Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha, who began her career as a feisty village belle in Salman Khan’s 2010 blockbuster ‘Dabangg’, can never be accused of playing it safe.
In less than a decade in this prolific and brutal Hindi film industry, Sinha seems to have perfected the art of balancing a potent mix of unconventional, offbeat roles (‘Noor’, ‘Akira’, ‘Lootera’ and ‘Ittefaq’) and traditional movie choices (‘Kalank’ and ‘Dabangg’ series) that aren’t too demanding.
While some worked spectacularly well, such as her nuanced act as Pakhi in ‘Lootera’, others like her recent period romance ‘Kalank’, in which she played an ailing wife who decides to fix a girl for her sweet husband, didn’t have the desired results. But she isn’t done experimenting.
Today, Sinha will return to UAE cinemas with ‘Khandaani Shafakhana’, a comedy in which she plays a middle-class Punjabi girl Baby Bedi who surprisingly inherits her uncle’s sex clinic.
“It has a very good story that talks about a matter that is very relevant in this day and age … It’s going to make you laugh and make you think,” said Sinha in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
The daughter of actor and politician Shatrugnan Sinha believes that her new film will trigger a dialogue on topics that are considered taboo in India and many parts of the world. The movie isn’t ‘vulgar’ or ‘cheap’, claims Sinha.
“When I heard the first one line that it’s a story of a girl who inherits a sex clinic, I did have my reservations about taking it on. I have always steered clear from such subjects and topics.
“But when I read the whole script, I realised how important it’s to do a film like this,” said Sinha, adding that her role as Baby Bedi will be a career-altering milestone for her.
Directed by Indian National Award-winning Shilpi Das Gupta, an alumnus from the prestigious Film and Television Institute Of India (FTII) in Pune, Sinha believes that her new film would trigger an important dialogue that normalises physical intimacy.
“I definitely think talking about sex should be normalised in India because honestly look at our population and the world. Don’t we want to talk about why we are so populated?
“Anything that’s normalised, it gets easier to talk about it. Anything you deprive people of, that’s what [they] run towards.”
She continues: “We touch upon a lot of these topics in the film and they are very important. We talk about equality for women and treating sexual disorders the same way you would treat a beemari [disease],” said the actress.
Director Gupta’s brief to Sinha was simple: Keep it natural. But it wasn’t always easy to nail the dialogues, claims the actress. Asked if mouthing certain dialogues felt weird, Sinha said she had to learn to let go of inhibitions in her conditioned mind.
“Let’s face it: we have been brought up in a family where talking about these things is frowned upon. That was the biggest challenge. But hats off to my director Shilpi Das Gupta who treated this subject with such sensitivity…
“She gave me the confidence to play this role with utmost conviction… The biggest challenge is always in your own head. We have been taught not to say certain things in public,” said Sinha.
Director Gupta in a separate interview told Gulf News tabloid! that Khandaani Shafakhana is inherently an emotional, coming-of-age story of an ordinary girl who sets out to do some extraordinary work. It’s not a laugh-out-loud, raucous comedy, she warns.
“She [Sinha’s character Baby Bedi] faces issues when she stumbles upon her inheritance. She doesn’t understand why they are reacting to her taking over [the clinic]. But she finds a way to initiate a conversation … Our theme ‘baath tho karo’ [at least speak about it] rings very true,” she said,
Written by her friend and writer Gautam Mehra, the two worked on the ensemble closely for several months before it could take off.
While Sinha loved working with Gupta, the director feels that her gender did not come into play here and in today’s times, making a film with a lead who’s a woman isn’t a big issue anymore. Everything is “fair and square game” now, believes the director.
“Somewhere down the line our industry has matured now. A designation like a director purely goes to a deserving person. Whoever can manage their [expletive], and can get their [expletive] together, becomes the director.
“It doesn’t matter whether we are a boy or a girl, there is so much money involved at stake. Unless and until you are worthy, then your gender doesn’t matter anymore and I am happy that things have changed future looks bright,” said Gupta.
What paved the way for films such as Khandaani Shafakhana are path-breaking films such as Shoojit Sircar’s sperm donation comedy Vicky Donor, believes the director.
“Vicky Donor was one of the first path-breaking movies where the content to the casting was spot on. It was a smart film. Before that film, such topics were never considered possible,” she said.
Gupta has repeated Annu Kapoor, who played an infertility specialist in the seminal hit Vicky Donor, in her debut film too.
“After the scripting process, the next big thing is to get your casting right. Eighty per cent is done if you get your cast right.
“We had look tests to see if all the actors would look like one family… Slowly all the names came together. My film has an assortment of powerhouse actors and Sonakshi is just fantastic,” says Gupta.
“My favourite Bollywood comedy has to be ‘Three Idiots’. It has such a strong social message, laced with humour. The best way to tell a story is to employ humour. It makes you think,” said Sinha on her favourite film.
“There were hindi words that I have never heard before in my life and some of them were tongue twisters. Though I didn’t have trouble memorising them, I got to learn a lot from this film,” Sinha on mastering the Hindi vocabulary about the names of various sexual disorders.
Badshah makes his debut
Rapper Badshah will make his acting debut with ‘Khandaani Shafakhana’. He plays a singer called Gabur Ghaatak in the film.
At the trailer launch in Mumbai, Badshah claimed that Sinha helped him tremendously.
“Sonakshi is a friend and I knew if I go wrong she will be there to help me. I felt I was in a comfortable space. It was a good set-up,” Badshah told reporters in Mumbai. He was asked not to overact when it came to the comic scenes.
“Stay natural, they said,” said Badshah.
Did you know?
In 'Khandaani Shakakhana', Diana Penty and Badshah feature in the re-mixed version of Raveena Tandon and Suniel Shetty's hit song 'Sheher Ki Ladki' from their 1996 hit 'Rakshak'.
Don’t miss it!
‘Khandaani Shafakhana’ releases in the UAE on August 1.