Family drama Prem Ratan Dhan Payo sees the dream team of actor Salman Khan and big-thinking filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya reunite.
The leading lady lucky enough to be chosen to play the love interest in the hotly anticipated family drama is Sonam Kapoor. The talented actress and style icon beat off tough competition to land the role of a strong-minded princess in what is one of the biggest Bollywood releases of the year.
Not surprisingly, Sonam said she was thrilled with the way the movie has shaped up when Eastern Eye caught up with her to talk about the film, working with Salman Khan, her future plans, inspirations, why she is her own biggest critic, dream role and more.
How did you feel when you were offered the lead role in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo?
It was amazing because it is such a huge honour to work with Sooraj Barjatya. He has made some of the legendary films that we have grown up watching and kind of count among our favourites. So it was quite a pleasant and amazing shock.
You are a confident young woman, but did you feel nervous doing a movie directed by him and co-starring Salman Khan?
Well, I have worked with Salman before in Saawariya and I have known him all my life. Of course, working with him is always special and there was a bit of trepidation going in. I was thinking, ‘how am I going to react (being opposite him)? And how would everybody react to me?’ But Sooraj-jee was so kind to me and was just so amazing. I never felt anything but sure of myself and about the fact that he wanted me for the film.
What is Salman Khan like on set?
He is very dedicated, very professional and is an amazing actor. He is a superstar and all the positive things. It’s amazing to work with somebody who is that dedicated to his job.
What can you tell us about your character?
My character’s name is Maithili and she is a princess. She is Prem’s love interest, and is somebody who knows what and who she wants in life. I think that is the best thing about her.
You look stunning in the film. How did you decide on the look?
Anamika Khanna has done the costumes for me, the jewellery is done by my mother and I have styled myself. Sooraj-jee just gave me an idea of the flavour and colours he wanted, but otherwise he has left it up to me.
The Prem Ratan Dhan Payo title track is one of my favourites of the year. Could you tell it would be a super hit when you first heard it?
Yes, because I was humming it as soon as I heard it for the first time. I had a really great time dancing to it. I guess everybody else is feeling the song too because it’s gone absolutely viral.
Films by Sooraj Barjatya have lots of lovely moments. Do you have a favourite from this film?
I think shooting Jalte Diye was one of my favourite moments in the film. I really loved shooting that song and love the way it has turned out. His films promote family values and togetherness, so there are a lot of great moments.
What about any behind-the-scenes moments?
Yes of course, there were many, but it is such a big film and we had a limited number of days and needed to take care that everybody was fully switched on. So there wasn’t anything like something spectacular happened behind the scenes. We were all there to work and make things happen.
What were the biggest challenges you faced while shooting Prem Ratan Dhan Payo?
There is no challenge, Asjad. Every film that I do is a challenge, but they have to be challenging, otherwise they are bloody boring. So it was about working as hard as I could, doing the best that I can and living up to Sooraj Barjatya’s expectations of me.
Do you feel intimidated by the sky-high expectations around you?
I have higher expectations from myself than anybody else does. I am very hard on myself, so I work as hard as I can. I don’t compete with anyone else and I am honestly not bothered about what people think, because I know nobody can be as critical of me as I am of myself. So I try to do the best that I can and after that I just leave it up to fate to figure it out. I think that’s the best way to go about things.
What do you all feel about the fact that everyone is expecting Prem Ratan Dhan Payo to clock up huge numbers at the box office?
I don’t think about it at all. (Laughs) If I had to think about these things, I wouldn’t have signed half the films I have signed in my career. I only work in movies I am passionate about and work hard on them. If it is a good film and it connects to audiences, it will do well.
This film could well be a turning point in your career. Have you thought about that?
No, I don’t think like that. I don’t have any strategies or anything. I just try to be creatively different every time.
Have you planned what genre of films you wanna do in the future?
If I just hear something, if I like somebody, I kind of just go with my gut. If I feel the character is going to be different and it’s going to make me do something different then I just do it. I mean, I keep myself guessing, so I can’t possibly imagine what other people are thinking. I like it when something new comes up and I can surprise myself. So I don’t know what I am going to do next.
A few years ago you told me that Hollywood interests you. Is that still the case?
Yes, of course. I am actually in and out right now and trying to line up some good work. Then let’s see what happens.
Do you have a dream role? I would love to see you play a villain.
(Laughs) I would really love to play a villain too. My dream role is either Annie Hall or Rosie from Guide – Waheeda Rehman’s character. Something interesting like that. I feel black and white is very easy to play; it is grey characters that are the most difficult.
Do you think Indian cinema needs more family films?
[My movie] Khoobsoorat was a family film, Raju Hirani only makes family films. I think we are making all kinds of films these days, and it’s important that we do. I mean, Piku was a family film and so was Tanu Weds Manu Returns. There are a lot of family films around, it’s just a matter of going to the cinema and catching them.
Is this an exciting time for actors like you who are getting to play diverse roles?
Yes, of course, it is very exciting, and I hope it just gets better from now on.
If you could romance any Hollywood actor, who would it be?
Who is a good romantic Hollywood actor? I have no idea, actually. I would never dream about actors romancing me, I don’t think like that. I am so ambitious to find characters to play, so I always think about roles I want to do. I never think about which guy I want to work opposite. Is that weird?
No, not at all. But what most inspires you today, because you are very unpredictable in your choice of roles?
I think I just like to grow and don’t like to get bored. So I only do things that challenge and stretch me as an artist; kind of make me want to get up in the morning and go to work.
You are a style icon, so what tips would you give someone?
Just be yourself. That is the most important thing, I think.
What is happening with the fashion venture you are launching with your sister?
It will hopefully come out in March next year. It is called Rheson and you can look it up online.
You are very busy, but what are your biggest passions away from work?
I am producing a film with my sister, I am writing, putting a fashion label together, acting, doing social work and trying to set up an organisation. I am doing tonnes of things and try to make time for all of them. I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day.
Would you like to give us a message for your fans?
I am really happy for all the support, and the fact that everyone is really excited about Prem Ratan Dhan Payo makes me really happy.
So why should we all watch Prem Ratan Dhan Payo?
I think you should watch it because it will make you happy and it’s a great festive film. It’s a good movie for everyone to watch together. It is something that will make you positive and happy. It will entertain you. Those are the biggest reasons.
Finally, what is your idea of happiness today?
My idea of happiness is just being present in the situation and living every moment as opposed to always checking your phone or looking into the future or looking into the past – just being present in the moment.
Prem Ratan Dhano Payo will be in cinemas on November 12.