Bollywood Bookshelf: The books on Sonam Kapoor’s mind right now…
A film set is always a tad chaotic, even more so with a random 17-year-old milling about. I’ve travelled to the set of The Zoya Factor to snatch a precious 10 minutes of Sonam Kapoor’s time off set, prepped with questions that will help readers get to know her and her bookshelf much better. I’m a little nervous. She’s appeared in numerous acclaimed films. She’s also a bit of a bookworm! She’s a classics lover, and eager to explore the newest books, and currently working on an enchanting book-to-movie adaptation.
When I meet her, however, that nervousness drains away. She’s smart, confident, and lively; we seem to simply sail through the interview!
Do you remember the first book that shaped your identity?
Sonam: Yes! It was a short story that my mum used to read to me: The Magic Porridge Pot. It was about a bowl that a poor girl found that would never stop spewing out porridge! It was a story about greed, morals and goodness, and it started my thirst for reading. My mom used to read to me a lot, and I truly believe that if your parents read to you at a very young age, it turns you into a reader, because there’s so much love in that reading of stories to you. It was lovely for me to have that from my mother.
If your house was on fire and you had to save three books, which three would you choose?
Sonam: I would save my Kindle [laughs]! I think if I had to pick three particular books… there’s a coffee table book of Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of my favourite photographers. I really like that book; it’s signed by him, so it’s precious to me. My friend actually got me one or two signed copies of some of the authors I really like when he went for the Jaipur Literature Festival. One of the authors was your uncle (Vikram Chandra)! Those books are super special. Then I’d save some hardbound classics that I liked when I was younger, like the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen and stuff like that.
Which fictional character do you most identify with?
Sonam: Belle from Beauty and the Beast!
What’s a classic you haven’t read?
Sonam: That’s a tough one…I think I’ve read a lot of the classics actually! I haven’t actually read a lot of the new books that are out, and I want to read more of those. I like fantasy and fiction a lot. I also read a lot of autobiographies and biographies.
Name your favourite authors.
Sonam: The Brontë sisters. I think in that day and age they were true feminists, and at that time women weren’t even allowed to write, so the fact that they broke the glass ceiling is inspiring to me.
Who’s your favourite hero of fiction?
Sonam: Howard Roark. (From The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand)
What non-fiction book would you recommend?
Sonam: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. Another non-fiction book that I think everyone should read, especially in India, especially with the divisive politics that play, is Being Hindu: Understanding a Peaceful Path in a Violent World by Hindol Sengupta. It actually does talk about Hinduism being a very liberal thought process and philosophy. The author speaks of it not as a religion, rather a derivative way of life. It was taking the philosophies from all our holy books and to understand what Hinduism truly means. I think these days we don’t have access to a lot of the knowledge our ancestors did, and the stories or kathas they passed on. I think it’s important to get that back.
What book that hasn’t been made into a film already would you want to see a film adaptation of?
Sonam: A lot of the books that I’ve read have actually been made into films. I would love to see Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I would love to see that as a film; it’s a beautiful, complex story. Actually I think there are a lot of films that are better than their books, like The Godfather or [laughs] 3 Idiots, for example!
Do you judge people on the basis of their book choices? What choice of book would make you either fall in love with or despise someone?
Sonam: Yes, I do! Fall in love… umm, [to her husband] Anand? [laughs]. He reads a lot of philosophy actually! I think also if someone enjoyed Roald Dahl, I’d be sold!
Anand: I was reading Roald Dahl when I met her!
What’s the most underrated book or book series?
Sonam: Exodus by Leon Uris.
What’s your favourite reading spot?
Sonam: My bed!
Kindle or hard copy?
Sonam: I used to be a purist and say a hard copy, but because I now travel so much, I like to read on my Kindle or iPad.
Which fictional character would you like to cosplay as, if you could?
Sonam: Selena from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. She was pretty cool, and I like the idea of wearing bowler hats!
What’s your favourite book-to-screen adaptation?
Sonam: Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Now that you’ve begun filming The Zoya Factor (based on the book by Anuja Chauhan), what do you think is the key for a book-to-film adaptation?
Sonam: A tight script. I think it’s to get the spirit of the character right. Some of the best films in the world have been book adaptations, whether it’s The Godfather (1972), Gone with the Wind (1939), Saraswatichandra (1968), Devdas (2002), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). I think not everybody has the patience or the imagination to read, but I feel books teach you a lot about life, about morals, about people, and they make you more sensitive and give you a moral compass that the world doesn’t offer to young people. I honestly think books can do that, and I feel that certain films that adapt the right books really work. Sometimes you can take the spirit of what the book means and change it into something beautiful.
(The author is a 17-year-old girl from Mumbai who has written the novels The House That Spoke and The Island Of The Day Before. She is a regular contributor to HT Brunch)
From HT Brunch, October 28, 2018
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