She was just two years old when Maine Pyar Kiya released. But 21 years later, Sonakshi Sinha had no trouble seeing her co-star Salman Khan in a romantic light. “We have been family friends for ages. I couldn’t have debuted opposite a better co-star. He has been more of a friend to me,” says the 23-year-old debutant actress, whose first film, Dabangg, released this week.
Despite her family background, Sonakshi never wanted to be an actress. She explains, “I weighed 90 kg and never thought I was pretty enough.” Breaking from family tradition – father Shatrughan Sinha, mother Punam (who played the role of Hrithik’s mother in Jodhaa Akbar) and her brother Luv (debuted last year), are all actors, and her other brother is training to be a director – Sonakshi joined a fashion designing course at SNDT College, Mumbai. “I wanted to be a fashion designer. Fashion is still my first love,” she says.
When her family goaded her to lose weight, Sonakshi joined a gym. “People would tell me that I was wasting myself, since I had such a pretty face,” she says, adding, “After I started working out, I gradually began to lose weight.” After a spell, Sonakshi started doing ramp shows. She modelled at Lakme Fashion Week and at the Model Gate Show. “My aim was to be a fashion designer and I dreamt of walking the ramp in my own creations. Even now, I have styled a few of my outfits while doing promotions for Dabangg and they looked quite nice,” says Sonakshi.Dream debut
In her fitter avatar, Sonakshi, dressed in a traditional outfit, attended Amrita Arora’s wedding. And that was where she was picked up by Salman and Arbaaz Khan for Dabangg. "Since I was wearing an Indian outfit, Salman and Arbaaz figured I would fit the role best," recalls Sonakshi. She adds, "Salman told me later that he had always thought I was made to act."
This decision meant that Sonakshi did not get time to prepare the way newcomers do. "I had no time to take lessons. Arbaaz, Abhinav and Salman all coached me," she explains, adding that Dabangg is a dream debut. "Having Salman opposite me, Abhinav Kashyap as the director and such beautiful music, I couldn’t have asked for more," she says.
Salman and Sonakshi share a great rapport off the sets. In fact, the inside joke is that Salman modelled his moustache on her father. “Abhinav wanted Salman to have that look because it’s a tradition in UP and Bihar for men to keep thick moustaches. I helped Abhinav convince Salman, and see, now he’s getting such great reviews for his look,” she says. She also dismisses reports that she wanted to debut in a glamorous avatar. “Who says one cannot look beautiful in Indian wear?”
Set for life
“I don’t know why people are surprised when I tell them that I never thought of acting,” says Sonakshi. “For me, the industry was not a fascinating place. All the stars and my father’s friends would come home and we would meet them often. So it wasn’t a dream profession.” But now that she has become an actress, Sonakshi cannot imagine doing anything else. “I found acting very entertaining and loved the medium,” she says.
In an interview with Punam Sinha carried in an earlier issue of Brunch, Sonakshi’s mother had said that Shatrughan Sinha didn’t think the film industry was an apt place for women. So when we asked Sonakshi if her father was against her joining films, she says, “When Abhinav and Arbaaz did a reading of the script for us, everyone’s face lit up. My father felt comfortable with the idea because Arbaaz and Salman were involved, as they have been family friends for years. Papa thought it was a great start.”
For her part, Sonakshi already has a few offers lined up. It is rumoured that she might star in Mausam with Shahid Kapoor and do Boney Kapoor’s next film. However, Sonakshi has very definite plans for her career. “I will be very careful with what I come up with next as with Dabangg, I have already raised the bar,” she says.
Dad Shatrughan Sinha: “We really are like any father-daughter. I am the apple of his eye and am really pampered by him.”
Mom Punam Sinha: “She maintains the balance and gets me on track when my father overdoes the pampering bit.”
Brothers Luv and Kussh Sinha: “Both are typical elder brothers – very protective."