Brand Sonam Kapoor: How the 'Veere Di Wedding' Star Created Her Own Unique Niche in Bollywood
As Sonam Kapoor starts a new chapter in life post her marriage, Shaikh Ayaz profiles the actress who is quite the trendsetter in her own right
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra proudly declares the recently married Sonam Kapoor Ahuja as his favourite muse. “Anil Kapoor and I were in a meeting for Fanney Khan,” Mehra tells Masala! “Harsh (Sonam’s brother Harshvardhan Kapoor who was launched by Mehra in 2016’s Mirzya) also joined in. I told them, ‘Listen guys, I don’t want to work with the Kapoor boys. I only want to work with Sonam. And we all had a good laugh about it.”
You may or may not agree but the filmmaker of Delhi-6 and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, both featuring Sonam Kapoor as the female lead, compares her to Waheeda Rehman. “I have a snapshot of Sonam and Waheedaji from Delhi-6 and I always felt like if it were the 1960s, Sonam would have been Waheeda Rehman.” He pauses. “There’s no logic to it. These are feelings. I’ve always felt very, very strongly about Sonam.” According to Mehra, she has “the looks that blend traditional India with global India. I could see her as an old Delhi girl dancing with a pigeon on her head, a Punjabi kudi living in a railway colony in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and I could also see her walking down the red carpet at Cannes. That’s a huge range.”
THE BIGGEST KAPOOR BRAND?
In her decade-long innings, the 32-year-old star has proved to be a major draw. Every Kapoor today, be it Arjun or the upcoming Jhanvi, is a player in his/her own right. But Sonam is by far the biggest brand in the Kapoor family currently, say pundits. Bigger than even dad Anil? “Anil’s stature in the industry is unquestionable,” quips a senior film journalist. “But ask the young girls and Sonam rules.”
Rules and how! Her recent wedding with businessman Anand Ahuja captured the gaze of millions. Videos and images were being shared on Instagram on a minute-by-minute basis. Young girls tuned in for updates on what Sonam was wearing and knowing that the bride was the most stylish Indian celeb, the Social Media and fashion police were sending out bouquets and brickbats in equal measure. Says Atul Kasbekar, whose agency Bling! Entertainment handled Sonam’s portfolio until recently and who was one of the baaratis at the high-profile nuptials, “What a fab wedding! All functions had a homely vibe. We have all attended lots of fancy weddings. Rarely does everyone get all the boxes ticked. Hats off to Sonam for doing it her way.”
Anand Rathi, the photographer who was handpicked by the Kapoor family to capture the wedding says, the actress was supremely easy, quite unlike other nervous bridezillas. “Brides often go through a lot before their big day. But Sonam was always happy and bubbly, something you don’t expect from such a big celebrity,” he says adding that the wedding was one big happy occasion where the entire film industry came together as a family.”
A paparazzi covering the wedding outside the Kapoor bungalows in Juhu says food packets and sweets were being distributed to the thronging media contingent. “At one point,” says the source, “Sonam herself walked right in to thank us. That was gracious.” The Kapoors, as many media sources point out to Masala!, showed remarkable grace not only during the wedding but also at Sridevi’s massive funeral in February. As a family, the Kapoors are quick to grasp the value of good and bad press, but are seen neither as overly friendly nor needlessly hostile to the media. Sonam herself has rarely misused her celebrity. Those who know her say she never takes herself too seriously, despite a privileged upbringing.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra remembers a particularly touching anecdote about her, what he bills as a “moment of grace.” He recalls, “During Delhi-6, Sonam’s grandmother passed away. They were close. Anil Kapoor trusted me with the responsibility of breaking the news to her. After hearing it, obviously she was shattered but then, she said, ‘Listen, we can carry on.’ That stood out as an amazing character trait.” This is why, Atul Kasbekar says, her portrayal of demure Indian beauties in Raanjhanaa, Saawariya and Delhi-6, worked. Don’t go by her fashion icon status, warns Kasbekar. “She’s straightforward. What you see is what you get – a big plus in Bollywood. She wears her heart on her sleeve and doesn’t play any games.”
THE ULTIMATE STYLE DIVA
Of late, the quintessential Indian beauty of early years has morphed into a style diva. The name Sonam Kapoor, today, is linked with high fashion. Her edgy style, ramp-walks and numerous Cannes appearances have made her the darling of the fashion police. How did this come about? Atul says merely months after Saawariya, huge billboards of Sonam in designer Anamika Khanna’s eclectic couture went up all over Mumbai. “People were blown away that Sonam could look like this. After that, of course, it didn’t require much prodding for her to be Bollywood’s best-dressed star.”
