Thursday, 26 March 2009

Simply Sonam

No airs. No inflated ego. Here’s a strong-willed star kid who prefers to play the game by her own rules, writes Sneha May Francis

It’s not often that you’d get to sit down and have a chit-chat with a Bollywood actress. Often, it’s a purely professional outing with us, the media, shooting out questions, and them, the actors, replying in full earnest. And after the scheduled drill, each leaves with a tight-lipped good-bye, rarely ever a handshake. But that changed after we met the new star on the block, Sonam Kapoor.
She was refreshingly different, warm and made us feel like we’ve known her for years, even stopping mid-sentence to offer us coffee while she sipped at hers. Unlike other stereotypical star kids, she came minus the star-standard tantrums and was at her chirpy best despite giving back-to-back interviews.
We caught up with the bubbly actress when she was in Dubai for the premiere of her second film – Rakeysh Mehra’s Delhi-6. While most young stars like to hog all films that come their way after their debut, Sonam decided to wait a year after Saawariya, proving she is not one to conform. In fact, she’s the kind who prefers to chalk out her own rules and not depend on daddy-dear, veteran actor Anil Kapoor to do her homework for her.
"One film a year is not bad, if you look at the law of averages. I just decided to do one film at a time, not because I’m being picky or anything. I don’t think I have the stamina or the capability to work on two or three films at the same time. I think it’s unfair to the director and me," she adds.
She takes a philosophical turn and questions how anyone could be true to a single character when they have to juggle two-three films at the same time. The Kapoor girl appears strikingly honest and has no qualms about admitting that it’s her lack of experience that has prompted her to take one film at a time. "Kudos to [the other actors who’ve managed it], but I can’t do it."
Her on-screen image is one of a na├»ve girl-next-door. So when we saw shots of her glamorous Vogue cover and her red-lipped sassy fashion at numerous social events, it got us wondering whether this was a serious attempt to change her demure image. "I’ve always been like this. It’s only in the movies you see me playing a certain character," she explains.
Mid-way through the interview, she decides to reverse the roles and quizzes us instead. She asks us about our decision to move away from India. "I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. India is my country and I’m so proud of it," she says.
The conversation leads to her talking about a desire to go back to her books, something she regrets giving up for a career in films. "I feel illiterate at times! So, I’m constantly reading to make up for it." So if you thought she would put college education on the backburner, think again. Sonam is not one to give up, she’s extremely determined to fine-tune her grey cells even if it means following world-renowned writer/philosopher Rabindranath Tagore’s self-study method.
"He said that reading is the best way to educate oneself. I believe education is extremely important and I encourage everyone to finish their studies before taking up acting or any other profession."
Her thoughts then drift to her father , who also gave up his college education for a film career. Unlike other star’s kids, Sonam is comfortable with her filmy background. "I’ve never known a time when my dad was not an actor. For me, acting was a normal profession. In fact, it felt strange if someone’s dad was a banker or a lawyer." There’s a twinkle in her eye when she talks about her dad’s accomplishments in the Hindi film industry. In fact, she finds it tough to pick a favourite and lists out quite a few: "Besides Slumdog Millionaire, I liked Woh Saat Din, Pukar, Mr India, Tehzaab, Beta, Ram Lakhan… It’s tough to pick just one because he’s done so many good films."
Sonam might be in awe of her dad but she’s practical enough not to let her heart rule her mind. This is clearly evident when she picked box-office success for Delhi-6 over Oscar glory for Slumdog Millionaire. Unfortunately history proved otherwise, with Slumdog Millionaire winning eight Oscars and Delhi-6 finding an unlucky slot at the box office. But, she’s not one to be perturbed by the box office drama, considering this film is the one which brought her fame in the popular Masakali track. "Who would’ve thought that dancing with a pigeon placed on my head, would turn into such a rage. It’s all thanks to [choreographer] Vaibhavi Merchant, [composer] A. R. Rahman and [lyricist] Prasoon Joshi." Sonam goes on to explain the essence of the song: "It is a reflection of [my character] Bittu’s true state. In a way, the pigeon Masakali symbolises Bittu’s personal predicaments."
This leads to a recent report saying her co-star Abhishek picked Masakali, the pigeon, over her as his favourite co-star. But, she quickly clarifies, "[Abhishek] meant Bittu and not the pigeon!" And to prove her point, she cuts our conversation mid-way to check with Abhishek, who is seated in a corner nearby. He doesn’t disappoint her and admits, "You are Masakali," putting a mischievous grin on her face.
She may be all childlike and full of fun, but when it comes to her profession, she shows a lot of maturity. Her decision to do Delhi-6 was based on its great script. "It’s a good vision. I was fascinated with Bittu. I feel it’s more challenging to play someone normal rather than someone who is messed up or depressed."
At first glance, her perfect ladylike posture doesn’t give away her naughty streak. But we caught a glimpse of it when she talked about the shot, in which she was required to accidentally spit on Abhishek while gargling. "Yes I did it… once or twice," she grins. Guess this was her way of getting back at Bachchan junior for playing pranks on her.
On her future projects, Sonam says it’s a mini-family affair – with sister Rhea playing producer and dad donning the acting cap – that’s on the calendar.Our chat comes to an end, but there are no stiff farewells, only a nice big smile and a warm invitation to attend her premiere. For someone who’s so grounded and refreshingly warm, we only hope success and fame don’t change her.

