Sonam Kapoor Ahuja has always colored outside the lines. Since her debut in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2007 film Saawariya, Kapoor Ahuja has scaled the heights of silver screen fame, playing mould-breaking roles. No mention of her rise is complete without including her eye for fashion and her ability to curate a style that has won her much admiration. But as the actor sets off on the seminal journey to motherhood, she sits down with Megha Kapoor for an unfiltered conversation about her pregnancy journey and more.
“I didn’t have the refinement that other young girls had—that posture, that elegance. I was a bit of a mess,” confesses Kapoor Ahuja, who experienced a growth spurt in her teenage years that left her feeling gangly, awkward and self-conscious of her body. She adds that her progressive mother provided a much-needed respite from the stringent societal expectations around beauty for women—exacerbated by the fact that Kapoor Ahuja comes from a family of actors, and grew up in the eye of the storm that is Bollywood. “You’re prepped from an early age to be pretty enough to get married,” says Kapoor Ahuja.
To add to this, the actor entered the industry at a time when the size-zero frenzy had reached a fever pitch. The pressure to conform to idealized and stringent body standards was real. “I was a big girl at 5’10”,” says the actor, pointing out that she made her debut alongside others like Deepika Padukone, who migrated to Bollywood from the world of modeling. When it comes to keeping her confidence, she credits directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra for not pressuring her to look a certain way, adding that the former likened her to the voluptuous figures in Ajanta paintings. Her educational background—the actor went to the tony Singapore-based boarding school UWC—gave her exposure to friends outside of the film industry, whom she credits with instilling in her a sense of groundedness. “I realized that it was much better to be confident and body positive, as opposed to eating celery sticks,” she says.
But her self-actualization couldn’t shield the actor from the way women were portrayed in films, a fact that she agrees with, saying, “We are always catering to the male gaze, which is disappointing.” Although that may be changing, Kapoor Ahuja is cognisant of the fact that the Indian film industry has a ways to go before the “patriarchal bent” present in movies can be completely eradicated: “If I put a sexy picture of myself on Instagram, it’ll get way more likes than the one where I’m wearing a pretty dress,” she continues, detailing the ways in which the male gaze and click bait-informed paparazzi culture has contributed to the objectification of women.
When it comes to her love for fashion, it comes as little surprise that Kapoor Ahuja has won acclaim both domestically and internationally for her eye for style. She is, in many ways, a pioneer when it comes to spotlighting homegrown talent on the global stage, as evidenced by her 2014 Cannes appearance, where she wore a blush pink Anamika Khanna sari on what was otherwise a red carpet littered with gowns by Western designers. “I love fashion,” says the actor, “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.” When it comes to what makes an outfit stand out to her, she says, “I like to look for things that make me feel more like myself—I’m an actor and a Gemini: I like to be a different person every day.”
Now at 36, the actor focuses on keeping herself healthy rather than trying to diet or exercise her way to an ideal size, and does a mix of yoga and weight training to help keep her body happy. “I ate a dosa for breakfast this morning,” she says with a smile. “I’m not trying to be on some high protein diet to get to fifteen percent body fat. Crash dieting is just not sustainable.”
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When it comes to her body, Kapoor Ahuja’s pregnancy—which she recently announced to the public—was what pushed her to take the healthy route. “If you want to carry another life within you, you have to respect your own.” Her pregnancy journey hasn’t been easy, and the actor explains that the first three months were difficult in a way she wasn’t prepared for. “It’s been tough—nobody tells you how hard it is. Everybody tells you how wonderful it is,” she confesses. The actor isn’t fazed by this new journey to motherhood though, saying, “The reason we’re all here is to change and become better versions of ourselves. So that evolution is something I look forward to.”
Originally published in Vogue.in