I’m no Fred, but there are glimpses of a Holly Golightly in the girl sitting next to me, chatting away about fashion, books, body image and life as she knows it.
Truman Capote’s famous heroine from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, later illustrated by Audrey Hepburn on screen, is a style diva with strong opinions and a crazy lifestyle. Well, Sonam Kapoor is definitely the fashionista here; she does have very refreshing views on things and her life is a bit of a crazy whirlwind of work, events and parties, so much so that she very famously fell ill from fatigue recently.
In spite of her recent hospitalisation, pressing deadlines due to missed work days, and less than rosy health, Sonam breezes into the studio smiling infectiously and waving hello to everybody in the room. She already knows how almost each of the outfits for our ‘iconic classics’ shoot fits her, as she’s come across them at some point during her own fashion browsing. “This is the only one I haven’t tried on,” she says, holding up the red chiffon and lace Valentino dress. We know a pro when we see one.
Where most Indian women think that short and tight is the way to glamorous, Sonam bucks the trend. She boldly goes where hardly any Bollywood actress has dared to venture before. She’s not scared of orange lipstick, thrift fashion or androgyny.
Scouting out second-hand clothing shops or obscure garage sales for vintage pieces is right up her alley. “I love history. And with vintage fashion, there’s a story behind each piece you find, it’s not just off-the-rack. I like to think about who might have worn it, when they would have worn it; I love that context to an outfit. Like people collect art, I collect vintage clothes. I have stuff from the 1920s, the 1980s... My best find to date has been a red Valentino gown I got from a shop called Frock in New York. It’s a museum piece – it was designed by Valentino himself.”
Despite her love for one-of-a-kind classic pieces, Sonam loves Janpath in Delhi as much as she does Camden in London. Like any fashion-curious girl, she’s acquired her current fashion sensibility through trial and error. She admits to having gone through various phases while growing up – goth, hippie, classic, sexy. But she says the style that finally settled in best with her personality was boho. “Most of the time, I love wearing casual, normal, loose clothes. I can’t wear tight-tight-tight. If people think I’m fashionable, it’s only because regular girls can wear what I wear. My clothes are not aspirational, where you have to have the best body to wear something. Because I don’t have the best body. You have to dress for your body type. Indian girls have shapely waists and big bums. Even at my skinniest, I dress very comfortably. I look retarded in, say, Herve Leger. I wore a vintage Herve Leger once and felt so uncomfortable in it because I felt like a stuffed pumpkin.”
You probably latched on to the ‘I don’t have the best body’ line. We do, too. “It’s true, and I know it. I try not to look at too many pictures of myself, because then you get too self-critical. All women have issues that they constantly deal with – cellulite, big hips. But I’m very comfortable with my body.” A fact that is apparent in the way Sonam laughs mischievously every time she pulls back in place the slightly wayward Yves Saint Laurent cut-away dress that she dons for the cover. “I have fun with fashion and go out thinking this is who I am and this is what I do. And I’ve always had that attitude, even before I lost all that weight to become an actor,” she adds.
It’s just as Audrey Hepburn once said, “I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls.” Sonam is definitely a happy 26-year-old. Being around her you get the impression that she must make friends wherever she goes. Her easy manner, eagerness to engage you in a conversation, whether it is complimenting you on something you’re wearing or discussing Angry Birds or the book she’s currently reading, frankly throw you at first. I ask her why she’s different. Because you don’t grow if you close yourself and don’t meet new people, she says. A little prodding. “Maybe it’s because I studied at a boarding school for a while; maybe because my parents have never treated us any differently from other people in the house. If I behave like a diva, it won’t make me a better person. And most of my friends are not from the film industry, which is very incestuous. My friend circle is my reality check.”
Sonam’s reality also involves reading books on her Kindle, playing games on the iPad in her bag or the Xbox at home, and watching horror movies. Throw any horror movie title at her, and her eyes widen, her face breaks into a grin, and she starts gushing, “Oh yes, that one was too cool!” You also know you’re perhaps talking to a true genre fan when they consider the Japanese original Ringu way better than its American remake The Ring, which she does. “The film I’m waiting for though is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I absolutely love the book.”
Horror is not the only genre she sticks to, though. She lists Bimal Roy, Satyajit Ray and Vijay Anand among the Indian directors she loves. “I’ve grown up watching films. I see all kinds of films. In fact, once in a while, a script has come to me where I’ve instantly recognised the original film that it’s been copied from. Although it’s best to keep quiet about such things – it’s up to the audience to realise it for themselves.”
There has been talk of her interest in filmmaking. As the daughter of one of the biggest heroes of Indian cinema, Anil Kapoor, and the niece of one of the most prominent film couples, Sridevi-Boney Kapoor, Sonam is as movie-blooded as they come. Her entry into the industry was as an assistant to director Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the film Black, who subsequently cast her in Saawariya. “I’m happy acting right now, but some day I hope to try my hand at writing scripts. Direction is something I’m not so sure of yet, because I don’t consider myself a leader. Writing or acting is more of an individual sport, which I’m more comfortable with.”
For now, she has two releases lined up this year. One is Mausam, a love story, opposite Shahid Kapur; the other is Players, a “fun action thriller” based on The Italian Job, she says. But before that, her outing at Cannes raised fashion police eyebrows and gave the media plenty of cannon fodder – Aishwarya in Armani Prive or Sonam in Gaultier? Who upstaged whom? The spotlight recalls the 2009 controversy involving Aishwarya, where reports said that the older actress sabotaged Sonam’s attendance of the film festival. She says, “Whatever was said didn’t show me in a bad light, so I have no comment.” Post-Cannes, she’s back to wrapping up Mausam and finishing the book she’s reading, Linda Castillo’s Sworn to Silence. It might take a while, though, because she’s as addicted to launching angry birds at hapless trapped pigs as you.