Sonam Kapoor: “For Me, Telling Neerja’s Story Was Important!”
How did Neerja Bhanot’s life move you?
Neerja, as a character, as a human being, is very inspirational. She was an ordinary girl with qualities that are exemplary – of leadership, compassion, patience, kindness, bravery, principles, and standing up for what’s right. She showcased all these qualities during the 17 hours that she was on the PanAm flight in 1986. So for me, telling her story was extremely important.
For the title role, what preparations did you do to get under the skin of Neerja who was a real person?
It is always difficult to understand the soul and capture the essence of the character, especially when it is based on a real person, because there are preconceived notions of how the person was. Her image is etched in her family’s heads, in her friends’ and co-workers’ minds – as opposed to any imaginary character that you are likely to play. The easy part of playing a real person on screen is that the backstory, that as actors we tend to imagine, is already written – the way she spoke, the way she looked, the way she walked. It was all there for me; I just had to mimic it. But, it was difficult to capture her essence and I have tried my best to do that. You can judge for yourself.
What is her family’s reaction to the film — and you playing Neerja?
They haven’t seen the film yet. Her family let us do the film because I was playing Neerja. Rama aunty (Bhanot, Neerja’s mother) had to approve of me, so I went to Chandigarh to meet her. She, for some strange reason, likened me to her daughter, and now we’re here.
How would you personally define bravery?
For me, bravery is when you act in the face of fear.
Who would you say is the bravest woman you have met in your life? Neerja, though I haven’t met her.
Three women who you would say are icons for you….
Neerja Bhanot, Mother Teresa, Sarojini Naidu.
What frightens you?
Not learning from my mistakes scares me.
Do you recall a situation where your parents have been worried about you?
They’re constantly worried about me!
If pushed into a corner, in a challenging situation, though perhaps not exactly like Neerja’s, how would you react?
I react instinctively. And my instinct is always to fight. So I don’t know what will happen to me.
A role you have played that has been closest to your heart?
Mili from Khoobsurat.
A character you have played who has been most like you….
In your fridge: “I have no idea!”
In your bag: “I don’t know! It’s a secret. Maybe headphones, and the Kindle that Ram (Madhvani, director) gave me….”
On your bookshelf: “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat; The Magicians, a fantasy novel; Life from Scratch; The League Of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’m reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction right now.”
On your wall: “Something special that Ram Madhvani gave me, my friend Swara Bhaskar has given me another special thing that’s up there, two pieces of art by Sakti Burman and Ram Kumar, and a painting that Salman (Khan) gave me.”
On your bucket list: “To go to Japan, to read two books a week because I’ve stopped reading as much as I used to, and to watch some more regional cinema.”
Your favourite movies: “Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, Mr India, Godfather, Annie Hall, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Bandini, Guide, The First Wives Club. I would like to do a character in all these films!”
In your life: “My family.”
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