Somewhere in the regally-wrapped roll of taffeta and couture is one of the most self-aware celebrities you'll ever encounter. From her social media strategy to her unswerving stance on sexism, the girl is essentially élan in a floor-length gown...
By Saumyaa Vohra; Photographs by Rohan Shrestha; Styling: Amandeep Kaur
In a grand melee of visuals that brings to mind the Click, Flash! Carrie Bradshaw montage from the Sex And The City movie, Sonam Kapoor is glamour ne plus ultra in the flesh. The bright lights of the camera ricochet off her open smile and routinely shimmying limbs that can't stay still as the French electro-jazz that's playing slowly gets louder and more up-tempo. "I love this song," is a phrase that turns into a catchphrase, while her face quickly melds to smouldering sobriety for each shot.
It's easy to believe the Sonam from the pictures. She's the epitome of femininity in one, Godiva-esque fire in the other. What happens between the frames seems less characteristic of the girl we 'know'—an interesting farrago of happy dancing and quick, smart inputs. "But I am that goofball, really!" she laughs. "I'm just this hopelessly optimistic person who wants the world to be a utopia. I'm also terrible with being sexy—I'm very comfortable with my body, and I'm kooky, and luckily the camera captures the 'accidental sexy' in the middle of it all." The fact that she keeps asking her team if they think she's a 'loser' (and then spontaneously digs up and reads out an article she once wrote on how she's 'a mango snob' and it's 'The King of Fruits', cracking everyone up with her campy self-deprecation) proves her point.
She did manage to shed the screwball skin with success for Neerja, when it happened, though. "It seems like it'd be easier to play a real person, but it also poses as a frame of reference—so the comparisons never cease. But, to be fair, the media has been kind to me about it—they barely even speculate about my personal life!"
We can't resist, at this juncture, breaking the fourth wall of the media (well, she did bring it up)—given how she ruthlessly labelled talking about her personal life 'tacky' once-upon-a-televised-interview, but she explains herself with sound reasoning. "I mean, how do you sit across a person you don't know from Adam [she inserts a 'no-offense' with a smile and knee-touch to soften it] and expose the innards of your life? It's also because I hate the idea of just talking about yourself for an hour straight! It's so self-indulgent!"
It's all the more for her to take, because "I never really wanted to act!" Her real desire was direction—and that she looks forward to it because "a) I was born to do it, and b) I won't have to give interviews anymore! A lot of actors obviously have narcissistic personality disorder, and they're only in it to be famous. I, however, feel that just because I'm a public persona doesn't make me public property."
This ideology doesn't extend to social media, though. "What I put up there is my domain. I can curate what I want to share with the world. It's why I adore it!" She does acknowledge that it's a double-edged sword, regardless. "I see a lot of young girls in the 13-15 age bracket, who put up a lot of provocative pictures, and that scares me. Thing is, social media is a tool—it's all about how you use it."
As someone who's mastered the art (if 8.8 mil followers are anything to go by), she claims the key is intelligent self-editing. "Self censorship is everything. Not just what you put out but what you take in—how many times has someone else's profile made a girl feel like sh*t?" She maintains that's never happened to her because she doesn't forget that "everybody's chock-full of issues! Hey, I'm riddled with insecurities and very low on confidence—I just try to use my nutty sense of humour to hide it. But if you look at my profile, I look like this girl who has it all."
But her love for it stays resolute. "I love how much of a voice it gives people—you can be your own celebrity. To see this progress for me is dazzling—I'm an '80s child, and I saw the transition—I've had a tape recorder, a Walkman, a Discman, an MP3 player, a first-generation iPod, and my first cellphone...a Motorola with an antenna that I got when I was 16. I've gone from making collect calls to my dad when he was abroad to Facetime, and it's just so unbelievable!" There's a kid-in-a-candy-store glint in her eye. "I just love progress, I guess."
