Sony Pictures’ first Indian co-production “Saawariya” is a unique collaboration with one of India's best known and acclaimed directors, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. On November 9, 2007, the visual splendor and tender story of “Saawariya” will transport audiences worldwide back to the golden era of the ‘great romantic movies.’ The film features the much anticipated debut of two new stars, Sonam Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, both blessed with impeccable “Bollywood” pedigrees and lineage.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali said, “For Saawariya I wanted two young newcomers for the film, and I found them in Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. Ranbir and Sonam became like my own children and the time spent with them gave me a fresh perspective to life and a new way to look at the movies. I suddenly felt alive once again.”
Sonam Kapoor, the daughter of Anil Kapoor, took the opportunity to share her thoughts on her debut in Saawariya and her family’s legacy.
Were there any advantages to being the child of a film star when you first started out in the business?
The reason I got to work with Mr. Bhanshali in the first place was because I am my father's daughter, but he never treated me like a kid of a star, he treated me as an individual and I respect him & love him for that. People on the set were also totally professional and quite nonchalant about our backgrounds, and we never expected any special privileges. But I do feel very privileged to be Anil Kapoor’s daughter. My mother has always told me to give people the benefit of the doubt, but also not to see them with rose tinted glasses.
What was your answer when Sanjay Leela Bhanshali told you for the first time that you were going to be the heroine of his forthcoming film?
The only thing I could say was "Are you serious?" And then I was just grateful to him for having so much faith in me and giving me a sense of self worth and confidence. Whatever I may become in the future as an actor, will be thanks to him. Honestly, I told Rani Mukherjee that I was desperate to work with Sanjay Sir, when I learned she was acting in “Black.” I began working for him as an assistant on “Black.” It was during this time that he decided he wanted me as a heroine in one of his movies. My father (Anil Kapoor) is a perfectionist so I know what it is like to push yourself beyond your limitations. Mr Bhansali definitely pushed us beyond our limits, and he actually pushed himself the hardest. Today, after four years with him, I know he is a magician. I am completely in awe of him and can talk to him about anything.
How do you find Mr Bhansali as a person and as a director?
Sir is very sensitive, passionate and larger than life; he lives every minute of the day to the fullest. He IS his films, and therefore his body of work reflects the beauty of his spirit and his soul. He is my favorite director and the best filmmaker in the entire country. I never expected him to pick me as the heroine for this film. Working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the past four years was like going to college and getting an education.
Tell us about childhood moments that you shared with your father.
Even though my father used to work three shifts, there hasn't been a time when he wasn’t around for the important or even the small intimate moments of my life or that of my siblings. He is great at pep talks and instills us with enthusiasm through both the low points and high points. I couldn't have a better father. I've never seen my dad work, but I've heard some amazing stories of his professionalism, hard work and brilliance. I hope I can be as honest in my trade as he is. I also hope the discipline that he has instilled in all three of us serves us in our respective career paths.
How many Anil Kapoor films you have seen and what are your favorites?
I've seen all of them, and my favorites are Pukar, Lamhe, Mr.India, Woh saat din, Parinda, Tezaab, I love all of them actually.
You are said to be a very ‘grounded’ person. Tell us the influence your parents have played in this?
My parents gave me everything but they also ensured that I was brought up as normally as possible. My parents are a unit and they make joint decisions. At the end of the day my dad comes home and leaves his work behind, so there has never been any conflict with that. From my mother we learned to be sensitive to world issues and this awareness was instilled in us. I studied theatre arts, English and History and hence, have a good perspective on the world and larger issues and try not to get carried away with the smaller stuff.
You have many competitors in the industry who started before you such as Rani, for example. Are you ready to take up the challenge?
Rani Mukherjee is on her way to becoming a legendry actor and the rest are my seniors so I can't compete with them. They already have a body of work and I have one only film behind me. But I'm not here to compete; I just love working and want to do better with each job I do.
Who is your role model? Sridevi was your favorite actress and now she is your aunt. How does it feel?
My role models are my father, Rani and Sridevi, each for their enormous talents, their beauty as human beings and their clean ambition. To me Sri Chachi is a legend, but above all that she is family. It's a pleasure and a privilege to have her in our family.
How was your stint of living in Singapore going to college? What was your major in college and did you miss your parents when you were away?
I'm a real homebody, and I can’t do without my family and my own bed for long periods of time, otherwise Singapore was wonderful. By going there I was able to experience a world beyond the confines of my own home and learn to be sensitive to larger world issues. My majors were Theatre Arts, English and History.
Tell us about the grueling weight loss program you had to embark on for the part. You had weighted around 80 kgs before, if I am not mistaken.
My weight loss is thanks to my two trainers Sherveer and Monisha who constantly monitor my weight; they are amazing at their job, and it’s also thanks to the positive, healthy atmosphere at home.
Are you mentally ready for a life when your every emotion could be in the public eye? Are you aware of the dark side behind the glitz and glamour?
I don't know if I'm mentally ready, but I did choose this and I am aware of the so called dark side. I also know that as people in the public eye we have responsibilities towards the public because in some small way we can influence them with our actions. So the only way to face this so called dark side is to be honest with your self and do the right thing.
Your father and uncle have their own production houses. Do you have any plans to join them after this film is a hit?
To me, my family is a support system that will always be there, and I will definitely work for and with them.
How frequently do you read books or see movies? What are your favorite books and movies?
Reading to me is a passion; something I do constantly, books are my escape and my love. Reading feeds me and is essential for my sense of self. Movies are my life and inspiration and my way to bond with my friends. My favorite books are Unbearable Lightness of Being, Perfume, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Fountain Head, Atlas Shrugged, Sister of my Heart…. I can go on an on, my favorite films are, Devdas (both, the ones directed by Bimal Roy and by Sanjay Bhansali), Bobby, Gone with the Wind, Bridges of Madison County, Chinatown… okay I can go on with this too… but I am a romantic and idealist, and any film that explores ideals and tells a story is on my list of favorites.
You’ve known your co-star Ranbir since childhood. Was that an advantage to working together?
Working with Ranbir was made easier by the fact that I have known him since he was a kid and we have always been the best of friends. This gives us a natural chemistry and we both know how to react to each other. However, I must admit that he is a very well trained actor and spontaneous, while I just say the lines that come from my heart.
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