She moves quite effortlessly to the pulsating beat, casually choreographing a jaw-dropping sequence of poses that are more moods than friezes. She turns the space between the studio backdrop and the camera into a private dance floor, all her own. For, with the music resounding in the space, the crystals glinting in the flashlights, the young actor – with the long legs and slim frame – needs no second guessing or detailed direction to, well, get into the groove. She pouts and smiles, bends forwards and backwards, twists and turns with all the agility and grace of her young body…. The camera is almost forgotten in her spontaneous ‘living’ of the moment…. She is enjoying herself, being herself, celebrating being Sonam Kapoor. For her, the party has just begun…
Of a shooting star…
As the sparklers that have turned Mumbai’s night sky into a kaleidoscope of colours outside discotheques and clubs, die out in the light of day, the celebrations continue on the ground. Our very special session scheduled for an afternoon turns instantly, impromptu, into a rocking party of sorts at our location for the day, photographer R Burman’s studio in central Mumbai. As I alight from my vehicle outside the sedate building traversing winding by-lanes, and walk into the premises, two flights up, the electricity in the air is perceptible even as I ring the doorbell to enter.
Inside, where Burman and Verve’s team are preparing for the task of the day is an oasis of controlled chaos and impending calm…. Dresses are being hung up in the wardrobe, stilettos are lined up in a military-like manner, lights are being set up…. Namrata Soni sweeps in with her make-up paraphernalia, staking her claim on the well-lit space in front of the mirror. All the while the music continues to rev up the tempo.
Amidst this bustle, cover girl Sonam Kapoor walks in quietly, for the moment alone. Standing tall, naturally, in flip-flops, she surveys the scene, even as her friend and manager, Alisha Dave, strolls in, seconds later. I exchange a little conversation with the girl who kick-started her career with Saawariya and then moved on to projects in a more commercial vein – Aisha and I Hate Luv Storys – but more dialogue is waived as she gets all set to turn on the heat, under the camera lights.
Sonam has settled down comfortably in the inner sanctum sanctorum, giving herself up to the ministrations of the team. She walks out a while later, a small hat perched attractively on her head. ‘Volume,’ she says, and the music gets louder.
From my vantage position on the sofa in the sitting area, I catch all Sonam’s reactions, even as they are captured for posterity by the lens. In between umpteen shots, the crew pauses to check details…. And I can see her standing behind them, looking easily over their heads to see her images. Her dil maange more…and more it is.
Soon, it’s time to break for lunch and Sonam’s tucking into home-cooked khaana as the rest of us dip into meaty subs or hot coffees. Taking advantage of the break in action, both of us begin our conversation that revolves on the year that is to end in a while. Excerpts from the chat that spans changes, tunes, fun, laughter, printed tights and tottering heels!
Of circa 2010….
Toying with the metal cuff that is around her slim wrist, Sonam says she is absolutely delighted with the year that will soon be part of a calendar past. In between small, quick mouthfuls of dal and rice (the chicken is ignored), the actor affirms, “Both the films that released this year were more or less successful. Earlier, I had got good feedback for Saawariya and Delhi 6. After that I was looking for commercial validation, to a certain extent. With Aisha and I Hate Luv Storys, I got that. Aisha, a female-centric film, made by a woman director (Rajshree Ojha), written by a woman (Devika Bhagat), got a great opening and it was the time to celebrate.”
Sonam puts away her plate, signals her boy to take it away, and relaxes on the low sofa before the next change and shot. Her year, like her life, has been filled with friends and fun. In fact, I Hate Luv Storys, as she explains, was made with friends Puneet (Malhotra) and Imran (Khan). “It was a romantic comedy and did not lie about who or what it was,” she states. “We set out to make a commercial potboiler. It set the tone for films that came later – Anjaana Anjaani and Break Ke Baad. It was a teenage flick about a boy and a girl. That is all.”
Another landmark event dotted 2010 – Sonam turned 25. She bursts out laughing, adding, “I cannot lie about my age. I am a quarter of a century old. I was probably around a year or two when Dad’s hit Ram Lakhan was being made. Yet though I am now all of 25, I am always treated like the youngest, for some strange reason.”
Of celebrations and bashes
With superstar-producer Anil Kapoor for a father, Sonam’s lived the big dream since her childhood. But, as she does a quicksilver change into the next outfit, she says, “For me, celebration is anything to do with life. It could be something small…or something big. In fact, small moments in life are worth celebrating much more.”
Growing up in a filmi family did not mean she was allowed to have a starry childhood, late nights and relaxed curfews. Au contraire; for returning to Namrata’s domain, Sonam emphasises, “When I was too young, my parents used to put us to sleep at 9.30 pm. But I am passionate about dancing and at one of the earlier bashes that my parents threw at home, there was some music playing. I just walked down and started dancing. I love life and I grab every moment to experience it. As we began to grow up, the parties moved outside. But we had Diwali celebrations at home which were lots of fun. I was not allowed to go for many of their parties outside. When I turned 16, my parents let me go pubbing.”
