Better known in showbiz for being a fashionista than for box office appeal, industry child Sonam Kapoor is endowed with good looks, an enviable lineage and loads of attitude. Even as she awaits the popular verdict on Khoobsurat, where she reprises the role originally played by Rekha, the leading lady of hits such as Raanjhana and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, says she looks for ‘different characters’.
But Sonam’s refreshing frankness stands out in an industry where most stars like to play safe. Although she makes for good copy, her outspoken nature also tends to land her in trouble. Her riposte: "Everything that I say, however weird, tends to be taken so seriously. It makes me feel so important."
Excerpts from an interview:
But you don’t generally say non-weird stuff... Didn’t you say something to the effect that one has to be bad looking to be a good actor?
How is that weird? I think it was just misunderstood. I don’t know if I make sense or not but all I wanted to say was that just because you are good-looking, you can’t be perceived as a non-actor or bad actor. And just because you are not a great looker, you are bound to be a sterling performer. Tell me, isn’t that the general thinking?
Perhaps, but more than the looks of a star, it’s more to do with the kind of films too, isn’t it? Films aren’t just candy floss or about being ‘good looking’ anymore.
Absolutely. But good or realistic cinema doesn’t always have to be about blood and gore. Unfortunately, we have started believing that realistic films have to have the traits of the hinterland, people dying, no make-up, wearing cotton saris and being all raw.
Really now, is that all that is real? Are we saying that there is no positive side at all? No laughter, no love, nothing? Why have we forgotten the Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Vijay Anand style of movie making? Those films were as real as you could get. So what is this stereotype?
Is that why you are comfortable with doing films such as Aisha or now your next one, Khoobsurat?
To be honest, yes. Aisha or Khoobsurat are as real as it gets. Aisha was your average south Delhi girl. And Khoobsurat is a love story. Having said that, it isn’t true that I only like playing girls living in la la land. I have also done a Delhi 6, a Raanjhana and a Mausam. Each character was as real as the other. And they were different.
Essaying Rekha’s original role in Khubsoorat wouldn’t have been easy. Did it add to the pressure?
I have always lived under pressure. Being Anil Kapoor’s daughter doesn’t make life very easy. I have to live up to a certain name in any case.
Also read: How Sonam became the royal misfit
But at the cost of sounding immodest, I don’t think I am even trying to be Rekhaji. In fact, the film in its entirety is rather different. Although the ensemble cast and the basic theme may be similar, we have changed it completely into a present-day love story. The original film wasn’t really a love story. And my character in the film is only inspired by Rekha. It isn’t the same character. Every character has his or her own life and grows on their own. So does this one.
Talking of being in la la land, most actors of the present generation seem to be living in a space that is absolutely away from reality…
Yes, they are. And believe me it’s bl***y scary. You know, we are so protected and so cocooned that there is just no exposure. And the unfortunate bit is that we get so comfortable that we don’t even want to venture out.
Everything is monitored. We are told that we are not supposed to have an opinion. And even if we do, we shouldn’t express it. It could be about anything. From the Gaza strife to khap panchayats, we don’t have to talk about anything. The PRs insist that it could generate bad press. And who really wants that? So, most of us just tend to keep quiet.
You don’t seem to be toeing the line though…
And look at the bad press or negative publicity that I garner every time I open my mouth. (laughs)
But how can one live in such splendid isolation?
Exactly my point. Each of us then starts looking like a fool or a clone of the other. I have been trying to break away from this mould endlessly. I speak my mind. I have an opinion and I don’t mind expressing it. The problem is that people are too scared to make mistakes. But unless you do, how do you ever learn?
When I started out, I refused to be the conventional Swarovski-sporting, chiffon-draped diva on the red carpet. I insisted on wearing clothes that I liked and those that suited my body type. I was told not to. But look what it did. Suddenly I became this style icon and fashionista. I didn’t call myself that. The press did.
True, but you also receive a lot of flak for a lot of things you say.
At least I make for good copy then (laughs). A lot of things are said in the moment, in jest or in context. They need to be understood accordingly. Like on Koffee With Karan, I said things that I believed would be understood by an intelligent mind.
Also, the show is like that. It is fun, tongue-in-cheek and frivolous. I wasn’t meant to be dead serious. I expected people to have a sense of humour and take things as they were said, in good spirit.
Come on, you did make a snide remark about Deepika…
It wasn’t a snide remark about Deepika. It was in fact, it was a compliment to her stylist, Anaita Shroff Adajania, who is also a great friend of mine. I just said Anaita does a great job with Deepika. It was perhaps her PR guys who didn’t appreciate the compliment and talked about it negatively.
You actually take criticism rather well… In fact, you often laugh at jokes made about you.
That’s because I don’t take myself seriously at all. I can laugh at myself. If I am happy with all the appreciation, I should be able to handle all the criticism as well. And for me it is immaterial how many people say good things or bad things about me. I have an opinion and I voice it. Be it about rape or LGBT rights. Even if five per cent people agree with me, I am happy about it.
Criticism, especially on social media can be quite unnerving…
Yes, but that is the culture of social media. It is full of cowards who have no b***s to come in front and say anything. So they find this anonymous medium their best bet to vent their frustrations. How seriously can you really take them? And why?
You have had big banner film projects, but the hero always seems to get the applause, like Dhanush in Raanjhanaa, or Farhan in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
I wouldn’t agree with the Raanjhanaa bit. I think both Dhanush and I were praised equally. The first half was Dhanush’s and the second half was mine. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was, of course, Farhan’s film. And I have no problem with that. I did that film because I just had to be a part of that project.
I would rather do films that make me grow as a performer than clone myself in every film just to get equal screen time. Please, that is so boring. At least you remember my characters in all my films. They don’t blur and merge with each other like they do for most others.
So is it just good fortune or a conscious decision to do such movies?
Absolutely a conscious decision. In fact, I feel this is the only intelligent thing that I have done, ever. I am not ready to do just any film that comes my way. Even my next few films have me in absolutely different characters.
I am doing Arbaaz Khan’s next production Dolly ki Doli, which is more of a dramatic comedy. Sooraj Barjatya’s next film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is a pure love story opposite Salman and then, I’ve bought the rights to Anuja Chauhan’s Battle For Bittora. That again will be a very different film and role. So yes, I don’t quite follow a pattern and don’t intend to do it ever.
From HT Brunch, August 3
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch