Sonam Kapoor strolls into her Juhu office kitted in a saree looking both fashionable and comfortable – a feat that is seldom accomplished. Unlike most fashionistas on the block, Kapoor makes fashion look fun. And individualistic too.
Films have been integral to her growing up years. She started work at the age of 17, turned 18 on the sets of Black, 21 on the sets of Saawariya and 25 on the sets of Mausam. Yet she is curious of the world that lies beyond film sets. Over the decade that she has been a part of the business, she has tasted success and disappointment in equal measure and did not let detractors get the better of her.
Watch: Sonam Kapoor gets candid with Priyanka Sinha Jha in the eleventh episode of Expresso
I bring up the past – a comment she had made in jest that both she and Abhishek Bachchan, her co-star for the film Delhi-6 were ‘bade baap ki bigdi aulaad’ and she says quietly, “I don’t want to be a poor little rich girl because I had so many benefits of being Anil Kapoor’s daughter. We are both born under a banyan tree and there’s not much that grows under it. The only way forward is to work so bloody hard.”
The actor recalls that it was her famous co-star Dhanush who had advised her to work really hard so that shadows would grow much smaller. Kapoor says that the advice made a lot of sense. She focused on putting in hard work, being professional and things began to look up.
“Yes, we (star kids) have a lot of benefits but at the end of the day if you are not talented and don’t work hard, it’s not going to go anywhere.”
However, as far as star kids are concerned, Sonam Kapoor is an outlier. She started out as an assistant to renowned director Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Black before deep diving into acting. Her debut in 2007 though confident and poised was lost in high decibel hoopla around co-actor Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone but over the years, with powerful performances in films like Neerja, Ranjhana or Khoobsurat to name a few, Kapoor has shown both determination and enterprise. With Aisha, she and sister Rhea turned producers under their father Anil Kapoor’s banner and they are now on to their third film Veere Di Wedding along with Ekta Kapoor.
In fact, the girls have combined the best of their parents’ creative influence—inspired by their mother Sunita Kapoor, a designer herself, they have even launched their very own fashion label Rheson. Despite a very fashionable side to her, Sonam has no hesitation outing the feminist in her. Aren’t the two at odds with each other, I ask. She is decidedly not in agreement. “Being a feminist does not mean you grow your eyebrows and not wear a bra. When someone asked me at 21, ‘Are you a feminist’, I said yes, I am and very proud to be one.”
Her claim is backed by the work she’s done–roles that she has essayed are predominantly of the modern Indian girl.
Despite a successful decade to her credit, Kapoor is awkward with the self-obsession that the job requires and the attention that actors draw. “There are two ambitions for an actor. One is to become a celebrity, to become famous and be the biggest superstar in the country and the other is to have longevity – to be the best actor and person that you can be. And for me I was more comfortable doing that.”
Growing up she would often watch films that were books first and admits that one day, she is likely to turn director. Compared to the present generation of actors, like Alia Bhatt, Sara Ali Khan or her young cousins Jhanvi and Khushi Kapoor who are well aware of what an actor’s job requires, she says that her generation was not as well prepared for the job. “I had never been photographed. I did not even know I wanted to be an actress.”
Dressing up was something she enjoyed personally, not necessarily for the camera and to that extent never positioned herself as a fashionista. To all those young actresses now vying for the slot, her advise is to just be themselves and create their own niche instead of marching to someone else’s beat. “I do it because I like dressing up. I appreciate it like an art. This is a hobby, an interest. I am not manufacturing this image. It comes naturally,” she says.
Between films and fashion, she says the former is more prone to compel women to fit in. “I think the film industry has certain prototypes to follow. The fashion industry is way ahead. I don’t ever remember being projected as a hot chick for a man (in fashion magazines). Fashion magazines are for women.”
A case in point being the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement sweeping through Hollywood, a phenomena that has not been embraced in the Indian film industry the way it should have been. “Unfortunately, in India, there’s a lot of shame attached to it. You are conditioned to not speaking about things because you think ki it becomes a blemish on you,” explains Sonam Kapoor.
But on a happy note, closer home happy developments are purportedly underway – what with the buzz about Kapoor tying the knot growing louder. It does come up but the actor decidedly maintains a stoic silence displaying what she often talks of, “Doing everything with class and sass.”
(Priyanka Sinha Jha is a senior journalist, author, and digital-media specialist)