SONAKSHI SINHA ON PLAYING A CHALLENGING ROLE OF A SEX CLINIC OWNER IN HER UPCOMING MOVIE by MOHNISH SINGH The year 2019 is shaping up to be special for Sonakshi Sinha as it sees her starring in four diverse films. The hard-working actress will follow up a challenging role in big-budget drama Kalank with her second release of the year Khandaani Shafakhana next Friday (2). Sonakshi takes on a challenging part in the sex-clinic comedy, which is venturing into new territory for commercial Hindi cinema. This will be followed by path-breaking space drama Mission Mangal on August 15. Then, towards the end of 2019, she stars opposite Salman Khan in action blockbuster Dabangg 3. No stranger to out of the ordinary characters, Khandaani Shafakhana sees Sonakshi play an Amritsar-based Punjabi girl who inherits a sex-clinic from her deceased maternal uncle. She wants to sell it off, but has to run the clinic for at least six months before cashing in on the lucrative business. Eastern Eye caught up with Sonakshi to talk about playing Baby Bedi in Khandaani Shafakhana, the importance of sex education and the toughest scene of her career. The actress also looked back at her journey in Bollywood and how she selects her scripts. What is Khandaani Shafakhana, according to you? When you catch a cold or fever, you visit a doctor. But, when somebody suffers from a sexual disorder, why do they shy away from talking about it or going to a doctor? A disease is a disease. So our film tackles this subject, mostly. When you present such a topic with a little bit of humour, then people do try to understand it and give a serious thought to the issue. Are you of the opinion that sex education should be taught to children at school? Yes, of course. There are no two ways about it. If we are guided about every other thing in our life, then why does nobody guide us when it comes to a topic as important as sex? At the end of the day, everyone has to learn it. If we don’t talk to our children about sex and don’t educate them, they will learn about it from wrong sources. In India, there are many people who cannot have that conversation with their children because they feel embarrassed. There is nothing to feel ashamed about it, which is what we are trying to say in our film. The movie also touches on other key topics. What did you find so appealing in the script that you agreed to come on board? The one-liner that I heard was, ‘there is this girl who inherits a sex clinic and she will have to run it.’ I was like, ‘how would I do this type of a film’? So, you can see, even I had the mentality that if it has the word ‘sex’ attached to it, then how would I do it? Sonakshi Sinha is known for doing family films. What would mom and dad say? I had these thoughts. But when I read the entire script, I thought I had to do this movie, no matter what. I thought I should do films which talk about such relevant topics. Did you talk to your parents about the subject while growing up? I am also one of those people who have never had such conversations with my parents. There are so many people who don’t talk about that topic with their parents. You find out for yourself in schools or colleges. You talk about such issues more with your friends than your family. That’s how you learn. At times, what you learn from friends can be okay but sometimes people go in the wrong direction also. So, I think, when you get some sort of right guidance in terms of sex education, it is a great thing. Khandaani Shafakhana is helmed by a debut female director; what was it like to work with her? I am glad that you asked this question. Look, the subject that the movie deals with, I don’t think a man would have been able to direct it with the kind of sensitivity a woman has. Shilpi Dasgupta is making her directorial debut with the film. She is one of the most wonderful people I have met and one of the loveliest directors I have ever worked with. This was the first time I worked with a female director. How was the experience? It was such a refreshing feeling. What she brought to this film and to this subject is amazing. Subjects like this risk being borderline cheap or controversial, but she held it so brilliantly. Shilpi and I were the only two women on the set. She just made everyone so comfortable about this topic, so they were able to speak about it openly. As an actor, which was the toughest scene for you in the film? You must have seen this scene in the trailer where I am sitting on a rickshaw with a huge board tied to it right behind me. This scene was shot at a real location in the middle of an Amritsar market where I was sitting on the rickshaw and the board behind me had sex written on it in big letters and various sexual diseases mentioned right below it. I was advertising my sex clinic in the middle of the market. The crowd that you see in the film were not extras. They were real people and all were looking at me. It’s probably one of the toughest scenes that I have ever done in my life. But thanks to Shilpi, who made it so easy and comfortable for me. How comfortable are you with comedy films? I love watching as well as starring in comedy movies. However, getting it right every time is not easy. I feel it’s the hardest genre of films. It’s an extremely difficult job to make people laugh. It’s easy to cry, pull off a tragedy scene and show emotions, but the timing that you need while doing comedy is very important. I feel extremely lucky being a part of Khandaani Shafakhana because I got to work with so many talented actors. Varun Sharma is so funny and so is rapper Badshah. Even my producers’ sense of humour is so good that whenever they were on the set, things got very easy. So, yeah, I love doing comedies. What was your experience working with Badshah, who is making his acting debut with Khandaani Shafakhana? Badshah and I have been friends since the time Akira (2016) came out. He would tell me, ‘I am getting acting offers, should I try?’ I would encourage him saying, ‘of course, you should act. If you really want to act, then go for it.’ I believe that it’s a good way to expand. He is a wonderful singer and musician, and it is a great thing if he does well in acting too. I am an actor, but whenever I feel like singing, I sing. You should expand your horizons and do different things. So I have encouraged Badshah. But he did not take up any role for a long time. How did he come on board? When I read the script of Khandaani Shafakhana and went through the role of Gabaru Ghaatak, I felt Badshah would fit the bill. I asked my director and producers who they were planning to cast for that role. They told me they were planning to talk to Badshah. I said, ‘that’s great.’ When they approached Badshah, he called and asked me, ‘Should I do it?’ I said, ‘you won’t get a better role than this for your launch. Please do it.’ And that’s how he signed the film. When are you coming up with your next song? I so want to, but I am not finding enough time to shoot my music videos. I have already sung three-four songs, which are there in my song bank, but I am not getting time to shoot music videos for them. While choosing your scripts, do you keep this thought in mind that every character you pick up should have mass appeal? I think every character and every film has its own audience. So, I don’t think every character I do has to have mass appeal. I take up only those roles I can do full justice to and can pull them off well. Having said that, I make sure I do films that I can watch with my family and people can watch with their families. You started off your career with Dabangg in 2010 and will be clocking a decade in showbiz next year. How has Sonakshi Sinha grown over the years? When I did Dabangg, I did not even know whether I wanted to continue as an actress or not. I never wanted to be an actress in the first place. So, when acting happened, it brought along a massive change in my life. Whatever I have learned till date, I have learned it on film sets and through my experiences. I have been learning something or the other ever since my first film was released. I want to continue that learning experience. If I compare myself to what I was when I started off and until now, I find I am a completely different person. I think it has been a good growth. It has been a good journey. I have no regrets and no complaints. Right after Khandaani Shafakhana, you are coming up with Mission Mangal…  It has been a great experience working on Mission Mangal. It’s a wonderful subject. It’s about the Mars mission from India, which was carried out successfully. So, yeah, there is Khandaani Shafakhana, and Mission Mangal and Dabangg 3 are also releasing this year. Now, I am about to start shooting for Bhuj: The Pride of India. I am also in talks for some interesting films, but, as you know, I don’t talk about movies, which I am yet to sign on the dotted line. Khandaani Shafakhana will be released next Friday (2)