Sonam Kapoor – the actor often gets lost in the garb of her designer clothes. Even her co-star Akshay Kumar claims she is an import from Paris, but nothing is further from the truth. For every AISHA, Sonam has given us a RANJHANA, for every PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO, she has given us a NEERJA. And yet the gorgeous actress is best known for her sense of fashion and feisty comments and not her National Award. But she is unfazed; she still has a lot to say, and a lot of misconceptions to clear as she speaks to Shubarna Mukerji Shu about her film and the cultural shock that comes with working in Bollywood, despite being from a film family.
Everyone is hovering for some controversial statement or another. She doesn’t speak thoughtlessly, but she speaks what she thinks which makes her even more susceptible to controversies. Yet, the girl sure knows where to draw the line especially when it comes to her rumoured impending marriage with her boyfriend Anand Ahuja. “I have decided that I am not going to be talking about it. I have three films releasing this year and three that I am working on, so there is a lot that needs to be focused on at the moment. It has been more than ten years in this industry, and I have never once spoken about my personal life, I won’t be changing that this year or ever!”. So well, no matter how many times you knock, that door won’t open. But there is a lot about PADMAN and her journey that needs to be spoken about.
Completely unfazed about her film release being pushed to another week, Sonam sauntered into this suburban hotel for our rendezvous. Her oversized jacket and sunglasses spell movie star to the tip of her high-heeled boots, but that’s Sonam Kapoor, she is every bit a film star, every bit a fashionista. Yes, unwittingly, we have boxed her in the confines of our limited imagination… so you cannot help but wonder if these descriptions are getting tedious for the lady, but she is taking it in her stride. Like her co-star Akshay Kumar insisting she is a citizen of Paris, because she virtually lives there to shop of course. “He says in jest,” she states the obvious with a shrug. Dismissing even the likes of Akshay with her casual grace. It isn’t that she means disrespect, she simply knows to hold her own in a man’s world.
Though clearly, Sonam doesn’t subscribe to the notion of a ‘man’s world’, “I come from a very different upbringing, we were not brought up thinking a boy is to be treated differently from a girl. Rhea is running my father’s company. We have never been treated differently from our brother. So it was a big cultural shock when I entered the industry.”
We couldn’t obviously let a statement like that die without probing further, so in her signature style, Sonam explained, “While growing up, all us kids were put in one room. Later, I had a room for myself, and Rhea and Harsh would be sharing a room. I got a room, only because I was the eldest. Later, Rhea and Harsh got separate rooms. Why am I telling you this is because when I entered the film industry, the rules changed. You got a bigger room simply because you are a man. If I got Rs. 500/- Harsh got the same for pocket money, but over here, a man gets paid more because he is a man. This mentality is scary but this is the ‘real world’ as they say.”
For someone who has been brought up differently to be able to adjust into a scenario where you have to accept the differences might have been really tough. But women all over have been adjusting through their life. PADMAN does touch upon the topics which most people chose to ignore so it is commendable what Sonam has become a part of. But if rumours are to be believed, hers is a smaller role…. Does she think she could have done more?
“You know there is that popular saying ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’ I strongly believe that behind every success story are a lot of people who have helped put that person out there, helped them to meet that goal. My character in the film is the tiny little support that Akshay’s character needs to believe in himself. Sometimes you have an idea, you just need that encouragement to implement it. It is a beautiful relationship, that! I had chanced upon Arunachalam Muruganantham’s TED Talk thanks to a friend of mine. It was amazing to see an Indian go as far as he did. An engineer is like an artist, his work impressive. But frankly, I had forgotten about it till the movie came along! But the problem still persists. Only 12% of Indian women use sanitary pads; in a country as big as ours the number of people who go without, will be staggering.” What Sonam is saying is a long documented fact but the 12% who have access too treat it like a taboo. Are things different for Sonam, one cannot help but wonder if she too faced the awkwardness…
But hey, Sonam could never be awkward, now can she? “I was 5’9” and 15years old, all my friends had got their periods but not me. I was really looking forward to it. I felt like an outsider because all of them would discuss about painkillers and tampons and I have nothing to add to the conversation. So yes, we were thrilled when I finally got my periods. In school we were taught everything so we were well-informed. But I am not ignorant of the fact that things were not the same for all, I have friends who would go stay at another friend’s place if they had puja at home and she had her periods.”
“Speaking about my family in particular, we never had any qualms about talking about periods or menstrual cramps. Our dinner table conversations range from inane to awkward. My father was mostly away shooting but bechara Harsh, he has had to endure a lot of detailed discussions about women and women issues,” she laughed while we pictured the hunky Harshavardhan Kapoor amidst his girls.
Another pretty picture, this one pertaining to PADMAN, comes from the thought of Twinkle Khanna producing the film, with her hubby playing the lead. If there was any awkwardness, Akshay ever felt being PADMAN… it doesn’t show. But Sonam sure might know the inner workings. We had to dig out all the information we could get! “I will tell you this much, Akshay is very scared of Tina,” she laughed at the secret she let out, but added, “PADMAN was Twinkle’s idea, she even wrote a short story about it, while R. Balki was working on the script. Speaking to her really helped me get a grip on my character. But of course, she took a backseat once we started working on the film. Then it was all R. Balki who captained the ship.”
Real characters are always tougher than enacting a larger than life persona, the character journey is very personal too for the actors, for Sonam this journey with PADMAN was no different, “Yes, such movies become personal because you want to give it that authenticity. I learnt tabla for the film, though I have only one or perhaps two scenes where I am seen playing one. I kept my nails short too. It is like I did for Neerja – I fully went through the airhostess program to train for my character.”
Making a fictional character personal needs a lot of drive and determination. For someone who is often mistaken for merely a pretty face, Sonam is the epitome of grace and elegance coupled with grit, but have the awards really been worthy of her hard work? “For the last decade that I have been acting, my journey has been all about growth. I want to be better, not just as an actor but as a person. It is never been about awards for me. And I really think, that everything gets ruined when you think about goals rather than enjoy the journey. Your hard work becomes tedious waiting for the fruits of your toil. When I wake up in the morning, I have just one agenda – enjoy myself and do something that I love. For me that’s enough!”