I am now confident : of taking up challenges: Sonakshi Sinha

Ever since Sonakshi Sinha made her dream debut in Bollywood with Dabangg in 2010, she has largely played the quintessential heroine who has romanced some of the top stars in the industry on-screen. However, since last year, we have seen a shift in Sinha's career.

The actor reveals that she is finally confident of taking up more challenges to portray characters that will liberate her creatively. So, after playing a badass action heroine in Akira and Force 2, she is all set to show off her talent as the vivacious journalist Noor, to be followed by another very different character in Ittefaq. Excerpts from the interview:

Noor comes across as a light-hearted and fun character. What was your impression of her when you first heard the script?
I instantly connected with the character. When I heard the narration, I felt it could be me, it could be you, it could be anybody. There are traits of her in so many of us and one can easily relate to her. When my director, Sunhil Sippy, started narrating the film to me, I felt that this is the character I want to be. That is how I immediately connected with Noor and said 'yes'.

While the character does look appealing, what exactly is the film Noor all about?

Everybody goes through a phase when they know they have to pull up their socks and take things seriously. Everybody makes mistakes and has to take steps to rectify those mistakes. Noor is a very real character, she is today's girl who wants everything in life. We want a great career, we want a great love life, we want a great work-life balance, we want the perfect body, we want a perfect situation with our friends, we want to party, we want to go out… we want it all. And in this desire to have it all, something happens in Noor's life, where she realises that she has to be serious, she has to undo what she did wrong… and that's when you see the serious side of the film. When you watch the film, you will see what happens to her and why she has chosen the path that she has taken.

Noor is based on the bestselling novel Karachi, You're Killing Me! by Pakistani journalist-writer Saba Imtiaz. Have you read the book?
Yes, it was a very enjoyable read. Obviously, the situations are different as the book is based in Karachi and our film is based in Mumbai. So we have altered certain situations to suit Mumbai. Also, Sunhil Sippy, our director, wanted to portray Mumbai the ways he sees it. He is very familiar with the city as he is a street photographer.

It was a discovery of Mumbai, not only for Noor but for me as well. I was born in Mumbai but there are so many places I didn't know existed until I did this film.

What new facets did you discover about this city of dreams during the filming process?

I visited a lot of places that I had never been to before. Like we shot at various location in the Mumbai including Mankhurd (a suburb in eastern Mumbai), SRA colonies, salt pans in Wadala, and at a cement factory, which I had never seen before… Otherwise, I wouldn't have imagined going to any of these places. It was a really, really nice rediscovery.

While director Sunhil Sippy helped you discover new places in Mumbai, what did he unlock in you as an actor?

What did he unlock? Well, he just let me be. Like I said, Noor is such a relatable character that there were certain parts where I felt I wasn't really acting. Many of those reactions and nuances came naturally to me because she is such a real girl. And, honestly, when you watch the film, you will see real people instead of actors. And that is the beauty of Sunhil Sippy's direction. He has a very realistic approach and he craves to show something real on screen. That aspect comes out beautifully in the film. It is the quality of his work that makes him one of my favourite directors, which I say about very few people. Another favourite director of mine is Vikramaditya Motwane, who directed me in Lootera, and now Sunhil Sippy.

Whether Akira or Noor, how exciting or stressful is it to carry the weight of an entire film on your shoulders without the support of an established male co-actor?

It is really exciting! It gives you a sense of independence, it is liberating. The very fact that you don't have to depend on anybody else to give this film to the audience is exciting. Maybe it is just me but I feel a sense of power. Even with Akira, I promoted the film all on my own. I had a great team. Every film I have worked on had a great team and even in this film, every person is playing a real person, so I feel like I am with friends and that makes the process even more enjoyable and easier.

Do you think that choosing films like Akira and Noor, which ride on a female protagonist, is a risk, since women-centric films are still a rarity in Bollywood?

But which film is not a risk? There are lots of films with the biggest stars that have not worked at the box office. Every film is a risk because you never know what the audience is open to seeing and what they would like. Going by the trend, I think we are now a little more accepting of films with female protagonists.

What is working right now are concepts. The audience has become very smart and everyone wants to spend their money wisely. You can't give them crap and expect them to like it. You have to give the audience their money's worth. And if they like what they see, they are more than happy to spend on it. Then there is word-of-mouth publicity.

And what about box-office figures, doesn't that bother you?

For me, it has always been the experience of shooting a film, being a part of a good film and working with good people… that has always been most important. Box-office figures are a by-product of whatever experiences I have had. Sometimes a movie does good business, sometimes it doesn't. But, to me, that is secondary.

I am not saying box-office figures don't matter. At the end of the day, it is a business and we all want our films to do well. But that is not in our hands.

No doubt, content is king. What kind of scripts are you looking forward to doing now?

I think I have been very instinctive when it comes to choosing my films. When I listen to a script, I immediately take to it or don't feel it. I don't sit on it or delve into it. I have to connect with it immediately. In the last few films I have done, I have played really strong characters that challenge me in some way and I feel I am in a position right now where I can take up those challenges. I am confident enough to take up a couple of challenges, and that's exactly why I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I am trying to be more real on-screen. It is also sometimes scary but, yeah, it is really nice to be challenging myself. I am going to continue to choose roles that do that for me. It is creatively liberating.

Talking about your next film Ittefaq with Sidharth Malhotra, tell us something about your character.

It is already known that it is a murder mystery and it involves an investigation. So there is obviously one aspect where the girl is innocent and one aspect where she is guilty. I had to play it in both ways. Again, portraying those two emotions and two frames of mind, in the same film, is very exciting. It was like playing two different characters.
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