Sonam Factor’s in All

Lucky charm

Her choices are not conventional but born out of conviction. Sonam K Ahuja aka Sonam Kapoor is determined to choose roles that matter to her, and she has generally reaped a rich dividend, learning more value-added lessons as she goes along, especially after mid-2018 when she got married. Her luck factor in her life also seems to have spiralled.

In the second half of last year, her home production Veere Di Wedding became a hit, and Sanju a blockbuster. Early this year, her Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, in which she played a lesbian, won her more appreciation than some of her hits, and now, The Zoya Factor, examines the matter of luck and superstition with a light approach.

“I think that every girl is lucky,” she says, speaking about her latest film in which she is shown to be lucky for the Indian cricket team. “The conventional thought that we are a burden is all wrong. My father always thought I was lucky for him. Here, the girl is named Zoya as the word means a gift. We are all gifts to our families.”

The film is based on a bestselling book of the same title by Anuja Chauhan, who has also co-written the film. “Anuja is one of the most successful ad executives,” Sonam points out, explaining the ad film background of the film along with cricket, lucky charms and superstitions.

Content matters

Sonam chooses every film for a reason. “I have never believed in the length of my role. I think that it is important to work in films that make a difference because of what they want to say. It’s also important to work with good people, and today, R Balki, Rajkumar Hirani, Ram Madhvani or any of my directors are people with whom I will sign films in a heartbeat because I enjoy working with them all. I have done films in which I have had three scenes and two songs, and in such cases, I prefer that the role still has something to say, like a Delhi-6 or a Bhaag Milha Bhaag with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Sanju or Pad-Man.”

At the other end are films like Raanjhanaa, Neerja or Ek Ladki, in which she has the central or lengthiest role, including now The Zoya Factor, which has been critically appreciated and is being liked by audiences as well. She has done four biopics recently. “Yes,” she agrees.

“But an interesting thing about the biopics I have done — except for Neerja — is that my characters in them were fictional,” she grins. “They did not exist in Bhaag Milha Bhaag, Sanju or Pad-Man.

She singles out R Balki and Rajkumar Hirani for special praise. “My relationship with Balki sir is amazing, just like his process,” she says.

“He has incredible respect for women, and his integrity and, intelligence are amazing. And Raju may be the biggest filmmaker today, but I have never seen him badly behaved. He is possibly the most successful, most humble and nicest man I have ever worked with, and an incredible human being.”

Conservative audience

What is her view on why Ek Ladki… did not do as well as was hoped? “I don’t know,” she exclaims. “Maybe people were afraid to go and watch it. It has done stupendously well on OTT, which means that everyone preferred watching it alone, I think. Look, in India, the stigma attached to being gay is still there. I have preserved all the messages I keep getting after the film, messages that say how ‘I have accepted myself’ or ‘I came out to my parents’ after watching it.”

When Sonam works on a home production with her sister Rhea and father Anil Kapoor as producers, is she involved in the choice of stories? “Yes,” she answers. “We chose Aisha, Khoobsurat and Veere Di Wedding together.”

What made her choose The Zoya Factor? “I simply wanted to relax and do an easy-breezy film,” she replies. “All my last films were very much of the intelligent and serious kinds, and I wanted to unwind. I do take some of my characters home, and so a light movie was imperative after so much work.” She recalls filmmaker Ian Michelin, who visited India sometime ago, telling her that an actor is like a sieve. “He said that every character an actor plays is different, but all of them are played through the filter of who you are in real life,” says the actress.

“So there is something of you in each character you play, and something of a character that is left behind within you. That is why, for me, it is important to empty myself of a character, and so a light film was just the right
prescription.”

But was not Veere Di Wedding as undemanding, too? She nods her head and says, “But it was our home production, and my involvement was there as well in the other aspects. When I was doing my hair and make-up, for example, a production meeting would be going on in the van itself. So it was all very intense. My co-stars Bebo (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and the other girls must have had a ball, though, but not me,” she smiles.

Shades of grey

Would she like to do a grey or villainous role, like what Kajol did in Gupt, Madhuri Dixit pulled off in Boney Kapoor’s Pukar, and so on? Sonam is very clear that the two adjectives we use are now dated, and that today, she would call such characters “imperfect and maybe selfish, which does not mean they are bad people,” She reasons, “My character in Raanjhanaa did things that were not acceptable to most of the people in her life. That does not make her bad either.” 

How superstitious is she in real life, and how much does she herself subscribe to luck? “C’mon, yaar, I am an Indian,” she laughs, with an air of someone feeling that the remark explains everything. “We do have nimbu-mirchi (lemon and green chillies tied up together) on our door and on our cars, a murti (idol of God) inside the car, and we eat dahi-shakkar (curd and sugar) whenever we leave town.”

Her father Anil Kapoor made a gimmicky cameo in the film as a whimsical actor, but can barely be called a co-star, unlike when he played her father in Ek Ladki…, but this is the first time she works with her uncle Sanjay Kapoor, who played her dad in The Zoya Factor. How is their equation?

“Oh, chachu is my fun uncle, and I tell him things like what I have done wrong, which I will not tell even my father,” she reveals. “The fact that he is young, easy and hassle-free, makes him more of a friend than a chacha. So we really get along.”

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