Stepping into the mid-day office along with her Neerja director Ram Madhvani, Sonam Kapoor appears a bit flustered. Surprising, considering the overwhelmingly positive response to her latest outing — a tribute to purser Neerja Bhanot, who saved 360 lives on board a hijacked Pan Am flight before laying down her own.
Also read: 'Neerja' - Movie Review
Ram Madhvani and Sonam Kapoor at the mid-day office. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
"The traffic is killer," she shakes her head before adding, "I don't understand why people honk all the time, especially when the signal is red!" Ram explains, "Because we Indians love chaos" and the actress, although not too convinced with the logic, breaks into a smile. Team hitlist starts firing away questions at the duo.
Q. Sonam, this is the first time that your performance has received unanimous praise. Did you expect such a response?
Sonam: It has never happened with anybody. I don't work or do films for that response. Of course, it is gratifying when something like that happens. I like acting and being part of films that affect me in some way. I told Ram that if he, as a director, thinks my job is done well, then it truly is done. After that, the result is not in anybody's hands.
Sonam Kapoor. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Q. How much of your success do you credit to the director?
Sonam: I credit all my work in the last 10 years to my directors. Eventually, filmmaking is a collaborative effort. I can do whatever I want, but if the director cannot translate it completely on screen, you can't do anything about it. If it does get translated as intended, it is to the director's credit.
Ram: For 'Neerja', we got four kinds of successes which is rare. First is personal success, which means we are happy, then there is critical success, commercial success and finally, people's success (appreciation).
Q. You have been associated with films as assistant director, but it took long for you to direct a mainstream film. How difficult has this journey been?
Ram: I started with ads, then did a song for 'Taare Zameen Par' (2007) followed by one for 'Satyamev Jayate' and I did some documentaries too. So, there was a lot happening. Yes, I was also trying to make other films which didn't work out, but God had his own plans. For 'Neerja', the universe conspired. Atul Kasbekar (producer) called me and said, 'Sonam is on board, would you like to direct the film?' We worked on the script for two and a half years.
Q. Were you skeptical when you found out that Sonam was part of the film? Was there pressure on you?
Ram: There was no pressure. I didn't know Sonam then. But, I have had regards for her work since 'Saawariya' (2007). Even in her bad films, I could see her honesty. I have been pro-Sonam. You have to make sure that you work with people you like. The process (of making a film) is important and that's the only thing you can actually control. You can't control the outcome. I had full confidence from the time Sonam was on board.
Q. Sonam, you made an appearance in Coldplay's latest music video. Will we be seeing you in a Hollywood project anytime soon?
Sonam: Not right now. It took me a lot of time to get out of my image of being an exotic Indian girl and I don't want to be that. Plus, the world is getting so small that even with a film like 'Neerja', I feel I have the opportunity to reach out to the global audience. It doesn't matter what language the film is. But, right now, I am happy given the kind of work that I am getting here, with people writing roles with me in mind and with projects completely dependent on me. I have my agent over there, but the kind of roles I am offered, I would rather work here because the money is better. I am not interested in being world-famous. I have tried hard to be known as an actor here and would like it over there as well. So, if I get that kind of work, I would happily take it up. If I don't, I would be here at this point. However, I really like what Priyanka (Chopra) is doing with 'Quantico'; she is the lead on the show. Something like that will interest me.
Q. Given the success of 'Neerja', what will determine your choice of films in future?
Sonam: Um, well, maybe I would want a more fashionable role (laughs).
Q. Increase your fee, maybe?
A. I come from a producer family — my sister (Rhea) is a producer, my dad (Anil Kapoor) tries to be a producer (laughs); he is better as an actor and he knows that. So, I realise what kind of (financial) pressure you put on a film (by asking for a certain amount of money). You make a film so that everybody involved can make profit from it. If it's a film like Neerja, there are ways you can get gratification. If a film does well, everybody does well. So, you work towards achieving that instead of putting that kind of load on producers. For me, the monetary gain is not as important as much as it is to grow as an actor.