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Sonam Makes Braver Choices Than Deepika

Subhash K . Jha

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Who is  the bravest  mainstream  Bollywood actress  today? Not many  of them  get a chance  to be brave.They are so taken up with being gym-produced eyecandy  our heroines  today scarcely get a chance  to   make their presence  in  the films they consider  to be pathbreaking.

 I mean, what  did  the  highly-regarded Anushka Sharma   do with her ostensibly  offbeat roles in  Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal and  Aanand Rai’s Zero?  With the  exception   of Alia Bhatt who  is  an absolute game-changer, the  other actresses  are only adding lustre  to  the  patriarchal  proceedings.

There are  exceptions. Deepika Padukone who  debatably claims to have been paid more than her  co-stars Ranveer Singh and  Shahid Kapoor in  Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat,  is  trying to make   a difference  to the way audiences  perceive beautiful actresses.  I am afraid she  was not able to  bring  the role in  Padmaavat to full fruition. It remains  one  of those unfinished semi-parched characters that  could have come across so powerfully if only  the  actress had pushed  for passion.If only Ms Padukone had  the range.Alas , for  all  of Bhansali’s  affinity to her  craft  Deepika is more Waheeda Rehmanthan Nutan.

Sonam Kapoor too is a limited actress. Her limitations come bubbling to the  surface  in the dramatic scenes. But a serious self-awareness helps Sonam to overcome  her limitations. She  knows she  is no Nutan, Sridevi or  Mumtaz. But she also  knows she has a certain finesse and restrain to her  personality which serve  her  well in roles that  put the female  protagonist  in  a crisis.

Sonam’s  carried herself with splendid  savoir-faire  in  Neerja where she  played a brave airhostess(almost as  brave as Sonam , the  actress) who  perishes in trying to save lives on  hijacked  flight.

 In  her new film Ek Ladki KoDekha Toh Aisa Laga(okay  , exhale)  Sonam plays a homosexual girl trapped in the tropes of tradition  suffocated by sexist  readings  of what women should do . I can’t imagine any other  prominent actress  of today doing the role. Play a lesbian? What would Mummy/Mummy’s Friends/ Mummy’s NGO partners think?Chee!

I had an argument  about this with Sonam’s father Anil Kapoor who insisted that today’s young actors are very  adventurous. But he  couldn’t name one of Sonam’s  peers  who would  happily play  gay. Audiences  are blamed for not being evolved enough to accept flawed/deviant/non-conformist  protagonists.But  are  our actors and  filmmakers  evolved  or even adventurous enough?

 Sonam has  displayed an  enterprising  spirit right  from the start. While  other newcomers take  the  safe route she chose Sanjay Bhansali’s Saawariya  a play-on-film  shot in a blue hue that  transcended  the vibrant colours of  puppy love.

Interestingly Deepika Padukone  made  her debut on  the same  Friday in November in  2007 with an absolutely conventional  double role in Farah Khan’s mediocre  Om Shanti Om.Deepika was  the original  choice for Saawariya. But then  Sanjay Bhansali decided  to  go for the boxoffice  bait  of Rishi Kapoor’s son (Ranbir) and  Anil Kapoor’s daughter(Sonam).

 Filming Saawariya wasn’t easy  for Sonam.Many  of the  scenes  had her fumbling for  expression.I was  sometimes  on the sets  to see her  helplessness. Midway through the shooting Bhansali decided to  shut down  the  film. Friends  intervened  to prevent this calamity.I am sure Sonam still recalls those days with a  shudder.  But then to get where she  has  today she had to go  through the grind. And look at her  today! Isn’t she something else?

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