There is no denying the fact that Dabangg is one of the most lucrative franchises Bollywood has in its stable. After two immensely successful instalments with multi-generational appeal, Salman Khan and Sonakshi Sinha are returning with Dabangg 3, the third instalment of the highly bankable franchise.
As Sonakshi gears up for the release of the movie on 20th December, Eastern Eye sat down with her at the iconic Mehboob Studios in Mumbai and spoke to her about Dabangg 3, how has her character Rajjo evolved over the years, the tips she gave to debutante Saiee Manjrekar and much more. Excerpts…
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There have been some hits and misses in your career in 2019. How do you look at the year as it comes to and end?
It’s been good. Very eventful year it has been for me. It’s been a big year as I have had four releases. So, I have no regret. It’s okay. I think it’s very important to have successes and failures in life. There is literally no regret. Whatever work I have done now and in the past also, I always learnt from it. So, for me, that’s always a win-win situation.
The good part is that all your performances have been critically acclaimed, irrespective of the box-office fate of the films.
Yeah! I don’t see a failure in it because my work was appreciated so much. I got so much of love. People appreciated my performance so much. As an actress, that is my job well done. That’s what I am required to do. So, I don’t really count it as failure at all.
From Dabangg to Dabangg 3, how have things changed for you over the years?
Of course, you learn so much over the years, and I have done so many films in between. This is my 19th film. I have done a lot of work, a variety of work. So, of course, with that experience, I will grow as an actor and as a person. But I feel dynamics do change when someone as senior as Salman sir is in front of you or Prabhudheva sir is directing you in a film. For me, I have always been a director’s actor. So, whether it is a first-time director or Prabhudheva, I will always listen to them. And, of course, when I feel I have certain inputs to give or I can contribute to what I am doing, I will discuss it with my director. If he wants to, he will accept it. If he does not, I will do what he says. That way, I feel I have maintained a good equation with all the people that I have worked with. It has been a fantastic journey for me. On Dabangg 3 sets also, I felt I was the most junior because my approach to every film is like I am doing my first film. I did not feel any different in any of the films that I did after Dabangg. I always look at it that this is my first film and I have to give it my all. Even with Dabangg 3, it was the same feeling.
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How has your character Rajjo evolved over the years?
I think when a character is so much appreciated and loved in a franchise, whether it is Chulbul Pandey or Rajjo, I don’t see a point in changing much of the character. Especially when it is a franchise also, you have to make changes in the story of the film, like how you take it forward. With every part, you try to treat the audience with something new. Here, we are also not trying to make a new film for you to see that aspects of the characters, which is a very exciting things for us actors. So, Rajjo is Rajjo. She will always be that outspoken, opinionated loving wife of Chulbul Pandey. So, the changes are mainly happening in the storyline.
Three different directors have directed three different parts of the Dabangg franchise so far. So, how your character has been perceived by them?
I think every director does have a different way of perceiving a character, perceiving a film. But I love the fact that it all has been so balanced in the Dabangg franchise. Even a little bit of imbalance would show in the film. Whether it was Abhinav Kashyap, who started off the film and set up a particular tone, or Arbaaz who carried it really, really well without going away from the zone of the film. And, of course, with Prabhudheva sir, I think this is his zone. This is the kind of film which is best suited to his brand of entertainment. There is high-octane action, masala, song and dance. I mean it’s a perfect entertainer. This is his brand of filmmaking. So, I think he was completely well-suited for this. That way, all three directors have done great justice to the tone of Dabangg.
Being a senior, what advice did you give to debutante Saiee Manjrekar?
Salman was the one who gave me the most advice even before I started acting. I did not even know if I wanted to act. He was the one who told me I should act, which I why I did Dabangg. So, most of the advice came from him then and now.
The other day we were starting our first round of interviews and Saiee said ‘Give me some tips.’ I said, ‘You don’t need any tips. You give me tips.’
When I started was the time when you don’t even know if you want to act. You are so unprepared. Even though I come from a film family, I did not really enjoy going to the set. I was always into sports. I never grew up watching movies. So, for me, it was a very new feeling. Right now, everybody is so well prepared. They do workshops, acting class, etc. They know how to face the cameras. For me, it was like, Oh my God! What I am doing here? (laughs).
Saiee is very, very talented, which is why I believe she is in the film. She is very well suited to play the character that she is playing. She is beautiful. Obviously, her talent will take her further.
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Isn’t it a déjà vu kind of a feeling for you?
Yeah, I was in her position in 2010. It is a surreal feeling, actually. At that point, I did not have anybody to hold my hand and guide me through it. But she does have. We all feel very, very protective towards her and we feel she will do really, really well.
Apart from Salman Khan, you are also reuniting with Prabhudheva. Does it make things a little easier for you when you are being directed by someone who is an actor also?
Prabhudheva sir makes an actor’s life very, very simple. It is my fourth film with him. In every film, he has a particular vision, a particular way of how he wants to project his actors and actresses. There are times when he will enact a scene and show you. So, you just have to do what he is doing. He is a wonderful director. I love his style of filmmaking. He is so quick and hassle-free. It’s really a pleasure to work with him.