In fact, Sonam led a relatively sheltered childhood. For as she points out, “My father did not like to take me to a party where there was likely to be press. The first time I went with him was for my friend Anamika Khanna’s fashion show, before I became an actor. I went because of Anamika. Everyone there was taking his pictures, but I was not bothered as I was more interested in the clothes at that point.”
Of birthdays and red-carpet moments
“I remember my first birthday party quite clearly,” says the 25-year-old with a telescopic memory. “My cousin Priya was there and I only wanted to sit on her lap. Even now we have this weird relationship where I love her to death. A couple of people who were there have really grown up now – Ahmed, he is a Mr India and now a choreographer, Luv-Kush (Sinha), Esha and Ahana (Deol)…. Sonakshi was not born then. As we grew up, my sister and I both went crazy but now, I would like to think that we have settled down. Rhea loves to eat and drink; she is a foodie, a true-blue Punjabi. I like food but not as much as she does.”
Family means a lot to her. No wonder then that the red-carpet moment that she remembers the most is the one she shared with her dad. Stretching out her stockinged legs delicately, she says, “There have been so many moments and all have been fun. But the one that stands out in my mind is the premiere of Slumdog Millionaire. At the event there was this exhilaration and positive feeling. I enjoyed being there. It was not my film. But ultimately it was not just about being a part of dad’s film event, but about it being such a big moment. Unforgettable.”
Of style and dressing up
Sonam is a designer’s dream – her sense of style stems from her sense of self and she can carry off almost any attire with aplomb, given her slim and tall figure. As she drops down after another stint in front of Burman’s lens, I ask her when her romance with dressing up began. It all began a long time ago, when she was a kid. “I have always tried on my mother’s clothes,” remembers Sonam. “I just loved them. My mother used to be a fashion designer, so I would go to fashion shows and stuff like that with her. I loved her trials and remember Aishwarya, Sushmita trying out her clothes. I was taken up by the glitter and was fascinated by how beautiful these women are.”
What she does admit to having is her own style sense, something she has developed on her own. She laughs out loud, adding, “I don’t dress like my mom or my dad but a lot is to do with the aesthetic sense that my parents inculcated in me. My mum thinks I dress crazy. I just wear what I feel like wearing; I don’t think about it too much.” Her favourite is her “Balenciaga trousers and my see-through white shirt from Zara. It looks really sexy…and my high heels. I love being tall. It makes me look statuesque. But, I don’t think I am beautiful and don’t like looking into the mirror for that very reason.”
‘Colour me red’ is a line Sonam could have patented. She loves the memories of the moments she spent with her naani. As Namrata gives slight finishing touches before the next shot, la demoiselle points out, “When I was a kid, I would love being with naani. She wears red make-up and red nail polish. She is always in backless cholis – I used to sit with her and paint my nails. We would listen to old Hindi songs or she would tell me stories. And time would just fly.”
Of friends and frolic
Quiz her about her gang of girls – and guys – and she rattles off a list of names she has known since she was a teenager – Shaila, Alisha, Rithika, Kunal – all of whom, she says are still in touch. One of them, Alisha, is with us, as she works with Sonam now and she grins across at all the memories that they share.
Sonam bursts out laughing at Alisha’s expression and says, “My friends and I were such losers. We just had a good time. We used to go for drives. We used to go pubbing and clubbing. We haunted places like HQs and Insomnia. Today, when I still want to have fun, I go out with my friends. I play poker. I play video games. I love them. I read a lot. I go out in the night. Every month a new place opens up that we need to check out. But nowadays I am not in town. So I don’t have a life any more.”
Today as a star, she hankers after her many outings that have dropped considerably in number. “What I miss is going for shows – going out and stuff like that. I love people coming and meeting me; it’s nice to be liked. Now it’s impossible to go for things like the Kala Ghoda Festival or music programmes.”
On reel and real life
Just a few films old, Sonam feels that none of the characters she played till date have been her. Not Sakina. Not Aisha. Not Simran. In fact, of the film where she played the title role, Sonam says, “Aisha is diametrically opposite to me as a person. There is a little bit of every character in me, but I am not like any of them as a whole. Perhaps, the closest to my real nature, is the one in Players. “A little bit of every character in me. The closest would be the one I am playing in Players. (Incidentally it is said to be the official remake of the 2003 Mark Wahlberg-Charlize Theron film, The Italian Job.) The way she dresses, her love of cars…. . I started earning my own money when I was 17. I am not a self-involved or spoilt child in any way.”
I am a bit of Papa’s girl and Mama’s darling.
I find shopping therapeutic.
Wearing stylish clothes is just one facet of my personality.
I love to eat. It goes to my hips.
I love giving gifts.
I like having dinners at home.
I was the wilder one, compared to Rhea, till I was 16 or 17.
Chocolates cheer me up.
Give me anything electronic, I will fix it.
Eatery: Nobu, anywhere.
Drink: Watermelon martinis.
Holiday destination: New York.
Shooting location: Scotland, for Mausam.
Casuals: Trousers and a shirt.
Formals: I can’t pick one.
Disco: Bungalow 8, New York.
Places to shop: London, Paris, Milan, Delhi and Kolkata.