By Nikhil Ramsubramaniam, Bollywood Hungama News Network
If you are someone who is glued to T.V. then you would have surely seen her in serials like Saara Akash and Hotel Kingston. She even featured in the popular music-video Maeri by Euphoria. She is none other than the vivacious beauty Sonal Sehgal. After having done quite a few commercials, music-videos and T.V. serials, Sonal is looking forward to her big Bollywood release- Aashayein which has her paired opposite Bollywood hunk John Abraham. Bollywood Hungama spoke to the effervescent actress who has all her Aashayein pinned on this Nagesh Kukunoor directed film.
Sonal, you are a familiar face on Television and are now stepping into mainstream Bollywood with Aashayein. How does it feel?
It feels great to enter Bollywood with such a fantastic director and such a good film.
The title Aashayein itself is very inspiring. What is the film all about?
In one word, the film is about Hope. What you take from the film as learning is to learn to live life. All of us deep down know about that but in the course of our day to day life we forget about it and get caught up with the rat race and meetings, deadlines etc.
What is your character in the film?
I play John's live-in girlfriend. I am a regular city girl who has a 9-to-5 job and he is a good-for-nothing gambler. But I am too much in love to be upset with him for not working. We have this beautiful life and share some really happy moments till we are confronted by certain circumstances and how we get out of it, without losing hope forms the crux of the film.
A lot of girls would die to debut with a hunk like John. How has been your experience with him?
It has been fantastic working with John. In spite of the fact that he is a big star and is bestowed with adulation all the time, he still doesn't behave like a star on the sets. He is very down-to-earth, professional and makes everyone feel comfortable. He was always there on time for the reading sessions, rehearsals etc. He didn't throw any tantrums whatsoever.
How was it working with a director like Nagesh Kukunoor? Was he the taskmaster on the sets?
Nagesh is very thorough when it comes to his work. Once you are on the sets, there is no time for discussion. All the discussions about the character, the scene etc. happens before you go to shoot. So in that sense, he is very organized. There is no time (on the sets) for fooling around and playing pranks etc. But at the same time it gives you a different high when you are working with people who are so honest and sincere about their work. We used to shoot around 12-15 hours everyday, yet we never felt fatigued because when everybody is giving in their 100% you also feel like putting your best foot forward.
A major portion of the film has been shot in Pondicherry. Could you share some interesting moments during the shoot?
We were shooting at this resort in Pondicherry where there was no Television, no Internet, no newspapers and no cell-phone connectivity. There was a reason why this resort was chosen, as Aashayein was shot in sync-sound. As per international guidelines, whenever you are shooting for a sync-sound film, there should be pin-drop silence for at-least a 5 km radius. So even when you are not shooting your scenes you can neither watch T.V. nor chat with someone on the phone. What's more you couldn't even talk with your co-stars because sync-sound is so sensitive that it will catch the voice. I felt like I am at some Vipasana camp. So, finally John and I used to play chess as that is the only game which we could play quietly (laughs).
You have starred in T.V. serials like Saara Akash and Hotel Kingston and are now looking forward to your big release Aashayein. Did you always want to be an actress?
I think the acting bug bit me when I was really small. My mother tells me that when I was 3 years old, I used to go around telling everyone that I want to be Charlie Chaplin. He was my favorite actor then and still is. My parents were worried because other kids dreamt of becoming a doctor, or an engineer or a pilot and I wanted to only become Charlie Chaplin (laughs). Even when I was in my late teens, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in life. Sometimes I wanted to be a pilot and at times a fashion designer or an architect. That's when my sister came up with this idea and said that I should become an actor as I could then play all the roles which I want to. I was thrilled (laughs).
So how did you get your first major break in the world of modeling and T.V.?
I started out as an assistant director to Pradeep Sarkar on his ad films. It's quite a funny story how I landed up in Euphoria's music-video Maeri. We were shooting around New Year's time and all the models are usually partying in Goa at that time of the year. We did not find a girl for a long time. So Dada told me in his typical innocent tone, “Sonal you come in your white salwar-kameez for the shoot. If I don't find a model, then I will ask you to feature in the video” Next thing I know I was starring in the video. The funniest thing was that I used to be taking the clap, throw the clap on the floor and start acting (laughs).
