Subscription Subscription
Home > News > Opinion News > Article > Relooking at Sonali B dont mind

Relooking at Sonali B; don’t mind!

Updated on: 15 May,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

Exactly 25 years since Sarfarosh, in the new season of Broken News, can’t help but rediscover sheer elegance of its veteran female lead

Relooking at Sonali B; don’t mind!

Sonali Bendre in stills from Sarfarosh and The Broken News

Mayank ShekharEver since I heard the anecdote in Bhopal—about a guy in the 1990s, who died, jumping off one of the city’s lakes, because Sonali Bendre was once visiting town, and he couldn’t see her—I’d been meaning to ask Bendre, if she knew about this, herself!

“Yeh sach hai? [Is it true?]. How can someone…,” Bendre sighs. Although the ’90s were a decade, defined by such Bollywood fan-culture, I’m certain, this is only among several crazy things she’s heard/experienced? 

She reveals, “There’d be fan mails. We wondered to test, if it was in actual blood. I’d be shattered, if it was. Best to appreciate, and leave it at that. How can people place humans on such a pedestal, that they’ll fall from, anyway?”

Bendre must be from Bandra, I assumed, for her Maharashtrian surname. She moved to Bombay, in fact, with her middle-class family, only after Std X Boards in Goa. 

Her father was an “honest officer” in the Central government’s public works department. Which meant regularly getting transferred, across the country, at short notice; hard times, included.

Most government homes bear the best addresses. Not so in her case: “It was a rough neighbourhood, between Wadala and Antop Hill. Unsafe for me, and two sisters [she’s the middle one].”

She started with “being scared of Bombay, and then falling in love with it”. The same could be said for her accidental life in Bollywood/films. 

Bendre walked the ramp once in Ruia College. A model coordinator spotted her for a face-bleaching product. What followed were several print and TV ads. Her “moralistic” parents were opposed to this “non-profession”. She was naturally comfy before the camera; the gaze “felt like a hug”. 

Her first pay-cheque was Rs 25,000. Enough for family to move to a better neighbourhood (Lokhandwala). She asked her parents for three years to scope out the scene. 

After which, she could always return to pursue more mainstream careers. Such as the civil services. She’s loved her life in showbiz since. 

One of her ad filmmakers was writer-director, John Matthew Matthan. Which is how she landed Matthan’s Sarfarosh (1999)—a deeply researched, entertaining cop-drama, examining cross-border arms trade. 

“I’m the film’s comic relief,” Bendre told Matthan, when offered the role of the fiery lead Aamir Khan’s love-interest. Among the takia-kalaams [refrains] in the script, she picked, “Don’t mind,” that she says throughout the movie.

“If you remove my [humanising] relationship, what remains is a documentary,” Bendre tells me. As we speak, it’s 25 years to Sarfarosh. 

That was a very different kinda mainstream Bollywood film, for its time. Even the hit song, featuring Bendre, Hoshwalon ko khabar kya, that she considers her lifelong favourite, was the lead’s backstory, compressed into a track.

Rather than a song for song’s sake. Which Bendre participated in so many of, that her ’90s playlist might rank among the decade’s best. 

“That’s the irony,” she says. “I’d get acidity, thinking of performing [to tracks] on screen. I’d never trained in dance. Here I am, best known for songs; whether or not those films worked!”

My underrated favourite Bendre number is, Pyar kiya to nibhana (from Major Saab). She adores Sambhala hai maine (from Naaraaz). So silken, dard-bhara ’90s, no? 

The track she’ll be most remembered for is, of course, Humma Humma, from Mani Ratnam’s Bombay (1995). It inadvertently invented the recurring ‘item number’ thereafter, ft. heroine, not in film, only in song! 

She did it also to prove a point. She’d had a tough time, mastering dance, with ‘masterji’ Saroj Khan, for English Babu Desi Mem (1996), around then—and she was playing a bar-dancer in that Shah Rukh Khan pic.  

“Being the quintessential heroine [opposite the male star] was the only way to be [in the ’90s]. Those were the films getting made. Even playing dumb [in real life] was a survival tactic,” Bendre recalls. 

I sense what she means—observing her, 25 years since Sarfarosh, in the second season of Vinay Waikul’s The Broken News (on Zee5), based on the BBC series, Press. 

She’s the ethical spine of the show, as the channel editor-anchor, Amina Qureshi—dignifying television news, with such effortless, quiet elegance. Perhaps more than Indian TV news deserves so, at the moment! You wanna see so much more of her.

In 2018, it appeared, we might lose Bendre. She got diagnosed with fourth stage of cancer, that she bravely fought and survived. What changes, when you get this close to death—I ask this often to people, as I ask Bendre, 49.

She says, “When time is limited, and you don’t know, if you’ll make it—there’s an immense amount of clarity [in your head]. All the bullshit is out. That’s when your priorities become so clear. And then you survive it—you start healing... 

“A question like this comes, and it reminds you, ‘Oh my god, I’d got that clarity, and I began clouding it. As we do, once we start living, and getting caught up in [those] various things [all over again]. So, thanks for asking the question,” she answers. 

I feel the same way about the way the world dealt with the pandemic—and behaving, two years hence, as if nothing happened. She agrees.

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14
Send your feedback to
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK