by Devansh Patel
It's always hard for youngsters to escape the shadow of a famous parent and find individual success. Harder still in Bollywood where entry to the A-List is so brutally restricted. So what price would have been put on Sonam Kapoor to make it, given that she had three big names in her family? Born to the award winning actor Anil Kapoor, she was also raised by Anil's elder and younger brothers Boney Kapoor and Sanjay Kapoor. The chances of matching any one of these were slim, yet Sonam rose to the challenge, being nominated and winning the Best New Comer Female at various award functions for her debut film Saawariya, testing herself by working with the likes of India's leading film makers – Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, pushing herself to the limit by working with talents like Ranbir Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan, and becoming a headline star and a front cover girl for many magazines till date. With her ever smiling and vibrant facial expressions, charming persona, flowing locks and pretty dresses, she is an icon of innocence, a role model for pre-pubescent girls in the struggling world of Indian films. For Sonam, this was both a blessing and a bane. Surely, her Saawariya had made her famous and relatively wealthy, but there was no guarantee that the public would accept her in more serious ventures. Aggressively seeking a new audience with her first film, the effortless actress now shows that she would not be judged by her films but by the characters she portrays in them. In the five minutes we got to spend with her amidst the twenty other journalists spreading their wings like pigeons in Trafalgar Square and her cute little pet 'Bacardi', a white pom-pom, guarding her safe from the lot, Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel met the smart, stylish, poised, polished and the ever so effervescent Sonam Kapoor at her Juhu residence where the juvenile actress spoke about her second film, the much anticipated Delhi 6, where she plays a bubbly and bouncy 'Bittu', her skepticism with the word 'de-glam', her favourite 'gajar ka halwa and gol gappas' she enjoyed having in Delhi, her new task master Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, her 'chaddi-buddy' yaar Ranbir Kapoor, her 'thirty five film old' co-star Abhishek Bachchan who couldn't stop reminding her of the number of films he has done till date, a remake of a film she'd love to be a part of and a special message for the entire cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire just before going to the Oscars.
With the way an actor dresses, it makes easier for the audiences to identify with the character one portrays. In Saawariya and in Delhi 6 we have seen you at your natural. What say?
First of all, in Saawariya I was so dressed up, wearing full make up and jewellery and clothes which were worth its value in gold. Just because you wear Indian clothes doesn't mean that you are de-glam. I think that's wrong notion. If glamorous means wearing short skirts and shiny tops with sequence on it then that's a wrong impression of being glamorous. I play what the character demands me to play. If my character demands me to wear jeans or skirts or western outfits, I'll be up for it but can also look de-glam by putting on such outfits if I don't carry them well with my character. At the end of the day, it's all about looking nice and right now I am not looking that bad yaar, come on! (laughs). I am not wearing Indian outfits in Delhi 6. Both the characters I've played, in Saawariya where I play a muslim girl and in Delhi 6 where I play a Hindu girl are two completely opposite roles in terms of the body language and dress. I like to play characters which have different layers to it.
In the two films you've completed so far, you've worked with co-stars whom you've known since your childhood – Ranbir and Abhishek. Does the equation on screen then become much easier?
I don't think knowing someone since your childhood really matters. It's acting at the end of the day. I get along with people in seconds. I am not a reserved person. We are sitting, chatting and eating food from the same plate in a day. It's obviously easier to be working with them from the first scene on the sets as I've known Abhishek for years now. I also know him better because we've met socially at many events and are born in the same vicinity that is Juhu. Ranbir is my 'chaddi buddy'. My comfort level with him is like what two best friends have which was pretty evident in Saawariya. Abhishek helps me out a lot which he did during Delhi 6 and kept on reminding me of his experience with the thirty five films he has done so far compared to mine who is only two films old (laughs).
Delhi 6 title track has become the current rage across the country, especially in the capital. How has the Delhi 6 musical journey by the Golden Globe and the BAFTA winner been?
