• 02 Jun - 08 Jun, 2018
  • Attiya Abbass
  • Interview

Sonya’s beam had an underlying warmth to it; almost like sunshine, as she sits across me, cradling a cup of black coffee. Flanked by a number of people on the table, she exudes individuality and a charm of her own. Her hair elaborately styled, nose perfectly contoured, she sat, utterly unfrazzled by the reporters’ palaver around her. As we chat briefly, I couldn’t help but notice the starlet’s striking resemblance to Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. As I mention this, Sonya throws her head back in a gentle sing-song laugh.

Meeting Sonya in flesh feels oddly familiar than it should. She is no newcomer to the big picture either, with the actress hitching her horse to high budgeted movies like Moor.

At present, Sonya has geared up for another cinematic release, the thriller war film Azaadi, set to release this Eid. Through popular grapevine, we caught a whiff that she will be portraying a journalist in the movie. I ask her for a confirmation and some insight into the character. “Yes, it is true,” Sonya confirms. “Zara (the role) is a journalist who hails from Kashmir, but is grown and brought up in London. She is the heart of the story; a livewire, that keeps the story moving,” she tells me. Granting me more illumination on her role, the actress adds, “Zara’s journey starts with the mujahid, which is played by Moammar. It revolves around the quest for Kashmir’s freedom. It is a war film, with hints of blooming romance intertwined.”

I enquire, if the role of Zara was as challenging as her past roles?

“Of course, it was challenging,” Sonya declares. “Zara is the steering force, the cynosure of the film’s plot. A lot rested on my character’s shoulders. She is the one who is manoeuvring the story forward.”

“The reason I signed Azaadi was because it wasn’t any other film,” she shares. “The past years have brought an onslaught of offers from many films, where I was asked to step into roles of a conventional love-locked woman opposite a male lead. The typical roles of a girl next door; a girl who has to do nothing in the film. I don’t want to take on such roles. I choose roles, where I bring a message or meaningful theme to the film.” confides Sonya.

Momentarily arrested by Sonya’s profoundly fervent account of her role and its challenges, I ask her if she deliberately chooses to take on roles that are eccentric or is it mere fate? “A blend of both,” she admits and begins again, “You won’t believe it…” she trails off lost in thought. I assure her, that coming from her I will inadvertently believe anything. She laughs and continues, “It may come off as if I am exaggerating but, on a monthly basis I am offered so many roles. There are about 20 to 30 scripts, and I plough through all of them in the hunt for the role which I find best,” she explains in a slightly resigned tone.

Isn’t it fortunate for her, being the kind of actor she is, to have really explored her mettle and capability by taking on diverse roles? I stage the question. “Yes, thankfully I have been lucky; the audiences have seen me play a Bihari character, a Sindhi character, a tomboy and the role of a psychotic girl and much more. I’d say, I have truly explored my mettle. Fate wanted it.”

Sonya and I agreed that it’s an unfortunate shortcoming of our film industry to preset certain templates for actors. “Playing repetitive roles curbs your evolution as a fine actor.” explains Sonya, clearly repelled by the idea. “There are many actresses who are not keen to take on eccentric, experimental roles; they don’t want to push their limits and come out of their comfort zone. In my opinion, this is when an actor ceases to evolve and to grow.”

I ask her if a particular role that she played, deeply impacted the actress’s personality. Sonya promptly replies, as if the thought was floating in her mind at that very moment, “It would be my role from Aisi Hai Tanhai. After filming the drama serial, I feel that I have morphed into a different person,” seriousness arrests her as she continues, “It has made me conscious and more aware about the elements beyond my personal sphere. It has made me more attentive. Before that, I used to hang out everywhere with my friends and would go about places, but after filming that drama serial, I just am more aware and informed about my surroundings,” she admits. “What’s that Urdu word...” Sonya muses, struggling for words. “Hoshiyar,” she utters. “Mein buhat hoshiyar rehti hoon ab.”

Sonya’s film Azaadi has quite a competition, with films like 7 Din Mohabbat In and Wajood also marking their release this Eid season. I ask the actor about her expectations from the film and how it’s going to fare with the audiences? “Fortunately, these said movies have different genres. 7 Din Mohabbat In is a rom-com. Our movie is very different, there is no element of comedy in it; it is a serious film.”

I ask her if she believes that a film without any glamour quotient can do wonders at the box office. “Honestly, not really,” she declares. “I have experienced this with my previous film Moor; the masses are generally not inclined to watch films like it. They don’t watch films like Perfume, Tamasha… they want entertainment. Of course, few people have a taste for serious genres, but I believe glamour weighs more for the audience at large. These kind of movies are not for the box office.”

I ask if there is an actor she takes inspiration from in the industry, to which she replies, “Many. I love the works of Noman Ejaz, Samiya Shamshad and Irsa Ghazal, “I really admire the performances by Saba Qamar and Sajal Aly.” Speaking about who she feels are her real competitors in the industry Sonya shares, “I feel, there is no one. I view myself as a different actress. I never compare myself to any actress. I never look at them and feel, ‘Oh she has done wonderfully, I want to beat that or do better’”, she continues, “Never, no. I was recently offered a telefilm, more like Motorcycle Girl. It was called Vespa Girl. But, Sohai has already done a wonderful job at the movie and I believe I couldn’t perform better than her, so I let go off the script. I only take on roles to which I can add. If I believe I cannot outdo a performance, there is no point of (performing) it.” •