The Thoughtful & Uber Glamorous Birthday Girl Sonam Kapoor

On Sonam Kapoor’s birthday, an in-depth interview with the fashion diva and actress

5 min read
Sonam Kapoor on love, films, ambition and topping <i>Neerja</i> (Photo: Abhishek Behani)

A beauty salon is where I meet Sonam Kapoor, the girl whom I’ve known ever since she was a toddler. This is my first interview with her. So I’m trying to be in sync, cool and youngish.

“Hi Uncle,” Sonam Kapoor smiles warmly in the Arctic air-conditioned environs, and glances at my thatch of salt-n-pepper to suggest, “Let’s get your hair styled!” No, no, duty before hair couture, I wince. It’s her first one-on-one interface, as it happens, after the widely lauded Neerja. Even her most myopic detractors have had to admit that she has evolved astoundingly as an actor. Clearly, a camera-chummy heroine has to work extra-hard to be acknowledged as an artiste of calibre.

Sonam Kapoor in deep thought (Photo: Abhishek Behani)
Sonam Kapoor in deep thought (Photo: Abhishek Behani)

Ensconced in a windowless cubicle, her Rapunzel hair is spray-washed by two attendants, who try not to grin, when she updates me right away,

My current status is that I’m boy-friendless, which my parents are very happy about. Guess they don’t want my heart to make a wrong landing.
Sonam Kapoor, Actress
Correct, parents are possessive. “You bet!” her eyes light up. “I’d be rudderless without them. And I know you’re going to ask me about Neerja next, and if I can ever top that.”

Yes, I snap sternly to which she responds, “Et tu Uncle? I don’t calculate my career or life.”

An actor must evolve or she could burn out, become extinct. I know I will grow kyon ki meri kundali mein likha hai. For Neerja, I had to chip away at myself, with the aim of doing justice to Neerja Bhanot, a superhero in the real sense of the word.
Sonam Kapoor
The author takes a selfie with Sonam Kapoor (Photo: Sonam Kapoor)
The author takes a selfie with Sonam Kapoor (Photo: Sonam Kapoor)

No pause. Sonam continues, “In retrospect, my film Raanjhana had inadvertent--maybe faint signals-- of the JNU campus controversy. The effort was to inspire change, the film raised questions. And okay, so Khubsoorat was a fun chick flick but it’s no joke to be bubbly and bouncy on screen without being irritating.”

Still, Neerja is a role of a lifetime, isn’t it? “200 per cent,” she agrees.

That’s why it would be very presumptuous of me to even think that I will be able to ever top Neerja. All I can say is that now I’m longing to play the part of a real-life artist, a painter. Or someone like Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Or someone like Rosie which Waheeda Rehmanji played so brilliantly in Guide.
Sonam Kapoor

She hasn’t signed on projects of late though there’s been some buzz about an adaptation of Hollywood’s The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants. “Ha, ha,not at all,” she issues a denial.

I’m not a teenager anymore to traipse all around the countryside in a pair of skintight jeans. There’s another film that my sister Rhea is planning, which should be announced soon. And may I ask, have you downloaded the Sonam Kapoor app?
Sonam Kapoor
Sonam Kapoor preps up for the Cannes red carpet (Photo: Abhishek Behani)
Sonam Kapoor preps up for the Cannes red carpet (Photo: Abhishek Behani)

She reaches for my antique cellphone, jabs, gives up. “Not fair! You have to get yourself a new one.”

My app is the first one of its kind by an Indian, or so I’m told. It’s not meant for monetization. It’s for those who want to know who or what Sonam is about. Today being a celebrity isn’t about being ivory towered, it’s about being interactive. If I can inspire people to be aspirational, I’d be thrilled.
Sonam Kapoor

“It’ll have tutorials, occasional film and book reviews, beauty tips,” she elaborates. “And a section called Sister Act in which Rhea and my besties, fashion designer Shehla Khan, dance exponent Pernia Qureshi, hotelier Samyukta Nair and actor Swara Bhaskar will address various issues. Digital is the way to go. So when are you getting a decent phone?”

Soon, soon. Hair-drying guns are trained on her as we yak on. “Don’t you worry about me,” she says, “I’m insanely focused.”

I’ve been writing short stories, I have concepts for three scripts and I hope to direct a film myself. I was fed up of being branded as a fashion diva who can’t act. Such prejudices did affect my self-pride. During the last two years I went through a troubled phase. I wanted to disown myself. But there’s light at the end of depression. I’ve smartened up. I’m a homebody, I’m thoughtful and I can be uber glamorous. As the Whitney Houston song goes, I’m every woman.
Sonam Kapoor
I don’t believe that a woman’s complete only with a man who’s just a call away: Sonam Kapoor (Photo: Facebook/Sonam Kapoor)
I don’t believe that a woman’s complete only with a man who’s just a call away: Sonam Kapoor (Photo: Facebook/Sonam Kapoor)

Does the boy-friendless status rankle? She narrows her eyes to riposte, “How can you even ask that?

I don’t believe that a woman’s complete only with a man who’s just a call away. That said, I’m dying to have a baby. Ooops don’t blow that up into the heading please. It would be so out of context. What I mean is that some day, I want to be like my mother (Sunita) who’s so principled. Simultaneously I want to be like my dad – Anil Kapoor the actor and star -- who’s so self-confident. Tough call but I’m going to give that my best shot.
Sonam Kapoor

The hair treatment’s done. Sonam has to fly out shortly for the Cannes film festival, once again to represent a top-line cosmetic brand. In effect, every gown she wears on the red carpet will be monitored, praised or panned.

Does she revel in being the centre of attraction? “Absolutely,” she laughs out loud.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading, writing and introspecting in my hotel room. Uncle, don’t make that funny face of yours. I think, therefore I am.
Sonam Kapoor

Sonam Kapoor’s Favourite Reads:

Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Leon Uris’ Exodus
Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance
J D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye
Neil Gaiman’s Stardust

Sonam Kapoor’s Favourite i-Pod Songs

Ajeeb daastan hai yeh (Dil Apna aur Preet Parai)
Lag jaa gale (Woh Kaun Thi)
Sajan re jhoot mat bolo (Teesri Kasam)
Bade acche lagtey hain (Baalika Badhu)
Arziyan..maula mere maula (Delhi 6)

(This interview was first published on May 9, 2016)

(The writer is a film critic, filmmaker, theatre director and a weekend painter)

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