Madhureeta Mukherjee (BOMBAY TIMES; April 19, 2017)

She stormed into the scene with the iconic dialogue, 'Thappad se darr nahin lagta saab, pyar se lagta hai' (Dabangg). That Sona has come a long way. She has won hearts and damned her detractors. She has shamed the body shamers and kicked some mean ass on screen. Brash and beautiful, with some 'golden' luck for company. She was criticised for her safe, sureshot hit films, but after the action-drama Akira, she confesses, “I felt like I have tasted blood.“ In her upcoming Noor, an adaptation of the novel Karachi You're Killing Me!, directed by Sunhil Sippy, she plays a journalist who hates her life. In a chat with BT, Sonakshi Sinha talks about her choices, her struggles and why she wants to interview Kim Kardashian. Read on...

In the first few years of your career, you chose only Bollywood potboilers. Then Akira happened, in which you led the show and kicked some butt, too. And now, Noor. Has your choice of films changed?
I won't say my choices have changed, but yes, they have evolved. I think in a certain sense, the industry has evolved, too. They are making films on different subjects, backing stories with female protagonists. I am adapting to the environment and loving the process.

But with such choices and big bucks riding on you comes a lot of responsibility...
I love challenges. I was comfortable in my space till a couple of years ago, but then I decided to move out of that zone and push my limits. I didn't need a trigger to do that, something just flipped inside me. I got offered a good role in Akira, and once I started shooting for it, I felt like I had tasted blood. Now, I don't want to go back to anything lesser than that. The feeling of pulling a film off on my own shoulders is a real high. It gives me a kick; in a way, it is liberating. I am not depending on anybody else for the way the film turns out; I just have a great team backing me.

Today, you wear the badge of a bankable actor, so you can take chances and risks. But was it a planned strategy to take safe bets at the start and then go this way?
I have never drawn a road map for my career, I have always been instinctive. The films that I did are the ones that I enjoyed watching as an audience. They worked. I loved the singing, dancing, drama... all of it rolled into one film. Whatever I know today is what I learnt while doing those commercial films. Well, I didn't ever plan to be an actor, I suddenly became one. Dabangg came my way, and once that happened, I didn't want to be anything else (laughs!).

You had a successful run with big-ticket films, but on the flip side, you were judged for making safe choices...
I faced criticism for being part of big, blockbuster films. It's strange, right? Why should I be apologetic about it? And this criticism is the opinion of a small section of people; majority of the audience has enjoyed my work and films. I have a certain fan following owing to the blockbuster films I have done, and today, because of those choices, I have the chance and ability to shoulder films like Akira and Noor on my own.

For films like Noor and Akira, is it challenging to find male actors for various parts, especially a parallel hero of that stature?
Well, it all depends on the kind of film you are doing and the story. Having said that, it would be nice if our male stars are open to doing what we have been doing in all their films. It would be great if sometimes, the roles are reversed. Honestly, John Abraham did that for Force 2, in which we were at par even though it was an action film. I was never made to feel that I was lesser than him and that was very encouraging. I hope that other actors are also as open to it. Like in the West, actors think of what value they are adding to the film and not how big or small the role is.

You have interacted with so many journalists in your career. Did your observations help sketch your character in Noor?
I don't prepare for any role; I am a complete director's actor. I prefer to go with the way they have visualised the character and the film. The role was so well written that I didn't need to prepare. Noor is also very relatable; there are so many situations where I would react the same way like she does in the film. Like, being kept at work beyond a certain time (laughs). But yes, I do observe people and pick up nuances for my parts. You come across so many kinds of journalists. Some are extremely passionate about their job, some are ethical, and then there are those who will cross the line. There are also some who are very cautious about what they do and say, and there are those who are not. I am sure that there are reporters who want to cover something and aren't able to... and they question their own ethics, like Noor does. It felt nice to be on the other side, hold the boom (mic) and see their world.

Do you also step back and question yourself and your choices from time to time?
Yes, that's part of life and coming of age. You need to stop, take a deep breath and think of what you are doing. You need to think if you are doing the right thing. Are you hurting someone, or are you helping someone? We all need to go through this process; this is how we grow up.

Having led such a privileged life, which part of Noor's struggle did you relate to most?
I've had struggles too, like everyone has. We are today's girls, who want everything in life. We want a great career and love life, we want to party, enjoy and we also want our space. We want to make a difference, too, and that is what we are chasing. My struggles and insecurities as a girl would be different from yours. Honestly, even Noor is chasing perfection - she is looking for the perfect love, job, and weight. She finds happiness only when she realises that she needs to embrace her imperfections. I have never chased perfection and I am very content and happy with that. I don't think perfection is all that it seems to be. I think it is nicer to be imperfect; it makes you more real and relatable.

Your journey to this super-fit stage of your life was hard and probably, emotionally tough, too. We still see you take on body shamers on social media...
Yes, I still do that. It is not right to body shame anyone as you don't know what struggles they are going through. While growing up, I was always an overweight kid, but I never once felt that my weight made me any lesser as a person. I had a great personality and I was a confident girl, so my weight was something that I didn't pay attention to. I knew this is how I looked and there were other more important things in my life. Even as an actress, when I was subjected to scrutiny for my weight, my attitude was the same. I was confident that I had so much more to offer; I knew that I acted well, I danced well and people enjoyed watching me on screen. Gradually, when I started finding more time for myself, the change in my fitness levels came about. There was a time I was doing three-four films simultaneously, and that would send everything for a toss as I would skip my workouts and eat whatever I wanted to. I still don't like going to the gym, but now that I am doing one film at a time, I have more time for myself. I am fitter; I am eating better and feeling better.

If you were a reporter in real life, which beat would you like to cover?
I have always been interested in sports, so I would like to cover that.

What about covering entertainment? Movies?
No! I have a punctuality issue, I believe in being on time. If someone is not on time, it makes me really angry. I don't make journalists wait, you know that. So, I wouldn't want to run around and wait for actors (laughs!).

Which international sports star or celebrity would you like to interview as a journalist?
I would like to interview Kim Kardashian, not because I am a follower, but just to understand how she has built this entire empire around herself. Anything that she touches turns to gold, so it would be interesting to know more. In India, I would like to interview my dad (Shatrughan Sinha) and Mr Amitabh Bachchan. If I interviewed my dad, I would start by telling him not to say 'khamosh' to any of my questions.

Rumours of your engagement often do the rounds. Is it on the cards? Is there any pressure from your parents to settle down?
I have nothing to say now, I will comment only when I have something to say. As of now, there is nothing on the cards. There's no pressure from my parents either. When I am ready to do it, I will.

Noor is an adaptation of Pakistani journalist writer Saba Imtiaz's 2014 novel, Karachi You're Killing Me!. Do you ever feel that your city, Mumbai, is killing you?
Honestly, this film made me see Mumbai in a different light. Director Sunhil Sippy is a street photographer too, so we shot in such interesting locations that I've heard of but never explored. Like the Worli Village, cement factories, salt pans in Wadala where we saw the sunset, areas of Govandi, which is a different ecosystem altogether. It is great when you can rediscover your city through a film. We all have our frustrations with our city, yet, we are so attached to it. The energy of Mumbai is brilliant, and we all want our city to change for the better. I wouldn't leave Mumbai for anything in the world.