A big part of that progress is embracing feminism, full-strength—something Sonam has never shied away from—whether it was rallying for equal pay on Koffee With Karan, or how deeply ensconced her views are in her hatred for sexism. "It's so inherent in people," she says, heatedly. "Take Hillary [Clinton] losing the election; we all know it was because she's a woman. Even the way she was treated by the media—would we have discussed what her hair looked like or what shoes she wore if she were a man? Even the few female leaders we have in India are so contrarian—they're the most sexist of all!"
She adds an addendum to her flag-bearing for equal pay. "I used to be very arrogant about having the luxury of choice, and super-judgmental about people that didn't. I was like 'Gasp! How can she do that film? She's not getting paid, her role is awful...' until I realised not everybody got to cherry-pick like I did. And the fact that my background has let me have it pretty easy gives me the dais to put the issue of equal pay out there. I've always been outspoken about it, and a lot of other things, and that's created this divide of people that like (and don't like) Sonam. There are people that think that I'm direct and confident, and people that think I'm brash and spoilt. Maybe both POVs are true. But it won't change that I'm honest—if that's brutal, so be it."
She credits the cast and crew of Delhi-6 for being able to speak her mind. "I was a painfully shy child—soft-spoken, inhibited... It wasn't until that film that I came out of my shell—the cast became my friends—they made me feel like I was a good actor, and that my opinion mattered."
Perhaps that metamorphosis led to her calling out the industry for its fatally flawed fashion sense yonks ago on Koffee With Karan. "First off, I hate Koffee with Karan! Everything I say on that show is completely tongue-in-cheek, and my sense of humour gets completely lost in translation—courtesy the editing of Star TV! They make me look so mean (and like a total idiot). It's only when people meet me in person they go, 'Hey, she's not like that at all!'"
When her mini-tirade about the show is through, she somberly returns to the subject of style. "I wouldn't use the word 'judge', but I can definitely decipher someone's personality by how they dress. The best artists I've known have always had a fantastic sense of style. If someone's shabbily dressed, it just makes me feel like that they don't care about themselves. I firmly believe it's a crucial way of expressing who you are."
Her commitment to this stance is just a sampling of all her views—whether it's the fact that she's a hardcore vegan ("This coffee I'm drinking? Soy milk."), doesn't drink and will not smoke. "I do have two tattoos and multiple piercings, though (belly and tongue included) that's my big concession to 'wild things'!" she laughs. "I'm a vegan wild child!" she giggles, and then muses that this might be something that makes her a little more difficult to date, given that she also likes to eat at very specific times. "I mean, I'd like to believe I'm an easy person to date (for instance, I'm not a nag—that's good, right?), but I know I come with a pack-full of issues. I'm an extremely emotional person. I cry unnecessarily and I can be very insecure. I also need to resolve a fight instantly. I don't know how to give someone space, because I'm scared they'll leave."
But the example her parents have set has left her full of romantic optimism. "I want to be with someone as kind as my dad, who treats me the way he treats my mother. They're my ideal—that's a marriage." And he'd better put it in writing, too! "Romantic letters and cards are the best gifts I've ever received," she smiles. The giddy happiness she exudes on the subject of l'amour is all-pervasive. "If I'm in love, I'm expressive! I love the hugging and kissing and holding hands part—PDA no bar! I'd put it up proudly on social media and whatnot as well. If I love the man, I love him—it is what it is!"
THE COSMO QUIZ
1. The one social media portal I'm addicted to is Instagram.
2. The one shade of lipstick I gravitate to most is red.
3. The film that changed my life is Raanjhanaa.
4. The best way to make me laugh is by making fun of yourself.
5. The nastiest thing people say about me is thatI'm a bimbo. And that they can't decide if my boobs are big or small—I'm not a piece of meat, *sshole!
6.If a man cares about his mother I'm sold.
7. My most prized pair of shoes is my Balenciaga motorcycle boots.
8. I know I'm in love when I make excuses for him.
Hair and Make-Up: Namrata Soni; Assisted By Sanjana Ghai; Fashion Intern: Yogita Bhuria