Sonakshi Sinha reflects on playing a courtesan in 'Heeramandi', her career trajectory and more

In an exclusive conversation with Cosmopolitan India, Sonakshi Sinha spills the beans.

02 March, 2024
Sonakshi Sinha reflects on playing a courtesan in 'Heeramandi', her career trajectory and more

Sonakshi Sinha has been working in the industry for over thirteen years. Her powerful acting and strong screen presence come through in every film or series, be it Lootera, Akira, or Dahaad. Now with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Heeramandi where Sinha plays a courtesan, we are expecting to watch more of her stunning performances. 

But there's more to Sinha than what we see on the big screen and OTT platforms. While scrolling through Asli Sona’s IG feed, you can see glimpses of her vibrant life: stunning photoshoots, travel diaries, and project promos. This is why, this conversation delves into her experiences, her wisdom and her journey as an actor. 

She speaks candidly about her struggles and triumphs, offering valuable advice on establishing boundaries, embracing individuality, and finding beauty within. As we prep to have our jaws dropped on the floors with Heeramandi, the actor and entrepreneur remains a testament to the power of forging your own identity while staying true to your roots.

Cosmopolitan India: Your upcoming project, Heeramandi with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has created quite a buzz. What was it like, playing a courtesan and also shooting with such strong women?

Sonakshi Sinha: I think Heeramandi has been Sanjay sir's most awaited project. He had the script for over 12 years, and now that it's finally getting made, I think it's his dream project, based on the conversations I've had with him. It's really amazing when a director can envision you as something you've never seen yourself do on screen before. He's really the kind of director who pushes you to your limits and brings out the best in you. And of course, sharing screen space with all these wonderful actors and strong women was such an honour. 

C: How did you prepare for this role? What has been your most special experience or takeaway from Heeramandi?

SS: The only way to prepare for a Sanjay Leela Bhansali project is to completely surrender and immerse yourself in what you are doing. That's what he expects out of you as an actor. We did have to brush up our Urdu skills because we are playing courtesans from the pre-independence era. I think the most special experience or takeaway from Heeramandi was just the fact that, you know, I get to be a Sanjay Leela Bhansali heroine, and work with some equally special and beautiful women.

C: You look like an absolute dream in the teaser. Can you tell us about the costumes and jewellery in Heeramandi? How long would it take you to get ready and how did you feel shooting while wearing such elaborate outfits?

SS: The costumes and jewellery of the show are extremely well thought out, and very detailed. That's just something that goes without saying in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali project. The costumes were done by Rimple & Harpreet for the entire cast and they've done a fantastic job of it, you know getting the elements that he wanted to show his characters wearing. They got it bang on. On average, for any other film, it would be anywhere around 45 minutes to an hour. But here, it would take about two to two and a half hours, because everything was just so elaborate. Right from the hair to the makeup, to putting on the jewellery, you have alta on your hands and feet. So yeah, it did take much longer than any other project.

C: Looking back at your previous films, is there a role or project that holds a special place in your heart? If so, why?

SS: There are quite a few actually. I really have enjoyed my journey working as an actor and I've done some very special films and characters that have stayed with me long after the film was released. For example, Lootera. Pakhi is a character that people still love and I still love from the work that I have done. There was Akira, which was another fantastic experience, my first action film. There was Noor, which I really enjoyed playing. These three characters have been particularly amazing. Dahaad, came to me at such a right time and I really enjoyed playing a police officer. And now Fareedan in Heeramandi is going to be a memorable one for me.

C: Lootera is a film etched in our hearts. What do you think was the most valuable lesson or experience you gained from working on sets of Lootera?

SS: I think I learned how to completely surrender to my director in Lootera. At that point I was doing a number of commercials (films), you know "masala" films so to speak. But Lootera was something that came along, completely took me out of that zone and put me in a very new space. I am so glad it was with Vikram Aditya Motwani, who's such a fantastic director. He's still one of my favourite directors that I've worked with.