In an industry where appearances are a make-or-break, Sonam singlehandedly inaugurated an entire cottage industry of sartorial elegance. Girls emulate her. #Sonamkishaadi was the most searched hashtag even as every top designer vied to tog her in a dream trousseau. Yet, Sonam relied on her own inherent fashion sense to officially emerge as Bollywood’s bride of the year. “She has a lot of knowledge and interest in fashion, and genuinely enjoys it,” says close friend Bharathi Mehra (Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s wife). “But when in character she avoids fashion. In Delhi-6 and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, she was in kolhapuri chappals and simple shalwar kameez.”
After marriage, many are wondering what will happen to Brand Sonam. Will she miss out on 100 crore blockbusters due to the happily-married tag? “Those days when actresses had to hide their marriage was relevant only in the 90s. That has changed, thankfully,” Kasbekar shoots back. But he agrees that after marriage, there will be constant pressure on Sonam “to reinvent, be out there and have new films to prove.” Even as Mrs Ahuja turns a new leaf moving to London, the movies continue. After Veere Di Wedding, her home production, there is Raju Hirani’s Sanju and later, The Zoya Factor with Southern sensation Dulquer Salmaan.
Kasbekar says brands will continue to put Sonam on their hoardings because of her brand value. “Her brand is beyond marriage, hits and flops. Sonam is more than her movies,” swears Kasbekar. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, meanwhile, insists she’ll always be his ideal leading lady. Yes, he admits, he will miss Sonam not being around every time he steps into the Kapoor bungalow. But their special bond – he calls it “meeting of the hearts” – will remain unaffected.
“In fact,” Mehra laughs, “just two days before her marriage I was telling Sonam, ‘Is it a good time to read a script or are you too busy with the mehendi?”
‘I Am Excited About Everything That’s Happening’
The bridal glow is still intact. It’s been a hectic few weeks for Sonam who rushed from her wedding to the Cannes red carpet and back to the grind of film promotions. But our blushing bride isn’t complaining... Masala! had a quick tete-a-tete with Mrs Ahuja.....
HOW ARE YOU? CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR WEDDING, HAS IT FINALLY SUNK IN?
Hello! Am very well (sounding thrilled), Thank you. Yes yes of course! Totally sunk in.
GIVEN THE MEDIA INTEREST IN YOUR WEDDING, HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO KEEP IT SO INTIMATE?
Ah, because we wanted to keep it intimate. We just wanted our close friends and family there.
LET’S TALK ABOUT VEERE DI WEDDING. WHY THIS INSISTENCE ON CALLING IT #NOTACHICKFLICK? WHAT’S WRONG IN A CHICK FLICK?
Yes. It is just a derogatory term I guess because we are not really chicks, right? We are women. And do we call action film with men a dude film or whatever (laughs)? I think it is nice to kind of not have a ‘term’ for a film which is headlined by women, because it is a film. Just because it has got women, it does not make any difference.
FEMALE BONDING IS A SUBJECT THAT HAS NOT BEEN EXPLORED ENOUGH IN HINDI CINEMA, DO YOU THINK VEERE DI WEDDING CAN CHANGE THAT? IN WHAT WAY?
Yes. Hopefully, I hope so. Because it is a commercial film and it says that women can be as entertaining and as complicated and as watchable as men can!
SOME PEOPLE ARE SHOCKED ABOUT THE CUSS WORDS USED IN VEERE DI WEDDING…
It’s a colloquial way of speaking. When you see the film, you will realise that it is not used that much. It is not that much. When you speak to your girlfriends you usually speak like that.
THE WEDDING, THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL AND TWO MOVIES UP FOR RELEASE… HOW DO YOU VIEW THIS EXCITING PHASE IN YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE?
I think that everything that’s happening all around your life…work, Cannes... they all keep you going. And with all that is happening in my life right now, means I am doing something right in my life!
HOW IS ‘RHESON’ (THE BRAND SHE HAS STARTED WITH SIS RHEA) DOING?
It is doing extremely well. It’s been one year since we came out.
WHAT ARE YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS?
We are starting with The Zoya Factor, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, Sanju is releasing end of June. So I am excited about everything that is happening.
Interview by Keynnote Media pvt ltd.