(Published in e+, Gulf News (26.03.2009)

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Head bang for a cause

Rock stars from Rock On!!! gear up for a Magik-al evening, says Sneha May Francis

Come March 12, we in Dubai will get to rock with Bollywood’s first reel rock stars. Band Magik – Farhan, Arjun Ramphal, Purab Kohli and Luke Kenny – will team with Rock On!!! music composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy for an evening of pure Indi-rock.

Rock music isn’t alien to Hollywood. Numerous films have been made, and the one that stands out is Jack Black’s head-banging teacher act in The School of Rock. But Bollywood had shut its ears to the loud thumping beats. In fact, we’re so accustomed to watching our heroes lip-sync Hindi melodies and dancing with their ladyloves, that playing a guitar could look a tad out of place. But that image changed when Farhan Akhtar hit the right notes in Rock On!!! The music concoction left Bollywood mesmerised and craving for more. It was neither pure rock nor film music, it was Indi-rock re-mixed, Bollywood style!

And in the most befitting ode to their reel-life characters, band Magik will step out from the reel world into the real one!

The Rock On concert has partnered with Dubai Autism Center to create awareness about Autism as a condition. "It’s for a cause. At the end of the day you can do things for profit, for ego, but at times you get called on to recreate the magic that you’ve created onscreen for a particular cause," says Luke Kenny, who plays the keyboard in Rock On!!!

"We get to recreate the experience of the film and help other people… help them get a better life. That’s what motivates us to come on stage, six months after the release of the film."

After touring India and helping social networks, the boys will reach Dubai. For lead guitarist Arjun Ramphal, it’s a special way to thank his fans for their undying support. "It feels wonderful to see all the love and adulation we have gained with this film. I’ve received a lot of calls (of appreciation) from Dubai, so this concert is going to be extra special," he says.

"We’ve all wanted to be rock stars at some point in our lives... Magik is our band and we’ll do everything for it," he adds.

When asked whether he’d sing a few notes, like his reel character, he remained elusive and prompted us to find out at the concert – an added incentive, we think, apart from Farhan Akhtar’s Sinbad The Sailor. So for all Rock On!!! fans this is a rare opportunity to rock with Magik!

Where The Aviation Club, Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud
How Tickets are priced at Dh1,000, Dh500, Dh300, Dh175, Dh150; visit or call 0501524624, or 0503656480
When March 12, gates open at 6pm; show starts at 9pm

(published in March 12th, 2009 issue in e+, Gulf News)