She has been acting for 13 years and he has been a marquee star for 40 years. It was only a matter of time before Sonam Kapoor and father Anil Kapoor zeroed in on a film they felt would be right for them to be in together. Shelly Chopra Dhar’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, written by Gazal Dhaliwal, is being touted as an “unexpected love story”. Hints in the first trailer followed by social media buzz anticipate a mainstream film tackling a same-sex love story.
Father and daughter settle down in the former’s vanity van at Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio to engage in banter that was respectful and easy. However, when it came to revealing the plot and the seemingly LGBTQ theme of their February 1 release, they preferred to err on the side of caution. Excerpts from a conversation.
It has taken a while for you both to decide to work together.
Sonam Kapoor: I had to decide, not him. He was dying to work with me!
I am joking of course. But honestly, the story had to be right. You can’t just work together on anything. There has to be something in it for both of us, otherwise there is no point. Nothing as exciting had been offered to us before.
Anil Kapoor: That’s true.
The trailer has built up intrigue about the nature of the love story in the film. Could you tell us what ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha…’ is actually about?
Sonam: It’s about relationships and about this ladki who just wants to be accepted. It’s about family and acceptance. In India, parents put pressure on children to join a certain profession or marry so-and-so, or insist that the child has to be like this or has to marry this one. This is a pattern and formula.
But I don’t think things needs to be like that. Somebody might be studying engineering, but their dream could be to become an actor. Someone else might want to marry somebody of a different caste, religion or be with someone of the same gender. Acceptance of who the person is, for their choices, is so important, because often a parent does not realise how much their validation means to a particular child, whether it is regarding education, profession, sexuality or relationships.
What was it like being on set together?
Anil: We spent a lot of quality time together when we were shooting in Patiala. We ate together…
Sonam: …The food was so good.
Anil: And in between shots, we would pop into each other’s vans. The weather was beautiful too. All in all it, was very nice.
Sonam: You know, we were planning my wedding while we were shooting. It was crazy.
Anil Kapoor, you have been acting for around 40 years. Do hits and flops still affect you?
Anil: I never worried about hits and flops. No, I do worry, but it is not the main criteria. For me, longevity was always more important. Earlier when I spoke about that, it looked like I was giving a good headline. But now, I feel I can say it – that I believe in the marathon and not the 100-metre dash. I have been saying that for more than 20 years. It takes time to make what is in your mind into a reality.
Are you glad that your children didn’t have to face the struggles you dealt with as an aspiring actor? Or are the struggles just different in nature now?
Anil: I sometimes feel the struggle and scrutiny are more now, and that depends on the phase society is going through. Things change every decade, and this last decade, especially the last few years, have been a bit more vicious, a bit more negative, a little more superficial. People use social media and other platforms to say things for the sake of making statements and using that platform to their advantage, to talk about subjects that they may or may not fully understand.
Sonam: Provocative statements.
Anil: Yes. But I can see through those statements. The time before was innocent and a little better. I feel it is more difficult now.
Sonam handles it well because of karma and success. If you have the talent, commitment and work hard, it might take time, but good things will come.
Sonam: I believe your self-worth and self-belief come from your upbringing, education and the people who surround you. I used to wonder why my parents were not hard on me where my work was concerned when they were hard on me about other things. Even now, after a screening I will ask dad to tell me what he liked and didn’t like about my performance. But he always says, you are fine. I thought he was being nice because everyone else was being hard on me.
I got praise for Saawariya and Delhi-6 but after that the support dried up for a while. It did return. During that time, you go through a lot of questioning and, as dad said, the world can be vicious. So it is up to your parents, family and friends to constantly lift you, give you that confidence and bolster your self-worth, because the world can be hard.
Sonam Kapoor, with ‘Raanjhanaa’, if felt like you changed the rhythm of the kinds of films and characters you were choosing to play.
Sonam: I was 19 when I joined this industry and Saawariya released when I was 21. I am 33 now. At 19 or 20, you are not mature at all. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I thought I was an adult, but it was all a part of the journey and growth.
Over time, I have realised two things. First, that I have to do films and roles where I am excited to get up and go to work in the morning. Second, that I have to work with people who are like-minded, who have the same world view.
I have a safety net. I am Anil Kapoor’s daughter and I am who I am and I have what I have. Now, with that safety net, I have an added responsibility and my choices should be harder. I should not be doing run-of-the-mill things because I have been given the opportunity to do more. I don’t believe in riding the wave. I believe in directing the wave in the direction that I want it to ride.
Can you both tell us something about your upcoming films?
Sonam: I have one day of work left on The Zoya Factor. It’s a very funny film and one of the most fun films I have done. I have really stretched myself as an actor in it too. It is one of Anuja Chauhan’s best books. Usually her characters are very difficult to translate into cinema because there is so much material and they are so likeable that you are scared to translate it. Now I have the task of doing Zoya and my father and sister have the task of doing Battle for Bittora.
Anil: I have Total Dhamaal coming on February 22. And after that there are many things I am doing. But I have not started working on them so…
Sonam: You know there have been times when dad has walked out of a film the day before it starts shooting.
Anil: Yes, so let me only talk about something once I have started shooting!