“It is going to be a cold day in Hyderabad at 13o C. Keep your warm clothes ready,” our Captain announces minutes before the flight lands in the city.
He is right.
Hyderabad is cold. But, pleasantly so. A welcome respite from Chennai’s pseudo winter.
I am a part of the small team of journalists from Chennai who arrive at The Park, Hyderabad, to meet Sonakshi Sinha. While I wait in the lounge awaiting my turn, Sonakshi gives back-to-back interviews.
Quite often, her voice floats down to where I sit.
A very animated “Lingaa is the best launchpad…Rajinikanth sir is a wonderful human being…very very humble…” is a constant refrain. She says it with palpable excitement every time; her tone doesn’t falter even once.
A little later though, a scribe poses a question that has her clearly annoyed. Her composure slips a little, but Sonakshi allows herself a smile, and takes a brave stab at the query.
It’s a no-nonsense response.
As I wait longer, and as her voice continues to carry down to me, I observe that Sonakshi doesn’t dodge questions.
‘No comments’ is a response she does not employ.
The Sonakshi Sinha in Hyderabad is strikingly different from the one I’d met earlier at Lingaa’s audio launch in Chennai.
A fuss-free navy blue t-shirt and a beige floral jacket are her choices for this city. Plus, a short haircut. She’s quite warm and friendly – reminding me of a long lost acquaintance whom I’ve bumped into.
“All the way from Chennai? Just to meet me?” she places her hand on her chest, tilting her head as a gesture of thanks. “You know what? I should have come there. Very sorry.”
*****Sonakshi begins our interview with a confession. “I can’t remember the first Tamil film I’d watched.” And, she’s sorry again. “In fact, I haven’t watched many Tamil movies at all.” She liked Mounaguru, though. The Tamil film that AR Murugadoss is about to remake in Hindi. ARM had tailored the story for Sonakshi, making it a woman-centric film. “I watched it recently and really, really liked it. I am quite excited to work with him again,” she declares.
Holiday: A Solider is Never Off Duty, the Hindi remake of Vijay’s Thuppaki, was their first film.
Sonakshi might not remember the first Tamil film she watched, but she hasn’t forgotten the day when she met Rajinikanth for the first time. She was in Chennai with her family. Her father Shatrughan Sinha took her to meet his friend, Rajinikanth. “I was a very small child then. I couldn’t recall the place where we met. Or what we spoke. But even as a little child, I was in awe of Rajinikanth. I didn’t understand what was special about him. However, I knew he was a great man,” she recalls.
Nothing spectacular happened that day. But memories of that moment remain fresh, for reasons that she still can’t comprehend.
The next time that she would meet Rajinikanth, it would be on the sets of Lingaa. It might have perhaps seemed natural if she were jittery about working with the Superstar. “But he was nervous!” Sonakshi laughs. “He was quite conscious because he was acting with his friend’s daughter. He wanted to ensure that I felt easy and comfortable at all times. That was stressful for him.”
Later that day, Rajinikanth would echo her thoughts at the success meet of Lingaa audio.
*****Bharathi, the role that Sonakshi plays in Lingaa, is quite special to her. Not because it’s a meaty role, or the fact that it’s provided a break from monotony. But because the actress relates to her in more ways than one. Bharathi, who lives in the pre-independence era, is one among the very few women who goes to work at a time when it is taboo.
“She is determined and level-headed,” the actress explains. “When I got into her shoes, I realised that we share some traits. Like how she is pragmatic and reliable among other things.” Sonakshi, too, is “painfully practical”. She’s unapologetic about it. “It might sound clichéd, but I take life as it comes. I am okay going where it takes me.”
She then bangs her fist in mock vehemence. “I believe in destiny, okay!”
Sonakshi was raised modestly. “Despite coming from an affluent family,” she says. She went to school by public transport, did things that “every regular school kid would do” and was taught to stay grounded. “That’s very important,” she nods seriously.
After school, she enrolled in a fashion designing course. “I really didn’t know then that I would become an actor. It just happened. In a way, that’s how I am. I always focus on what I currently do. It’s hard for me to think, plan and worry about the future at this moment,” she says, borrowing Alan Watt’s philosophy.
The actress explains further. “I have always been heavy. I used to weigh 90 kilos a few years ago. I was happy then, too. As happy as I am now. I lost weight to be fit and healthy, not because I was uncomfortable with my body. And definitely not because I’m in showbiz now. It didn’t bother me that I was fat. Also, it doesn’t give me extra-happiness now that I have reached the ideal weight. It’s all the same. I rationalise,” she declares solemnly.
More than 10 films old at present, Sonakshi now realises the need to evolve as an actor; be more choosy about roles. “I have always done films that I would have liked to watch as a member of the audience. Next year, I am going to go out of my way to experiment and explore. The roles are exciting. But you have to wait for a while to learn more,” she says.
Right now, Sonakshi only knows that she has to move out of her comfort zone. “Like I told you, I wouldn’t know what is in store for me. And what I’m going to become in the next few years. When I was a designer, did I know that I would become an actor? Surprises are fun!” Even if the surprises turn unkind, Sonakshi says she’d like to try to rise above them.
When not working, Sonakshi is like every other 27-year-old woman. She ODs on Bollywood, “stuffs her face” with some homemade food, and loves fussing over her pets. “As an advocate of animal rights, it’s my responsibility to speak for the voiceless. From dogs to horses, I love all of them. I have two dogs,” she says, “And a turtle.”
Just then, I am reminded that my time is up.
But Sonakshi allows one last question. The difference between the Rajinikanth she met when she was a child and the actor on the sets of Lingaa? “Only a Superstar like him can let that first impression survive. The awe I had is still there, maybe with more intensity. Man, it’s Rajinikanth after all!”
The Sonakshi Sinha interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.
The travel costs for the journalist that interviewed Sonakshi Sinha were paid for by the Public Relations team of the movie Lingaa. Silverscreen does not have a promotional relationship with the movie or the actor.