I first met Sonakshi Sinha in 2011 at the 56th Filmfare Awards. She didn’t have the jitters of a newcomer, while on the red carpet or on stage while receiving Preity Zinta’s Best Debut Award for Dabangg. There have also been many changes in her life in the last ten years, from her choice of movies, her circle of friends, to her fashion. But one thing has remained constant: his confidence. Sonkashi has a sense of self-assurance that is rare and extremely exhilarating as well. He has used the confinement to chase things he never had time for and has honed his skills as well.
He really wants to surprise everyone with his on-screen adventures. She’s set to mark her big OTT debut with Amazon Prime Video’s Fallen, an Excel Entertainment series spearheaded by her where she plays a cop. We can’t wait for her to fight the bullies and solve the cases. She is also getting into the horror comedy genre with her upcoming film Kakuda and then of course there are strong rumors that she was signed to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s web series about Lahore courtesans named Heera Mandi. Other than that, she also took control of her passion for art by launching House of Creativity, said no to toxicity by leaving Twitter, and has plans to become a producer one day. Excerpts from a fluid interview with the fiery actress, who is unfazed by calling things by name …
You have always been an extremely confident person. Lately, by venturing into newer horizons or by stepping off social media platforms, you’ve brought that aspect of your personality out even more …
I’ve never really been the type of person to play in the gallery. I have always preferred to do things on my own terms. So if you think I seem like a more confident person now, it’s because I’ve done things that I wanted to do. And I love my privacy, I love my job so much, and the only clash here is with the kinds of things I do: there is no privacy. Therefore, there is very little of yourself that you can hold back, which is only for you. So I try to preserve that as much as I can, which is why, over the years, I’ve cut back on social media.
What made you leave Twitter?
When I started the social media experience, it was nice. It was new to everyone and everyone was getting used to it. You were interacting more with people who liked your work, who appreciated you for the things you did. Then suddenly, on the way, he lost his charm, he lost his way. People just don’t have etiquette online. You make yourself accessible to random people and they don’t really have a filter. So until something is done about it, the best thing to do is get out of the equation. What did I do. Honestly, I don’t care because it’s not affecting my work in any way. If anything, quitting is doing me good. Like I’m more at peace of mind without all that negativity. For me, it was a decision that I made at the right time. I really didn’t think twice.
Recently, he started an art company called House of Creativity. How did the idea come about?
Art is something I turn to for my peace of mind. It is my comfort away from the hectic lives we lead. Whenever I want to disconnect from the world, I just go and paint. I started doing it a lot more today. I am possessive of my art. I hate parting with my paintings. I’ll show you my art room, there are canvases lying there. My brothers and I created this House of Creativity. The idea was that it is very difficult to get into a particular scene where you are new. I’m a well-known actor, but to stand out as an artist, I was like a headless chicken. He didn’t know where to go, who to turn to, who to ask, what to do. We came up with this idea, to provide a platform for artists looking to make their way onto the art scene. It can be from any field of life, it can be new, it can be established, only your work should be good. We will give you that platform to showcase your work. I found that so relatable. I can be on this platform even if I am not an established artist. I paint because I love to paint and I am sure there is a market even for my type of work. You make things happen for yourself, you create these opportunities for yourself and in the deal if you are helping other people, that’s just the icing on the cake.
It must be gratifying to see the response you have …
Yes, it is rewarding. Like I said, it is such unknown territory that you don’t know what to expect, where it will go, how it will work. But the kind of response we have received is really good. I also sold my first painting. I’ve been auctioning off my work for charity here and there. And during the confinement, I made my sketches and sold some of my paintings for charity. That in itself was gratifying, but when you sell your painting commercially, it feels great too, you know? Because it is like a stamp that you are now an artist. I am happy that I was able to do that myself.
Can you somehow compare it to the money you made from your first movie?
Absolutely, it’s even more special because this is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. It just felt really different, you know.
What made you say yes to your first web series, Fallen?
It was offered to me long before the pandemic and it resonated with me right away. I was blown away by the theme, I was blown away by my character and I just did it.
Did you have any questions about doing an OTT program?
Not really. Honestly, the package was amazing. I was starting to work with Reema Kagti for the first time and also with Excel. I have never worked with them, I love the type of cinema they make. So, it was really a no-brainer for me. I wanted to work with this team and the script was amazing. My character was great, I did it. He literally had no reason to say no. Why would I say no, just because it was a series and not a movie?