Oscars now to follow, and as I say, we all live in hope. Music is a very inherent part of Indian cinema. I think most songs in Delhi 6 just lifts the film up. Delhi 6 isn't a musical journey but music is there in the film to enhance the visuals of the film. With Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directing it, the film was already a brilliant film in terms of its story telling. And with A.R. Rahman on board as a music director, the film has become simply outstanding.
Was Rakeysh Mehra instrumental in bringing out the real masakali-matakali 'bittu' in you?
(laughs) He truly did. But as far as the song is concerned, it was Vaibhavi Merchant who gets credited for that. She is so gracious and the song has turned out to be like her too. But the song is what I am in real life. Coming back to my director, Rakeysh works a lot on the script. He needs the script to be very perfect before we hit the sets and so there are hardly any changes while we are shooting. Cinema is a very human thing for me and I do improvise on the sets. I'm sure everyone else does the same too but with such a tight script with minimal changes. Rakeysh knows what he wants and lets you be who you are in real life which according to me is a very organic process while working. Rakeysh has spent most of his childhood in Delhi and he wanted to make 'Delhi' as the protagonist of the film showing its culture, belief, people, food, and love and warmth the capital has which makes you look within to find the answers in todays difficult time.
How did Delhi treat a Mumbaiker like you?
With open arms (laughs). I love Delhi. I like the people of Delhi and its fashion, the way they talk and walk, the way they dress up and the way all Delhi public is so hooked on about food. They are eat-a-holics. Me too (laughs) and that works for me. There was this D.J. which used to come and play old songs from our Hindi films dated in 70's and 80's and we all used to dance to the tracks till late in the night. I also went out of control by having my favourite 'gajar ka halwa' and 'gol-gappas'. Actually, there is an interesting story behind this that not many know. When we reached Delhi and wanted to eat pani-puri, people couldn't understand what the word stood for till we found out that in Delhi, nobody uses the word 'pani-puri', it's only 'gol-gappas' which is their way of describing the mouth watering dish. I didn't even spare that, can you believe it? I'd also like to mention that the lingo of Delhi-ites is poles apart to that of Mumbaikers. Nothing personal but that's what I noticed when we shot in the capital. We also came to know that the Chandni Chowk area post code is Delhi 6. So if one wanted to go to Chandni Chowk, you needed to say, "Delhi 6 le chalo", and the rickshaw driver would immediately understand where you want to go.
Is Delhi 6 going to spark a debate due to its sensitive story dealing with a Hindu-Muslim subject?
No it's not going to and I hope not. It's a beautiful story with Delhi as the backdrop, the love story between me and Abhishek and how Rakeysh has brought to life the old walled city in todays contemporary time is what Delhi 6 is all about. I cannot give away much as of now.
It's a time of re-makes our industry is going through. Any one in particular you'd wish to work for?
I'd love to portray the timeless classic role of Rosy from the film Guide which Waheeda Rahman played with such ease. She was so vibrant and full of energy, like what I am off screen. I am sure I'll be able to pull it off well.
Any big premiere plans?
Yes. The premiere is going to be in Delhi and don't ask me why because I am sure you must've figured it out. We are also going to take out a rath-yatra to promote the film which will be flagged off in a few days and will then be doing rounds of publicity in the overseas in Los Angeles, etc. We are also going all out to promote Delhi 6 in the North of India. We hope the film will touch the hearts and minds of the people across the globe. Delhi 6 is a very special film for all of us but it means a lot more to one man than all of us – Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
Your father, along with the rest of the cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire are now heading to the Kodak Theatre in ten days to attend the Oscars. Any special message for them and A.R. Rahman who might be the second Indian in a few days to win an Oscar?
I am very proud of the fact that a film like Slumdog Millionaire which talks about India and Indians has reached this platform where it has become a part of world cinema. We've got technicians and film makers and actors who've now shown that talent isn't restricted only to the West. The East is the new West. I wish the entire team of Slumdog Millionaire the very best at the Oscars. And for Rahman, I am sure he is going to get his hat-trick.