Sonali Kulkarni: I have taken the road less travelled

By Neeru Saluja

Actress Sonali Kulkarni has come a long way from being a versatile actress to a mature performer. The critically acclaimed actor who is known for her performance in films like Dil Chahta Hai, Mission Kashmir, Singham, Deool and Kaccha Limbu believes in being spontaneous when it comes to acting.

And she once again proved herself as a talented actress with her play ”˜Gardish Mein Taare’ brought to Sydney by SAI Creative Arts Network Australia. Sonali left the audience spellbound with her emotional and turbulent performance.

After the play, we caught up with the pretty and graceful actress in a casual yet candid conversation about her journey in films, theatre and her passion for cycling!

Sonali Kulkarni in Sydney in ‘Gardish Mein Taare’  

The play ”˜Gardish mein Taare’ is based on a complicated and troubled relationship. What made you say yes to playing the role of legendary singer Geeta Dutt?

The director Saif Hyder Hasan had approached me through a friend and when I heard the subject I was absolutely scared. Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt are legends and I’m not a professional singer, though I have learnt singing. When I read the script, it was an emotional turmoil for me. There were facts that I did not know, emotions that I wasn’t aware of. I told Saif that I was not prepared for this role and why should we tell people a story they did not know? But Saif convinced me that we need to tell this untold story. It was an extremely challenging proposal as we were about to show Geeta Dutt in a different light. Finally, as a director he succeeded and till date I call this as my defeat!

What kind of preparation did you do for this challenging role?      

All my songs are live. So singing was an integral part of the role. I had to sing Geeta Dutt’s songs and adapt to her singing style. I had to be simple and traditional in the form of singing. I had to grow with this character and learn about the man woman relationship in a different light.

You made Indians fall in love with Australia with your film ”˜Dil Chahta Hai’ and 17 years later you are here with your play. How would you describe this journey?

I’m in love with Australia myself! I feel as if Dil Chahta Hai was made two years ago. The film has made a landmark in the film industry, setting standards in the style of filming. The team of Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh and Zoya wanted their cast to be on time on sets and didn’t allow mobile phones on sets even back then. I’m blessed to be part of this film and always wish the best for my co-actors and their future. I work with Aamir Khan on Paani foundation and am happy to share his vision of going beyond acting and actively working for the community. I have taken a road less travelled but the journey so far has been great.

Sonali you have always been so comfortable in your skin ”“ be it your acting or public appearances. What sets you apart from today’s actresses?

Well there is a hidden compliment in your question, so thank you. It’s extremely difficult to be simple and natural. I look at acting as a spontaneous art and never over prepare. I don’t believe in studying acting all the time. When I come home, my character travels with me till the car, but they don’t come home with me. Some characters can be overwhelming, for example my characters in films like Mission Kashmir and Agni Varsha. If you start scrutinising your craft it loses it’s spontaneity. I like to be simple and straightforward towards the emotional aspect of a character. That’s why I attract such roles in my acting career and such directors who leverage that aspect of my character.

What medium do you enjoy the most ”“ theatre or films?

I must admit that films have given the required lifestyle and glamour that I would like to have. Films make me reach out to a global audience. You can search my theatre work via google but you can’t judge my performance until you watch my films. If you asked me this question 10 years ago, my answer would have been different. I would have said films are my mother, theatre is my father. But in today’s scenario, films have helped me achieve my acting potential, social work and the lifestyle. So thumbs up for films but a continuous hunt for good theatre.

Talking about your lifestyle, you are also passionate about cycling and are often seen cycling on the streets of Mumbai!

I’m from Pune and coming from a humble middle class family, a bicycle was the only luxury. Mine was a third hand bicycle from my brother. I have cycled to school and college. As we had no pocket money system in our family, I started working as a recreational dance teacher for specially abled children. I found cycling as the most convenient and quickest method to get to my destination. I cycled till 19, and then I bought my two wheeler. When I came to Mumbai, my passion followed me and I started cycling. Now I own my cycle, train under India’s most famous trainer and do triathlons!

You have shown your versatility in Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu films. How do you do it and what’s next for your fans?

For me working across various industries is very exciting. There was a year when my Marathi Film Deool won the Golden Lotus National award, there was Singham as the first 100 crore film and a Gujarati film Good Road which was India’s Oscar entry and thereafter I delivered my daughter Kaveri!

I feel that life is so beautiful and has so much to offer. They say that once you get married and have kids, you need to sacrifice your career. I’m at the peak of my career and I don’t believe in sacrifice. I believe in taking risks and striking the perfect work life balance. Therefore soon you will hear about my next Hindi big film which I can’t reveal right now!





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