The Kerala Story’s Sonia Balani says she is not in mood to celebrate success | Bollywood

Sonia Balani, the girl who once played the daughter of Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar’s Ram and Priya in the hit TV show Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, is now winning accolades for her portrayal of an antagonist in The Kerala Story. The film has already crossed 178 crore and is now heading to cross the 200 crore mark. Sonia is happy but not in mood to celebrate the achievement in a grand way and has some valid reasons for the same. A happy-go-lucky girl in real life, Sonia found the role of Aisha a challenging one for which she has to talk against certain Gods and do some far more unthinkable things. (Also read: The Kerala Story actor Vijay Krishna: ‘People from Kerala are messaging us that this is real’)

Sonia Balani plays the role of Asifa in The Kerala Story.

In a chat with Hindustan Times, Sonia shared how the process of filming for The Kerala Story was a disturbing one and all that went into the making of the film. She also talked about her aspiration to play even more versatile roles even though she is getting a lot of hate for this one. Excerpts:

The Kerala Story is your third film and your biggest commercial success. How does it feel to be part of an almost 200 crore film?

It’s a mixed feeling because the subject is so dark and it’s a true story. Had it been a comedy or a rom-com, I would have been feeling complete happiness. I am happy that people have received it well, giving us so much support, appreciating our work. Somewhere in our hearts we know this has happened for real and that’s why we aren’t in much mood to celebrate it in a big way.

Did you feel disturbed during the making of the film which is said to be based on a true story?

When I read the script for the first time and Sudipto sir briefed us with pictures and videos, I felt very upset about the whole thing. Because some went for further studies and this happened with them for real. It was very shocking and affected me. Since I had to play a negative character, I didn’t want to look at the soft side of it, I had to be very callous and harsh. I was trying to focus on how ISIS works, their psyche. When I met these girls a few days ago, it all came back to me.

Has a pleasant or a painful memory from the shoot stayed with you?

When I was telling my co-star ‘thook kar aana (spit)’ on her father, that scene affected me a lot because I am very close to my own father. That needed a lot of conviction. When I was talking about Hindu gods, I had already gone into the psyche but when my character commits suicide, that was very haunting. When I used to come back home, I would be in that mindset all the time because we knew that was true. It was a very dark phase, when you work on a film like this, something changes inside you. I was very disturbed because that is all I was thinking all the time. Even my co-stars told me that my energy had changed while working on the film.

Sonia Balani as Asifa in The Kerala Story.

Did you undergo a workshop to play an ISIS terrorist?

There was a workshop for all of that. We had a Malayali coach. Whoever has been speaking Malayali since childhood, being that fluent was a challenge. I was trying to talk to my near and dear ones in a Malayali accent. I learnt how to offer Namaz and tie a hijab. But the most difficult part was getting into the psyche of ISIS people. As Sonia, I am totally different from Asifa. Until I actually get into the psyche, I cannot talk with such conviction. I watched videos of similar people and with what conviction they preach. Sudipto sir also helped a lot.

Were you not apprehensive of playing such a dark antagonist? Not many new actresses are eager to do that.

Many people asked me not to do this but I was keen on playing Asifa. I had two options, that I could play another girl or Asifa. I want to establish myself as a versatile actor because if I continue to play characters which are closer to my real self, what is the fun in being an actor! When you transform into something very different, that is the fun. In fact that is the main reason why I wanted to be an actor. I want to explore even more different characters and do action if that comes my way.

What is the best compliment that has come your way for the film?

I am a huge fan of Amrish Puri sir because his performances were flawless and effortless. The audience would be very angry over Amrish Puri for all that he used to do in films. He used to say that if he is being abused for his character, that was his biggest compliment. A person recently compared me to him. They saw that thing in Asifa.

You have mentioned receiving hate messages after the film’s release. Is it stressful?

We wanted to do justice to the subject. We had anticipated such things. I had anticipated even more…when I talk about Gods. People are writing hate messages, threatening me on social media. I won’t lie that it doesn’t scare me. Also, people have become too sensitive. I was avoiding going out due to this for some time. Nothing may happen, but what if! You can’t anticipate… I have read so much about such incidents…I am being a little cautious. But such roles will come to me in future as well, films will be made. You have to take a call. Thankfully, my family is very supportive.

From Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar’s daughter Pihu in Bade Ajhe Lagte Hain to Asifa in The Kerala Story – how do you see your journey?

I played the grown up Pihu and it had grey shades. I wasn’t very comfortable playing Pihu then but I had a discussion with Sakshi ma’am. She told me, ‘there is no bigger blessing than portraying grey shades as an actor because that is where you can show your work.’ Grey shades are the best when it comes to exploring your acting skills because you can go to extremes. From being uncomfortable in playing Pihu who was quite negative to growing up as an actor now. Now I don’t think what people will say about me and my character but I think how much I can explore my craft. I have worked on my craft a lot since then. I always wanted to join an acting school but couldn’t. I have done a lot of workshops, learnt from my actor friends. When I was a beginner, I thought acting wouldn’t be that difficult. But now I realise, there is no end to it, it is so deep. Those who are masters in this field say that they are not even half way in this, just think about me. Money and fame does make me feel happy but I pay more attention to my craft now.

Leave a Comment