumoured boyfriend Anand Ahuja, and friends and family) are all over social media. Does it affect you when your personal life gets written about often?
Honestly, that’s one aspect of my life I choose to not speak about at all. I have nothing to hide, so the people close to me know all they need to. I work very hard and I don’t feel the need to throw open discussions about my personal life. I’d rather people talk about my work.