C: What is the best thing you like about your job as an actor and now about your entrepreneurial journey?

SS: The best thing that I like about my job as an actor, is that I can be a different person in every film. It's fun to experiment and explore different characters, be someone new every day. And now what I love about my entrepreneur journey with SOEZI, is that, again, it's a very new space for me and it's something I can call my own. I'm having as much fun, and enjoying and learning so much from it. Especially now that we're in this expansion phase and are set to open kiosks and stores across the country, starting with Pune. So yeah, I'm really enjoying myself.

C: How do you deal with moments when you doubt yourself as an actor, and how do you motivate yourself to stay focused?

SS: As an actor, I have never doubted myself because I have that much faith in my abilities and myself. I take up roles which I feel I will be able to do justice to. And I know this is my thing, I've got this. I've worked with some amazing people who have taught me so much. So that is the one aspect of my life where I do not ever doubt myself. But yes, staying motivated and focused is a completely different ballgame. There are times when you sometimes don't feel like waking up early in the morning or going to work at a particular time, and you feel you have a really long day ahead of you. But at that point in time, you tell yourself: "You know what, you are in an amazing place. You have a big responsibility, people look up to you, they follow you." And that really keeps me going. I love that sense of responsibility.

C: Your Instagram is filled with amazing travel photos. How do you manage to find time for travel amidst your busy schedule, and what has been your most memorable travel experience recently?

SS: When I started working, actually my entire 20s, I only worked worked worked. I used to barely make time for myself, I used to barely travel. Even if I went on a holiday, it was always around work. When I turned 30, that's when I realised you know it's so important to have me-time and do the things that I love to do, just for my own personal growth. And travelling is something that I love to do. So I think after 30 everything changed for me. I make sure that after every film, I take a break. I travel to places I've always wanted to go to. Last year I made a decision that I would only go to a new place. I won't travel to the same place again. You have to make time for things that you love, it's very important for your growth as a person.

C: You've been really open about your passion for deep-sea diving. What initially drew you to this activity, and what do you find most exhilarating about exploring the depths of the ocean?

SS: I've always been a water baby, and once I went snorkelling, I think that was it for me. I experienced such a different world underwater, that I said I have to take this one step forward. And that's how I started scuba diving. What I find most exhilarating about exploring the depths of the ocean, is that it's so peaceful down there. You can't hear anything but your own breath, you can only see beautiful things. It's truly meditative. I feel like I'm flying, I feel like I'm floating. Those few minutes I'm underwater, nothing else in the world matters. 

C: In an industry that often holds unrealistic and stereotypical beauty standards, what is beauty to you? 

SS: I don't define beauty, I think it's very personal to each and every person. And as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are a lot of things that I might find beautiful that you might not. So it's a personal thing. I just have always been a very strong advocate for being comfortable in your own skin. I think that's something that really makes you beautiful. And accepting yourself along with your imperfections and everything!

C: How does grooming impact the way people perceive you at work or socially? What are some of the tips you’d give a busy girl who wants to be well-groomed but doesn’t have enough time to put into it? 

SS I think grooming just gives anyone a little boost of confidence that they wouldn't have if they weren't well groomed. For example, I remember for the longest time, I used to hate doing my gel nails or putting any kind of nail polish. And I used to feel so incomplete because I would be fully decked out from head-to-toe in a gorgeous gown and my nails would just be so undone. So it was constantly playing on the back of my mind. I would be conscious about it. But now having my nails done with SOEZI, and having a set of nails for every outfit possible, I think that just adds a whole zing to my demeanour. And I think that holds true for most women. Being well turned out really gives them confidence.

C: Speaking of work, how do you establish boundaries and what tips would you give people who are looking to do the same?

SS: I think being very clear about what you want out of your work, out of what you are doing, from day one is very very important. I think that's how you establish boundaries. Just being honest and having a good open channel of communication at work is very very important. I believe everyone should be able to do that with the people they're working with, and the people around them at work. I just feel that creates a very healthy environment.

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