Whether it’s the challenging roles, striking outfits, controversial comments or her social media activities, Sonam Kapoor is never far away from the headlines and is someone who has become a bonafide icon at a young age.
The star doesn’t want to get used to all the attention so still has a sense of wonder and is usually overwhelmed by the extraordinary situations she regularly finds herself in. That was very apparent when Eastern Eye caught up with the down-to-earth actress to talk about her life, fashion, cinema, the advice she would give girls wanting to realise their dreams, Salman Khan, the importance of individuality and more. Warm, friendly and engaging, she peppered each answer with a captivating smile.
It doesn’t seem like your extraordinary life has changed you as a person?
(Laughs) It hasn’t, but I hope I have evolved as a human being. I will always be wondrous about things, and always feel like I am extremely lucky and fortunate. Everything should always seem like it’s new and different.
Do you think you have had two parallel journeys – one in acting and another in fashion?
They go hand in hand. I think as a person it will always be one journey. They are just two sides to the same coin – they feed off each other and to me, fashion is a great way of expressing myself when I’m not filming.
Which was your first love, fashion or cinema?
It was always cinema. I became an assistant director and then I wanted to become a filmmaker and writer. All the actres-ses I ever looked up to, whether it was Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Munro, Meena Kumari, Nutan or Waheeda Rehman, they were all fashion icons, and extraordinary as movie stars. They all had this amazing persona and everybody discussed what they wore. So I was fascinated by these movie stars and the incredible work they did. Also fashion is very cinematic.
What do you mean?
You know, cinema sets trends. It’s a reflection of society and starts a dialogue for people to start dressing a certain way. Like Audrey Hepburn was one of the first women to wear trousers on the big screen in Funny Face and that’s when they became really fashionable. Givenchy became Givenchy because of the clothes he did in films like Sabrina, so it was all about the movies. Movies actually propagate fashion in a great way, even in India.
You say movies play a large part, but among today’s generation of leading ladies, you are the only bonafide fashion icon?
(Laughs) I don’t know about that. I just know that I am a really strong individual who has a very strong voice and one of the easiest ways to recognise that is by seeing the kind of clothes I wear. Or maybe some of the things that I say. It can also be seen in the choices of films that I make. I think it’s really important for any girl to be an individual in this day and age, and to be someone who does not conform to what society demands.
Is that perhaps even more important in India?
In India it is very easy to conform to society’s demands. You know, you have to get married at a certain age, need to wear certain kind of clothes, have to look a certain way, need to say certain things and have to sound ‘right’. I have never actually adhered to that and have always tried to be an individual. Since ‘a visual’ can be so much stronger than anything you say, do or the choices you make, it stands out the most. So I think that’s what it is. I don’t know if you can call me a bonafide fashion icon, but you can definitely call me someone who marches to the beat of her own drum.
You have incredible stylists, but how involved do you get when you are creating a look, because your outfits create headlines around the world?
(Laughs) Oh my god, I only wear what I want to wear. I mean I have choices and work with incredibly talented people. I have worked with a lot of great people, but my sister (Rhea Kapoor) is my main stylist. She knows me very well and knows the kind of things I like to wear. But most of the time I only end up wearing what I feel comfortable in or the kind of person I want to be on that day. As a true actor, I like to be different people every day and I think that reflects in my clothes.
So when will you be launching your own fashion range?
Rhea and I are launching a high-street brand that is going to be called Rheson. It’s in association with Shoppers Stop. We are launching that in September. It’s going to be the first Autumn Winter festival collection. It’s for real girls.
Is that why you went to Paris recently?
No, I went for the Armani couture show because it was the 50th anniversary and stuff like that.
In terms of cinema, is it getting easier now to get female-centric roles?
You know, I started making these choices very early in my career. If you make that one choice and if that film works, then people will keep offering you stuff like that because that’s how it works anywhere in the world. People want to kind of copy that success or repeat it. I think because I made the right choices early on, the kind of roles I get offered now are quite meaty. It is because people know I am going to do those types of roles. If they thought I was going to do roles that requi-red me to just be beautiful and wear nice clothes, they would offer me that, but I don’t choose to do those things. I choose to work on films that actually have me doing something.
You and other leading ladies are turning the tide for women in Bollywood with more powerful women-led roles, like your last few releases.
I hope things are changing for the better. I think it’s high time. It is really easy to write films for women because the audience is predominantly women. It’s important to do films that show women in a really positive light, or show strong independent women tackling serious issues because like I said, cinema is a reflection of society. So films like Queen, Khoobsurat, Mardaani and Mary Kom are a positive reflection of what women can be and of the choices they can make. How they can take on any challenge and come out with flying colours.
Your next film Prem Ratan Dhan Payo sees you starring opposite Salman Khan and is directed by Sooraj Barjatya. What is it like working with two legends like that?
It is lovely because Sooraj Barjatya always makes films that people need at that point, especially in India, and this film is like that. It’s a film for India, all the population and the masses. It is something that has a positive message. It’s an amazing film to be working on because Salman is a legend. You see him, you watch him and expect him to be this huge movie star (he is that), but he is also a really cool guy. He’s a great actor, extremely professional and lovely to work with, just because he’s a great guy to work with and not because he is Salman Khan the movie star.
The last time I spoke to you was just before the release of Khoobsurat. You helped launch Fawad Khan who has won awards and plaudits. You must be proud?
Yes, it’s amazing. He’s really excited about it. I don’t know if it’s to do with me, it’s just each individual person’s hard work.
Do you have any other confirmed films?
I can’t talk about them, but I have signed two more films. The news will be coming soon, but right now I am not in a position to actually talk about it.
International Women’s Day was earlier this month and you are a strong role model. The theme this year was Make It Happen. What advice would you give young girls who want to realise their dreams?
Always make choices you will be proud of 10 years down the line. I have always believed that. I always feel the choices I made were based on thinking of what I would be like in the future. Don’t think ‘I’m young, I’m going to make a choice and it’s going to be fine’. Don’t ever do that. Don’t have any regrets, whether it is dating someone, choosing something to work on or even going home with someone after a few dates. Make responsible choices, not because of anything, but just so you don’t have any regrets in the future.
And how do you make it happen professionally?
If you want to make anything happen, you need to work really really hard and be focused. Sometimes yes, I am a romantic and really believe that love makes the world go round, but sometimes the most important thing is to love yourself. Then everything else will follow. Love does make the world go round, because if you love yourself then you can actually make a difference.
Special thanks to Rohini Iyer from Raindrop Media