The Coming of Age of Sonam Kapoor

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The Coming of Age of Sonam Kapoor

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fter her launch as a lovelorn lass in Saawariya, Sonam Kapoor had firmly established herself as the leader of the stylish-but-can’t-act club. This club wasn’t a bad place to hang out. It has hosted everyone from Fardeen Khan to Govinda in the past and more recently Jacqueline Fernandez and Katrina Kaif, but Sonam really gave it new life with her coming-out party  with “Unsuitable Boy” Karan Johar and the distinctly less international Deepika Padukone.

On that historic episode, she took Ranbir Kapoor’s boyfriendness to the cleaners, equated Shobhaa De’s writing skills with that of Chetan Bhagat’s, and called all those who discussed relationships in public tacky (RIP), while maintaining her now trademark emotional sentiment about the uselessness of men. She went on to get into minor kerfuffles, like calling Aishwarya Rai an “aunty from another generation”, alleging that Indian men don’t know fashion unless they’re gay, and taking random digs at people.

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It was a different life and Sonam Kapoor, whose birthday it is today, was our guardian angel. She was the teller of all things Bollywood outsiders thought and wanted to scream out loud. Whatever she was feeling, while giving only a finger and no fucks, I hoped someone would distil into a powder so that I could snort it and be an uglier manifestation of Sonam’s cavalier attitude.

This insolence reflected in her film career with mostly encouraging choices resulting in maddeningly frustrating end-products: Delhi-6, I Hate Luv Storys, and Mausam. These were fairly edgy choices as compared to her contemporary Deepika Padukone, who was busy appearing in every film possible, partaking in the #AppeaseAll doctrine employed by Kareena Kapoor in the mid-2000s. None of these worked though and Sonam went from potentially great to definitively bad, leading to the let’s-play-small-parts-in-big-budget-films phase of her life with Players and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and the occasional rom-com thrown in the middle for good measure.

And then Neerja happened.

Watching the hatted Sonam Kapoor and the immensely bored Kareena Kapoor on Koffee with Karan was as pleasant as getting a double colonoscopy on a swollen butt in the Delhi winters.

With Neerja, Sonam Kapoor bounced right out of the stylish-but-can’t-act club and made a run for the hallowed stylish-and-can-act club, which screamed of A-list members like Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone.

Now the pressure to wear the mantle of the “serious actress” with élan was immense. None of the other girls had made a Gandhi blooper or acquired a distinctly “duh” personality. So Sonam doffed her thinking hat (a Philip Treacy, naturally) and turned into a powerful, but wholly predictable spokesperson for gender issues taking up everything from body shaming in Bollywood, to molestation, from her low self-esteem, to closing the wage gap between actors. As displayed at The Actresses Roundtable, where she didn’t let anyone speak and dropped words like “idealism” and “burger-chhap”, she embraced her transformation from the chatty, over-the-top Dolce-wearing diva, to the outspoken champion casually throwing shade at the patriarchal nature of Bollywood.

Which is why, perhaps, watching the hatted Sonam Kapoor and the immensely bored Kareena Kapoor on the last season of Koffee with Karan was as pleasant as getting a double colonoscopy on a swollen butt in the Delhi winters. As both leading ladies refused to partake in Karan’s rankings (Kareena mainly because she could barely keep her eyes open through the episode), they bored the hell out of the millions who dutifully tuned in with their TV dinners, hoping to get at least one new tidbit to gnaw on for the rest of the week.

But even though it made for really bad TV, we can’t say that the calm-pose version of Sonam Kapoor is an entirely bad idea. She is a welcome change from the shrill girl who has inspired spoofs, selfie songs, and enough jokes to keep a whole country of stand-up comics in business. She has abdicated the “meme of the year” throne and one day she may surprise us by pulling a Meryl Streep. Unless she pulls an Alia before that.

This is an updated version of an article published earlier.

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