Nobody offers me flower-pot roles anymore: Sonam Kapoor

Sonam Kapoor is one of the few actresses who celebrates her unabashed honesty and sartorial choices with equal panache. As her forthcoming film, Pad Man, gears up for release on January 25, the actress talks about the social drama and how the perception towards women is changing at large.


After Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Neerja, this is the third time Sonam will be seen in a film that is based on a real-life story. She admits that she gets drawn ‘towards untold tales’. Sonam says, “These are stories that the audience doesn’t know about. I’m conscious about telling tales that will resonate with them. It has to inspire and motivate everyone to be better human beings. That’s how I look at things when I sign such films.”


While Neerja was about Neerja Bhanot, a model and purser who sacrificed her life while protecting 359 passengers, Pad Man is about Arunachalam Muruganantham, a living visionary. Sonam agrees it’s easy and difficult in its own ways. She says, “Having the person around helps hugely. With Neerja, it was completely different because we had photographs and people who could be reference points but the person, in question, wasn’t in front of us. In Pad Man, you can see Akshay Kumar sir capturing the spirit of Arunachalam because he’s right there. So, in a way, it’s easier. But then it’s also tough because the comparisons are immediate.”


It’s easy to presume that a star is apprehensive to play a role with limited screen time but Sonam exclaims that she doesn’t plan her career in a typical way. About what prompted her to give a nod to Pad Man, she says, “I’m a huge fan of R Balki and it’s such a huge privilege to work with him. He’s an amazing person and an incredible director. He is somebody who wants to tell stories that make a difference. So, when he called me, I was super excited. After hearing the narration, I thought to myself that he had offered me a fantastic role. There was no way I would have refused a film like this.”


At a time when her contemporaries are shying away from doing films that offer them less screen space, Sonam doesn’t deem it as a risky move. “Why should it be a risk? It’s any day better than doing a movie with a leading actor where you have three songs and two scenes. At least I’m relevant in these films (refers to Pad Man). The size of the role doesn’t matter; it has to be meaty,” she exclaims. “Why should screen-time matter when your role adds value to a story? I was there for 15 minutes in Delhi 6 and had three-four scenes in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag but they resonated with the audience because they were integral to the film. They weren’t there just for fluff,” she adds. 


Pad Man aims to increase awareness about menstrual hygiene, which is considered a taboo subject in India. But with taxes implied on sanitary napkins, calling it an item of luxury more than a necessity, it’s called for a raging debate. Moreover, some countries distribute condoms for free but charge taxes on sanitary pads. Appalled at such state of affairs, the actress says, “It’s because most men are stupid and they are making such ridiculous decisions. They feel a condom is more important than women having sanitary napkins. So, a film like Pad Man is relevant because there are only 12 per cent of women in India who have access to sanitary pads and understand menstrual health. That is scary.”


Akshay Kumar’s last film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (TEPK) had brought in a change. Will Pad Man do the same? Sonam asserts, “I hope any film that I do starts a dialogue about something that’s required. I hope Pad Man is such a movie. I want it to entertain because a subject like that needs to reach a wider audience. And when it does, I hope it starts a conversation. We’ve already started doing that by our promotions, so it’s important.”


There’s hardly an A-list actor doing what Akshay has done in the film (wearing a panty with sanitary napkin in it). Although many would call it ‘unmanly’, Sonam takes a staunch stand against such pre-conceived notions. 

“The very fact that he is doing something like this is laudable and amazing. How many actors will take up such a role and do that scene? It will make a huge difference as Akshay sir is a mainstream star. And it should. He’s backing a film like this, which is produced by his wife and stars two other staunch feminists like Radhika Apte and me.” Many would and have shied away from such roles, to maintain a certain prototype of a star. But the leggy lass says she doesn’t have ‘such trappings of stardom’. “I honestly don’t give a s**t about my image! I just believe in doing the right thing and the correct films. Which is why what people think of me is their problem, not mine.”


Movies such as TEPK and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan have explored topics that have hitherto been unspoken about. Sonam says such movies are the need of the hour. “I feel it’s important for actors and filmmakers to talk about subjects and touch upon things that will affect change in society. Whether it’s taboo or not, it shouldn’t deter you from doing what you really want to do. That’s why you need to make it a bit more entertaining. Which is also why an Akshay Kumar needs to come in. Even though Pad Man is a story about menstruation and an amazing man who brought in a revolution, it’s also a love story. That’s something we shouldn’t forget.”


Sonam points out that the perspective towards women is changing but it’s happening very slowly. “I wish it was faster and more relevant so that I am around to see the complete change. But I think we are at least a 100 years behind Hollywood,” she says. 

Recently, the actress had claimed that producers and investors weren’t willing to invest as much money in her film (Veere Di Wedding), compared to male-centric movies, as it features four actresses. Is that changing too?, we ask. “I don’t know if they will give us as much because you cannot ignore the fact that there’s still a massive pay disparity, which is insane. It’s important to get what you are worth. Otherwise, there needs to be a staunch stand for what you believe in. And women need to step up for sure,” she responds. 


With films like Raanjhanaa, Khoobsurat and Neerja on her list, Sonam is not keen on doing nonsensical films anymore. She laughs, “People don’t come to me with neurotic roles anymore. Nobody expects me to do a flower pot role. And I love that because I don’t want to waste my time listening to something that’s irrelevant and I wouldn’t do.” Does that mean she’s against the idea of a masala blockbuster? Pat comes the reply, “No, I’m not averse to the idea of a masala film at all. I’m against ridiculous roles for actresses. At the same time, I’m open to doing a film like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo where I get to work with some amazing commercial directors who give women the gravitas that they deserve. So, if someone offers me something of that magnitude and dignity, then why not?”


She also explains that it’s wrong to judge heroines who are taking up such roles in a commercial film. “They are doing whatever they think works for them. My job is to do films where I can make a difference and which I can be proud of. What anybody else does is not something I can judge because again, none of us know the situation they are in.”