Sonia Gill, the Bollywood actress known for her acting in ‘Arsho’ and ‘Society’, lives a double life. In a chit-chat with Anjana Parikh, the 27-year-old who has starred in five blockbusters and is also a Oxfordshire County Council worker, talks about her life as an actress and a council staff.
AL: When did you decided to join Bollywood?
Sonia: I never really decided to get into it. I started off modeling part time while I was at Buckinghamshire University studying LLB Law. I was spotted in a magazine called Asian Bride and was offered my first movie which was to be shot in New York. My family were very encouraging and said that I should give it a shot. I took my sister Monica with me on my first assignment; we were out in New York/New Jersey for two months, shot the movie and came back to my council job. I was working in land charges and dealing with conveyance for the government properties within Oxford.
AL: Please tell us your journey to the Hindi cinema?
Sonia: After the first movie, I was offered more work in Mumbai, a lot of modelling, TV commercials and movies. I became the face of a soap brand called ‘Santoor’, did hair commercials, Coke commercial for Sri Lanka and Pakistan, jewellery ads in Dubai and many more. I shot with actors such as Saif Ali Khan, Farhan Aqtar, Anuskha Sharma to name a few
I did a movie called ‘Society’ which had an ensemble cast, actors I have grown up watching like Dimple Kapadia, Randeer Kapoor, who both played as my parents, Sarika, Paresh Rawal, all fabulous actors. The film was directed by Rahul Dholakia, the national award winning director.
AL: Which is the latest film that you’ve signed?
Sonia: Right now I’m not allowed to disclose anything about the next movie.
AL: And which was the last one you did?
Sonia: My last movie was called ‘Arsho’ which released on June 13, where I play the character of Raavi who also happens to be an NRI.
AL; How do you manage your time especially when you are shuttling between the UK and India?
Sonia: I’m usually in India for about six months in a year and the remaining months, I’m here. I love India and my lifestyle out there but my family are here and I’m very close to them so have to keep coming back. This is home for me.
AL: You also work for the Oxfordshire County Council. What’s your profile there?
Sonia: Currently, I’m working in the Health and Social Care Team where I do assessments for people with mobility issues.
AL: Was it difficult to get a break in Bollywood?
Sonia: It is extremely hard to break through into Bollywood. It’s a very competitive industry with millions of people trying to get a break in the industry. I consider myself very lucky for the opportunities I have got.
AL: Hindi is a must in Bollywood. Where did you learn your Hindi?
Sonia: I have been watching Bollywood movies since I was a child so I understood the language completely but had never attempted to speak it but picked it up while I was out in Mumbai. There, I used to speak to the locals in Hindi, however, I do have a British accent which I try and tone down when I’m there.
AL: Do you still struggle with the language?
Sonia: I’m kind of familiar with it now but sometimes I do get a little confused and get my Hindi and Punjabi mixed up. I’ve been speaking in Punjabi at home since I was a child.
AL: Has your British accent been a hindrance in pursuing a career in Hindi cinema?
Sonia: Oh yes for sure, it’s pretty tough trying to neutralise my accent.
AL: What do you like most about India?
Sonia: I love the people, the food and the life style. I have met some amazing people out there that I can call family and miss them immensely when I’m here.
AL: How different is the life you live in India compared to the one you live in the UK?
Sonia: I have a routine life here which is very simple and I love that. In India, my life is pretty hectic with all the shootings that can go on for 18 hours a day at times, travelling, attending events etc…but I love the fact that it gives me an opportunity to travel as I love to explore new places, cultures, traditions, food and people.
AL: What was your family’s reaction when you told them about your Bollywood dreams?
Sonia: My family were the ones who encouraged me to do it; they saw all the opportunities I was getting and told me I should totally go for it and give it my best. Honestly, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it alone.
AL: You had kept your Bollywood career a secret from your friends and colleagues. How did they come to know and what was their first reaction?
Sonia: They had read an article in the newspaper and they were all pretty shocked and amazed but were also excited; they kept telling me how sneaky I had been for not telling them.
AL: What was the biggest challenge for you in Bollywood?
The biggest challenge for me was living away from my family and starting a brand new life out there which I quickly got use to.