Despite being born into Bollywood royalty, the actress will never give into the poor little rich girl story. Here’s why…
Between a succession of back-to-back interviews in a whistle-stop 24 hours, Sonam Kapoor has one request to see her through: “I’ll have a mint tea.”
Balm for the soul is how she sees it – that and a spectacular spread of fresh fruit sits in front of her, presented like a work of art, coiling around a porcelain cake stand.
Kapoor’s in Dubai during an uncharacteristically but short-lived cold snap. The 32-year-old is cloaked head-to-toe in bulky swathes of blue jean fabric – “it’s the British designer Mother of Pearl, they’re new and I love them” – along with beautifully bulbous pearl Fendi accessories and a prominent IWC Schaffhausen watch.
She’s in the city for the annual Dubai International Film Festival, partnered up with the luxury Swiss brand. She’s no stranger to endorsements, in fact she comes across as a permanent companion to many brands but is able to maintain equal authenticity by “believing in what you’re doing, otherwise people will catch on and recognise that you’re not genuine – there’s a moral compass that I want to keep up.
“I’m very excited to represent IWC on different platforms because I love the fact that they are classic and have exquisite craftsmanship. I feel like I have a like-mindedness with the brand and I believe in the same principals – it stands for the best and is elegant and beautiful.”
The Bollywood actress seems to always be dripping in effervescent jewellery, leading a “dream life” as she openly says, starring in commercially successful films and bolstering her status as a fashion icon at every red carpet event she graces with her statuesque 5’9-inch frame. But if she could be best-known for one thing, it would be acting – an obvious, ready-made fate being the third generation of a film family. Her dad, the top-tiered and revered Anil Kapoor of seismic Bollywood fame, is who she’s constantly compared to, naturally.
Only a few days left before Pad Man comes to a theatre near you! I can’t wait to share this film with you, which is so close to my heart ❤ @akshaykumar @radhikaofficial @twinklerkhanna @SonyPicturesin @kriarj #RBalki #9Feb2018 For @padmanthefilm promotions in 👗: @kojakstudio 👛 @thaleblanc Styled by @rheakapoor Styling Assistants: @spacemuffin27 x @manishamelwani Make-up: @official_maria_asadi Hair: @kieronlavine
“There’s not much that grows under a banyan tree,” she proffers as reasoning, meaning you are forever in the shadows of your predecessor and have to work extra hard to get to places on your own merit.
She could feel sorry for herself and play the ‘it’s not my fault I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth’ card, but Kapoor has an iron grip on her reality, knows she is privileged and doesn’t thrive “on sob stories. As a woman, when you give that damsel story, it makes good copy but it isn’t something I would ever want to give into. Everything that I’ve got in my life is a plus. I appreciate and value it and it’s made me a better person. I work as hard as I can to keep my feet on the ground. I have an amazing safety net where I can afford to have the courage to make difficult choices.”
When it comes to the roles offered to her, she’s not boxed into meek stereotypes. Instead she’s got fired-up females to portray, including Neerja, in which she plays the courageous Neerja Bhanot, who sacrificed her life while protecting the lives of 359 passengers after Pan Am flight 73 was hijacked in Pakistan in 1986.
It’s a performance that is “changing the way people look at Indian cinema. In a society dominated by misogyny, it’s important to choose your roles carefully”, she notes, with a slight ferociousness in her tone, as if it’s a woman’s duty to fight against the patriarchy and stand with her sisters in solidarity. Her role breaks the mold from the standard jumping off trees and onto buildings idea that most of us have of Bollywood films.
But what the industry desperately needs is a mainstream makeover, she says, adding “it’s about time that Bollywood got more involved in original Netflix and Amazon projects, to bring it to the masses”. As she zips from country to country to promote her work or indeed do the work itself, she finds that she is increasingly cautious of who she allows in her life (“sycophants” not included) because it’s all too easy to get carried by the tide of fame. “I surround myself with the right people. I was brought up with the right moral values. My parents made me understand what equal opportunities meant – knowing that no one is lesser or better than you and to acknowledge that everyone is important.”
On the at-times tetchy subject of equality, Kapoor is an ardent feminist who believes in the power of entertainment to make for social change. “Equal love for everybody is important to me; men and woman should be standing side-by-side on the same platform and I feel this shift in mentality is determined by what we consume. It’s up to us to shape the world and how we treat each other.”
Kapoor isn’t quick to jump to her defenses, she’s responsive not reactive, reserving the benefit of the doubt for topics like the aforementioned so as to not create a hostile environment. As ever, it’s all a learning process of the self and the world – both of which are inextricably linked for the actress, whose 2018 is looking to be a year of continual travel, discovery and three films coming out.
“I love to see the world. You become better when you explore the world and its people.”
Images: Supplied (Sonam Kapoor wears Ashi Studio and an IWC watch)