"I am in a profession where people are always judging you, and people can be brutal. I realised pretty early on in my career that if I don’t love myself, how are other people gonna love me?” This is the first thing our cover star Sonakshi Sinha tells us when we ask her why her idea of love begins with the self. It is, after all, February, and all conversations circle back to love in its many forms.
It is rather poetic that the desire to not be judged has led the actor to create “a force field for (herself),” made entirely out of self-love, where none of the vitriol can get to her. “I’m not very harsh with myself. I speak to myself as I would to a friend if they were feeling down. People can be very self-deprecating and very hard on themselves, so, once you learn to be kind to yourself, that’s how you end up being kind to other people,” she explains with the type of clarity that is usually forged in the fires of intense introspection.
In the year of Our Lord 2022, where every song and every meme is constantly telling you to love yourself, it can sometimes come as a shock that you do not just wake up one morning as an enlightened, self-actualised version of yourself. Unfortunately for all of us, self-love can be a long, arduous journey, and no one has it easy. That includes Sinha. “I grew up as an overweight child, so I was very, very harsh on myself at that point of time, until I realised that I wasn’t feeling good about it. So, it’s a process, it doesn’t happen overnight at all. It takes a while and it’s a different journey of introspection and self-discovery for everyone. It took a while for me, but I’m in a very good place now. I’m quite happy with who I am and what I’ve achieved. And it helps to be in a space like that, where you are in a better frame of mind to achieve your goals. I hope and pray for every person that they are able to find this kind of self-love.”
You can tell that Sinha has built a solid relationship with herself, because all this talk of self-love is, in fact, not just talk. One of her upcoming films, also starring Huma Qureshi, is the cheekily-titled Double XL, which pulls no punches and addresses upfront the aggressive body-shaming Sinha has dealt with throughout her career. “As a society, we have been conditioned to believe that being overweight is wrong and unacceptable. People are literally discriminated against because of their weight. This is what we’re trying to address in the film, that people who are overweight also have hopes and dreams and goals in their life but the world just doesn’t make it easy for them,” Sinha states. “They are also human beings who are worthy of being encouraged or of falling in love, just like any other person. That was an important message for me to give out because, in my teenage years and in college, I was made fun of for being overweight. Those are very formative years of your life.”
She pauses, then says something everyone who’s struggled with their weight has thought at least once in their lifetime: “I sometimes wonder, would it have been any different if I was a thin girl?”
When she started working, Sinha lost 30 kilos to do her first film, Dabangg, and that became the story. “My weight kept fluctuating in the movies that I did after that, and it was the only thing that people kept talking about. It’s like you cannot see beyond a person’s weight. You cannot see the quality of their work, how well they dance, how good they look, how well they entertain you. It was literally the only thing that used to be spoken about and it was really irritating. So there came a point when I just said, ‘You know what, to hell with it. This is who I am; take it or leave it.’ There are days when I don’t feel like working out but I feel like stuffing my face, and I’m going to do that. There are days when I am not where I want to be on the scale, and that’s okay. There are days when I want to work out and be super fit, and I’m going to do that as well. It’s all a part of who I am. You just need to stop letting these voices get to your head and do what is best for you. That’s what I’ve been doing, which is why Double XL is such an important film for me. Literally the minute I heard (the script), I was like, ‘I’m in’.”
Another advantage of doing this film? Being able to live out the ultimate fantasy of anyone who’s ever been body-shamed but had to be polite about it. “I have a whole monologue in the film, where I just go ham,” she says with what can only be described as pure joy. “I’m playing a Delhi girl so the language is also quite colourful. It was very cathartic, as it’s something I’ve kept inside me for so many years and I got to say it out loud in this movie. I just give it to the world!”
Double XL isn’t the only project Sinha has coming up. She recently finished shooting for the web series Fallen with Reema Kagti, in which she plays a cop. There’s heavy speculation that she has been cast in the Sanjay Leela Bhansali epic Heeramandi. She also has a horror comedy coming up, called Kakuda.
That is a vast, exciting range of work, but none of it is pre-planned. “Honestly, I never had a plan to begin with, and things worked out pretty well in my favour, so I plan to keep it that way,” she reveals. “I’ve always been very instinctive. I’ve reached a point where it’s been 10 years, so there are very few things that I haven’t done. I’m in a place where I only want to do things that excite me, that ignite a spark in me. That is my main focus, otherwise I just take it as it comes.”
From Lootera to Khandaani Shafakhana, if her past choices are anything to go by, what ignites a spark in her is also what resonates with her audience the most. When we ask her what she’s proud of the most in her career so far, her answer is disarmingly simple. “I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve done things my way and always stayed very true to myself. I’ve always maintained that I want to be a part of films you can watch with your entire family, which is what I’ve done. I’ve always projected a very healthy body image, right from the very beginning, because, when I was younger, I needed someone to do that for me, but, at that point of time, there weren’t many people who were breaking those body norms. I’m also very proud of the fact that I have a great work ethic. And I’m proud that I’ve been able to make my family proud, so there are lots of things that have gone my way.”
Editor: Ambika Muttoo
Photographer: Ajay Kadam
Art Director: Bendi Vishan
Fashion Editor: Krishna Mukhi
All Jewellery: Mia by Tanishq
Make Up: Savleen Manchanda (Eficiente Management)
Hairstylist: Madhuri Nakhale
Fashion Coordinator: Ashwini Arunkumar
All Ferns and Flora: Inter Flora India
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