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She has made no splash at the box office. Yet Sonam Kapoor remains among the most sought after celebrities. Aabhas Sharma finds out what it is about her that clicks with brands
She is the only actress for whom Manish Arora designs clothes. A style icon, she is there on the cover of fashion magazines almost every month. She tops almost every best dressed list. Iconic fashion designer Victoria Beckham once tweeted about how great one of her dresses looked on “beautiful Sonam”. She doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind and is candid about herself as well as others. And, she seems to draw brands like a magnet. Yet, when it comes to movies, actor Sonam Kapoor has little to boast about.
Kapoor made her debut in 2007 in the much-hyped Sanjay Leela Bhansali film Saawariya opposite Ranbir Kapoor. She has done six movies since —Delhi-6, Aisha, I Hate Luv Storys, Mausam, Players and Thank You. Four of the six were duds at the box office, one (I Hate Luv Storys) was a hit, while another (Aisha) did average business. So, what is it about Sonam Kapoor that, in spite of a mediocre career graph, she remains one of the most talked about actors in Bollywood?
“She comes across as an honest person and is highly fashionable,” says a, marketing manager of one of the big brands Kapoor endorses. The other brands under her belt are Spice Mobile, Montblanc, Electrolux and the Indian Gems, and Jewellery Exhibition. Her endorsement fee is a neat Rs 3 crore. Along with her more successful peers like Katrina Kaif (Rs 5 crore) and Deepika Padukone (about Rs 5 crore), Kapoor is among the top earners from endorsements.
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Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who directed Kapoor in Delhi-6 and is working with her again in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, says that Kapoor has a lot of potential as an actor. “She is hard working and an honest actor.” Fashion designers also swear by her. When Neena Gupta’s daughter, Masaba Gupta, was launching her fashion line, she turned to Kapoor. “Sonam,” she says, “has this impeccable dress sense and really understands fashion.”
Her fashion sense is something which got her noticed in the first place. “She is smart and knows that a lot of people rate her fashion sense very highly. And, that is one of her USPs,” says a celebrity manager. Compare that to Vidya Balan, a fantastic actor who rubbed the fashion police the wrong way right in the beginning of her career and has to date found it difficult to break that image.
The importance of being any kind of icon shouldn’t be underestimated, explains the celebrity manager. A renowned film critic says that Kapoor knows her strengths very well and works hard to maintain that. “Her box office status doesn’t seem to deter her popularity with brands, or even fashion designers,” he says.
So, is it all hype and no substance? The hype is equally important as the substance in today’s world, says Taran Adarsh, another film critic. Even so, actor Imran Khan, who worked with her in
I Hate Luv Storys, said on a TV show that what Kapoor needs are movies and less of magazine covers. The thing with Kapoor is that even when her movies aren’t doing well, she is making news. She supports a breast cancer awareness charity and asked her fans on Twitter to donate to the charity. In the last two years, Kapoor has been on the cover of various magazines more than 50 times. At four, she might have fewer endorsements than Kaif (who has more than eight), Kareena Kapoor (seven) or even Priyanka Chopra, but she does get her fair share of attention.
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Speaking to Business Standard about her fashion icon status, Kapoor says that fashion, clothes and brands are what she loves. “As an actor I know that people’s eyes will always be on me, so I make a conscious effort to look good all the time.” As a child, Kapoor was overweight. In a candid interview she gave to a newspaper earlier, she mentioned how she weighed 86 kg when she was 19 years old and hated how she couldn’t wear any of the clothes she wanted to. She also admitted that she still had cellulite fat and hence had to choose her clothes carefully.
It is this candidness which also endears her to her fans. She went on to collect the “Ghanta” Award — the Indian version of the Razzies which is given out to the worst in Bollywood. “Not many actors would do that, but she managed to get positive publicity even out of something negative,” says a celebrity PR manager.
Kapoor is not known to mince words when talking about her rivals, costars or even critics. She once famously tweeted that Shobha De “wasn’t getting any action and was suffering from menopause” when De tweeted about her movie and called it “I hate dumb storys”. Though Kapoor later said that it was in the heat of the moment that she had posted that tweet, she also added that she didn’t dwell too much on it.
Being Anil Kapoor’s daughter, she says she did have it easier than most newcomers, but it has nevertheless been a battle to prove herself. “I will always be my father’s daughter first,” she says but adds that this isn’t something which bothers her. In fact, she says that there were certain privileges which she enjoyed being a star kid. But, “there’s pressure as I still have to prove myself every time I face the camera,” she explains.
Besides Bhaag Milkha Bhaag with Farhan Akhtar, her forthcoming movies include Raanjhana with Dhanush (of “Kolaveri Di” fame). Box office failures, says Kapoor, don’t deter her. “I don’t regret any movies I have done. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” she says.
Only in her case the ones that haven’t worked far outnumber the ones that have. Call it style over substance, but it certainly has stood Kapoor in good stead — so far.