Sonam Kapoor stays true to her public image as a fiesty young woman with her head firmly on her shoulders. In a tete-a-tete as part of the Hindustan Times Youth Forum, the 30-year-old Bollywood star and style icon expresses her views, likes and dislikes without any inhibitions.
She was here in Chandigarh as a panellist at the Top 30 Under 30 initiative where she was part of a discussion on the topic ‘Is it the best time to be young in India?’
Talking about youth icons, the actor stars in a biopic on Neerja Bhanot, the PanAm airhostess who was killed while saving passengers from terrorists on board the hijacked flight on September 5, 1986.
Talking about her role, Sonam says, “To have that kind of courage to do the right thing at such a young age is incredible. Do I deserve to do this role? It’s really not about me playing her. It’s about Neerja. She is an unsung hero. In fact, she is the youngest recipient of the Ashoka Chakra, India’s highest award for bravery in peace time. And she was a civilian. She had everything going for her in life at the age of 23. She was beautiful, young and well-placed but she didn’t think twice before doing the right thing when it came to it.”
So, should youngsters take a leaf out of her page to be more inspired? To this she says, “It’s a struggle for youngsters today to do the right thing on a daily basis. So many of us, roam in the grey area.”
Our diversity our strength
Sonam was also upfront about her views on the recent incidents of intolerance in the country. According to her, we are secular and are known all over the world for tolerance. “Such incidents are a throwback to the time when we were ruled by the British who thought that the best way to rule us was to divide us. But in spite of that, we prevailed. We have numerous communities, languages and so much diversity. This unnecessary hate-mongering is dangerous. Every religion preaches humanity.”
Strongly advocating the right to freedom of speech and to do things as per your choice, Sonam says, “You cannot dictate anyone to do something. We have our own individual choices and that should be respected. I will never tell anyone to eat or not to eat beef, who am I to stop anyone? That is completely wrong; to tell people what to do.”
Social media has been unfair to her in the past but Sonam takes it all in her stride. “At least there’s a space for youngsters to talk now. In India, youngsters are told, ‘Chup baitho, jab baat karna zaroori hai tab karo (Keep quiet. Talk only when required)’. It is for us to sift the positive from the negative. Debate can be constructive too. Any tool can be misused. So should we stop using it?”
Celebs for a cause
She said with celebrities promoting a cause, it can reach thousands to create awareness. Mentioning the 2013 Mumbai gangrape of a journalist, she said, “We decided to do a silent march to condemn the incident. I was in fact the only Bollywood personality among the media, and was asked by a male journalist how would my participation help in stopping incidents of rape. I told him that even if it affects one person, I’m here to make that difference. Indians have become too complacent about issues that plague our society.”
Tidbits Chandigarh connect
“Chandigarh is a planned and peaceful city with great weather. I would come here often, as it was my grandfather’s last posting with the State Bank of India. I was shooting for Mausam here five years ago and stayed for about two months. I would gorge on the street food and have fond memories of eating paranthas outside the college in Sector 10. People didn’t recognise me much back then so it was easy to move around. I love the kadhi-chawal at Sector 17.”
Sonam said, “It is always good to do different roles and explore new characters. If one is doing a biopic, one needs to do a lot of research and get the spirit of the person you are playing. On the other hand, to play a specific character one has to create ideas, understand and find out their back story.”
She added, “Roles you choose definitely matters. Milli from Khoobsurat is my favourite. The character gave a strong message to girls to be their original self. We as girls tend to change for men. Why should we change? There is a little bit of Milli in all of us. We all keep looking for our Prince Charming but we need to save ourselves first.”
About father Anil Kapoor: Dad is iconic. He always remains in a positive frame of mind. He never stands up for the wrong thing. He tells me to always be positive, devoid of cynicism and to be idealistic
About sister Rhea Kapoor: She is my best friend. She keeps me grounded.
No place for rivalry
Heroine rivalry is largely a misconception. It is the other way round. Men are more competitive. I have many female heroine friends such as Aditi Rao, Swara Bhaskar and Jacqueline Fernandes.
Mind to mouth filter
“I started working at the age of 17. I was too young. It’s been more than a decade now. I have grown up and that reflects in my opinions too. It’s important to have an opinion but we have to bring up our children in a manner that they are open-minded. Youngsters should not be taught to be sexist, intolerant, misogynist.”
Style icon status
“I personally feel when you are an artiste, it reflects in the way you conduct yourself. I like to do up my house with flowers.”
Favourite designer: Anamika Khanna’s Indian saris are my favourites. I love Indian fabrics and traditional embroidery.
Favourite directors: Anand Rai, Ram Madhvani, Rakesh Mehra, Sooraj Barjatya
Favourite co-star: Salman is my favourite co-star. He is a good person.
Favourite dishes: Rajma chawal, tandoori chicken, maki ki roti and saag