It seldom happens that you meet someone and your perception about that person changes in a blink of a moment. When I was going to interview Sonya Jehan, I thought of someone a bit reserved and quiet, but she was not like it at all. I found her to be an extremely positive person, bursting with energy and fun to talk to.
Dressed very casually in a white shirt and denim, she warmly welcomed us in The Vision Factory’s office.Belonging to the talented family of Noor Jehan, the actress has proved her mettle with several power packed performances in Bollywood and Hollywood.
Now she is all set to debut in the Pakistani industry with Asim Raza’s directorial project Ho Mann Jahaan. In an exclusive interview with HIP, she talked about her awesome working chemistry with Asim Raza and Shehreyar Munawar and the importance of family and life.
Ho Mann Jahaan is going to be your first film in Pakistan; what made you sign this project?
Whenever I sign any project I make sure to work with people whom I feel comfortable with. One of the reasons I took up this project was of course Asim Raza. He is somebody I feel extremely comfortable with. There is a mutual respect for each other, apart from the fact that I started my career with him.
When he offered me the role, there was no point in turning it down. It was a fun project and I found the script really interesting too.
We know that your role in the film is that of an independent woman; is there any resemblance of your on-screen character with the real you?
It is true that Sabina is an independent girl and just like her I also love to have things my way, but she is also very calm and collected which I am not. I get stressed and angry very easily. I often take deep breathes to calm myself – so she is different in that sense. Other than that there are a lot of similarities, but if I tell you, then I’ll be giving a lot about my character. I don’t want to reveal too much right now.
Your on-screen chemistry with Shehryar Munawar in the promos looked awesome; how did you find him as a co-actor?
Sherry is a super sweet, young, energetic, and an extremely talented actor. It is his first film and I am so impressed by him. He has been extremely professional on the set. He had a huge task because he is also on the production team so he was juggling between acting and production.
I really admire him and have learnt a lot from him about how to conduct yourself on the set and remain patient – so it’s quite commendable. I love working with him and I think we have created a really good friendship.
From the three leads of Ho Mann Jahaan – Sheheryar, Adeel, & Mahira – who was the most fun to work with for you?
Adeel and Mahira are great to work with, but Sherry is a complete joker and us ko bus har waqt hasna hai hasana hai. We have so much fun working together and after doing this project, I feel like I have extended my family.
In several interviews you have talked about your relationship with Asim Raza; what makes you trust him so much?
My relationship with Asim is really old. I started my career with him when I was 15 so obviously there is a lot of trust and comfort involved whenever I am doing any project with him. We know each other’s families really well too so besides work, our relationship has really matured on a personal level too.
We all know how hard working and passionate he is about his work, but he is extremely supportive too. I have serious issue reading Urdu to get the accent right while performing this role was a bit touch as It has been a long time since I have spoken Urdu – we usually talk in Hindi and English at home. Asim was very kind and helped me a lot in this regard.
What exactly do you look for in a project before signing it?
It’s quite different actually – when someone considers me for a role in India, they usually call for an audition. There they just begin with a dialogue and sometimes a little brief has also been given, but usually it is not very descriptive. So we usually don’t know about the script. Once that process ends, then after the final selection they provide the complete script.
Once I have script in my hand, I read it thoroughly especially my role in it. I also try to find out about the team in general before making any final decisions.
Have your foreign looks ever created hindrances in getting any roles?
Yes, it has happened several times. Sometimes after the auditions they tell me that the director liked your acting, but your looks don’t connect with the character in demand. In India, they sometimes offer me item songs too, which I don’t want to do.
Are you one of the people who find it demeaning to do an item number?
Not exactly, I like Priyanka Chopra, Malika Arora, or Shilpa Shetty performing on item numbers. When it comes to me, I don’t find myself fit for it. Being a mother of two kids I don’t find myself doing it. Let me tell you that my looks are European, but my mind is typical Pakistani and it’s not easy for me to digest such songs.
In HMJ who did styling for your role?
The look has been created by Hina Farooqui and Adnan Ansari is my rock star make-up artist who makes me look presentable on screen.
In real life do you like to wear make-up?
No, not at all. The makeup I have used right now has been enough for me to attend any party. I even don’t like to wear lipstick – it is not my style.
How do you prepare yourself for a certain character?
When we are given a script the feelings they want for a particular scene are usually written along with the dialogues – like if she is angry, laughing, or crying.
To get into the skin of a particular character one has to internalize it. I always try to find the background information related to my role like which class she belongs to, how has her upbringing been, and where she got her education; is she foreign returned or did get matured in the slums. So, to understand your character, a bit of research into the character is very important.
How did you feel when you saw your brother, Sikander Rizvi on the silver screen for the first time?
Unfortunately, the film didn’t do well on the box office, but he is so good looking that girls (and sometimes boys too) drool over him, so I am really proud of him.
I haven’t gotten a chance to watch his film yet because when it was released I wasn’t in the country and I didn’t want to see pirated version so I was waiting for DVD print to come out.
If you have watch the movie, would you be interested in giving him some acting tips?
No, I don’t think so. I honestly feel that I need to work on certain areas to improve my craft and when I myself am in the learning stage, it is impossible to give tips to others.
Acting is a learning process and every project has its challenges. Every character is different so you have to try and understand it.
In most of your interviews you have said that family has always been your priority. Tell us a little bit about your family?
I honestly believe that career comes and go. One becomes famous while young, and beautiful, but once it is all over, all that is left is your family and those are the people that stick with you through think and thin.
For me family is very important and I made that choice early on in my career. During my first movie, Taj Mahal I got married and during Khoya Khoya Chaand I had my daughter Noor and then I left for My Name is Khan.
I still remember that when I left Noor for the shoot in San Francisco, she was just 18 months and even though I came back within four weeks, she didn’t recognize me and called me dedi (we call our maids dedi in India). It made me really upset and then I thought I would never leave my kids again.
Kids are growing up so fast so I don’t want to miss anything related to them. Now she isMashaAllah 8 years old and my son Rizwan is turning 5. I am happy I have given them quality time. People often claim that while focusing on your kids you have lost such a golden period of your life which could bring you name and fame, but it didn’t matter to me at all.
So in terms of career, what do you aim for now?
I don’t aim for anything. I don’t have an agenda in life. There are actors who are focused and make agendas in life- and it is great. I admire such people, but I am not one of them. I just go with the flow.
People often ask a celebrity about their success, but have you ever faced a failure in life and if yes, how did you deal with it?
With every failure you learn something. It is a strength building exercise. As I don’t take life too seriously so these failures don’t affect me at all. Life is to enjoy and I don’t think God told us to work like a fool and lose all the charm of life.
If given a chance to spend a day of your own choice, what would you do to make it the most memorable day of your life?
There are so many things. I love to travel so that may be something I’ll opt for. I also like to do some humanitarian work. Currently, I am not associated with any NGO, but I have friends working there and am in the process of working with them.