How was your experience doing a series?
It’s like doing three movies at the same time, but it’s a lot of fun. It is a completely different ball game. As a series it is usually directed by more than one director. So, we had two directors Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi, and there were a few days where they used to fight over me like “you broke up with Sonakshi in the morning, now send her back to set”. So what’s going on? But again, it’s a new experience, you learn a lot, it’s a lot of fun. It is very interesting to work with a director who has a completely different style and at night you are working with another director who is drastically opposed to that. And what’s more fun to watch is how they marry what they’ve filmed separately and make it look like one. So, it was a really fun experience.
Are rumors abound that you have been cast in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s web series, Heera Mandi? Do you want to confirm them?
Right now, let these rumors float. I would like Mr. Bhansali and his team to make the official announcement. I am also waiting for it.
Speaking of Bhansali, wouldn’t it be a dream come true for you to work with him?
Absolutely. Ever since I made my debut, people have told me that you are the quintessential Hindi film heroine. And you have a very regal vibe about you, you should do a part in a period movie and all that. And it hasn’t happened until now. The only period movie I made was Lootera, set in the 1950s. But working with SLB would be a dream come true for me, because in that kind of space, that kind of scale, I would love to imagine myself. And the way he portrays his heroines is
As an actor, you have had an interesting career chart. You started with great masala movies, then you surprised everyone with Lootera, and then came movies like Akira and Noor, where you were the protagonist. What’s the next game plan?
Honestly, I did what I had to do to make my presence felt. Now that I’ve tasted blood, I want to play stronger characters. I want to do more author endorsed roles. I want to do things that challenge me, things that I have never done before. I don’t want to do things just for the sake of doing it. Just because it’s a great movie or just because it’s in front of a great star, I don’t want to think in that direction anymore. Today, I am much more confident in myself, in my ability, and in my craft than I was eight years ago. So I think that whatever my experiences have been, whatever work I’ve done that’s what has made me that way and given me the confidence right now to say these words.
Do you also plan to finance projects?
Yes, of course, I think that would be the next logical step, like ensuring longevity in the industry. Whether as an actor or producer or as someone who just loves movies. I’m sure it will happen to me eventually, I just need the right movie to do it.
What kind of movies would you like to produce?
I think that something with a really strong story, something that is not too conventional, does not have to have me as the main protagonist, it could be with other actors. I don’t want it to be the typical “Now I’m a producer, I’ll get involved in every movie I produce,” I don’t want it to be like that. I want them to be good and interesting projects that I can even do with other actors.
Are you seeing a change in the way women in the industry work and progress?
Of course, and it has happened rapidly in recent years. They are demanding the same money, but they are not getting it, which is very sad. And everyone goes on and on, including men, about equality and this and that, but no one really practices it. In that way, I think we have a long way to go, but I’m happy that the tide has started to turn.
What do you think has caused this change?
I just feel like the type of women that we have, the type of mindset that we have, the type of world that we’ve been working in, that has really empowered us to the point of being able to speak for ourselves. Actresses of my generation have gone through something of a seizure. We know our value, we know what we bring to the table, take it or leave it. Which is what has really helped, and I hope it continues to do so.
Who of your colleagues do you admire the most?
Alia Bhatt. I think she’s the most talented actress we have today, hands down. You can literally see his growth from his first movie to his second movie, to his third movie. And achieving what he has accomplished at such a young age is phenomenal. I have immense respect for her.
You also admire Taapsee Pannu a lot …
I think he speaks with a lot of common sense and doesn’t back down and I really appreciate that. That resonates with me. Sometimes she even surprises me with the things she says and I just read it, listen to it or watch it on TV and immediately start supporting her. I appreciate people who speak and in such a cheeky and direct way.
Many Indian actors are also looking west. Do you have such aspirations?
Not at all, I’m happy here. I am working more than enough here. I mean, if someone has the fire inside of them to go there and start from scratch, good for them, that’s amazing. I don’t see myself doing that. I know there are certain things that I will not be able to do in a Western organization. They almost always kiss on every show, in every movie. Sometimes there is nudity. These are things that I would not be comfortable with. So why bother? Here I have come to a place, a point in my life where I am doing a lot of work without having to give up my principles. There has never been a movie where I was dropped because I said “No, I will not kiss on the screen.” They know what I bring to the table. They know the value I add to the film and that’s why I’ve been working for so long.