A lot of T.V. actors (Rajeev Khandelwal, Shweta Salve, Shama Sikander and Prachi Desai) are making the transition to the big screen this year. Your comments…
I am very happy that it's happening now. In fact I am looking forward to seeing Rajeev's film Aamir. There are some really talented people in T.V. but not everyone gets the right, big opportunity to act in films. Even if they do it's usually the role of the hero's friend or some supporting character. But I am glad that today times are changing. A lot of T.V. actors are getting to play the lead roles in films and it's mainly because even they have such a huge fan following. So I am really happy about T.V. actors finally getting their due.
What about yourself, are you going to do only films or would you even be doing T.V.?
If I keep getting good films to do, I will do them. But God forbid, even if I don't, I won't do seedy roles in films. I'd rather be a heroine in a T.V. serial than a heroine's friend or sister in a film. These days the biggest stars are on T.V., so I don't think this is the time to say no to Television if something exciting comes up. I am just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to get some good offers. As for now, I'll just take things as they come and go with the flow.
Any particular directors / actors you would love to work with.
I think there are lots of fantastic directors like Farhan Akhtar, Anurag Basu, Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra and even Aamir Khan for that matter who are doing good cinema these days. Even the audiences' tastes are changing and if you have a good script, it is going to work. So I think now is a great time to be a part of Indian film industry.
In Bollywood they say a heroine's career is pretty much finished the moment she ties the knot. Not many may know but you have been married for some time now. In fact, you are one of the few actresses who are making their debut after her marriage. Do you think it will affect your image in any way?
I don't know. In fact I don't think these things actually matter. What matters at the end of the day is the quality your work. The audiences today have become very smart and have really evolved. These things don't really matter to them either. All they want to see at the end of the day is a good film which entertains them and gives them value for money.
Your husband Naresh Kamat is a musician and is part of the band Kailasa along with Kailash Kher. Are you also musically inclined?
No, I'm not (laughs).
So how do you like spending your free time?
In my free time I watch a lot of movies, I read a lot of books, and I keep joining all the new dance classes that are opening in the city (laughs).That I feel is a great way to workout and plus you get to learn something new. So I've been learning various dance forms be it Salsa, or Belly-dancing, and Capoeira .I don't know any of them perfectly but I am still learning. I am like the 'Jack of all dances and Master of none' (laughs)
You did star in U Bomsi, N Me but the movie didn't click. Do you consider Aashayein as your real debut?
The problem with U, Bomsi N Me was that it was an English film and hence catered to a very niche audience. Aashayein on the other hand is a commercial film. Nagesh always has his own set of loyal audience who come to watch his films. And then there is John, who is going to really surprise everybody with his performance in this film. You have to see it to believe it.
John is going to really surprise everybody with his performance in this film
The music of Aashayein was unveiled in a really innovative way with a concert recently. How do you think the music has evolved?
The music of the film is fantastic. It's going to be a big hit. To give you an instance, when we had the wrap-up party we were dancing whole night to that song 'Ab Hai Ujala'. So you can imagine, if we were dancing the whole night to just one song what a big hit it's going to be. Then there is 'Shukriya Zindagi', and 'Pal Mein' which leave a lingering impact on your mind. I simply love the music.
What are your future projects?
I'm just meeting people and reading scripts at this point of time. I always feel if your first film launches you then your second film establishes you. So you have to pick the right film and I'm in no hurry. After debuting with such a great role and with a great director, I don't want to do run of the mill kind of roles.
Finally, what is your Aashayein from Aashayein?
I hope everyone goes to watch the movie not because I'm starring in it but because I feel people should support good films. So if you believe in good, intelligent and entertaining cinema then go and watch the film because a film like this comes once in a while. Aashayein is an extremely positive film and that itself is its biggest strength.