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The Golden Girl

For Sonakshi Sinha, Tinseltown’s new Golden Girl, it has been a crazy year with back-to-back film projects. Right from her debut film Dabangg opposite macho-man Salman Khan, she has had a string of blockbusters from Rowdy Rathore to Son of Sardaar which have made her the movie industry’s box-office darling overnight. And the pace isn’t likely to slow down in the coming months.

No wonder she has become the lucky mascot at the box office with the best of banners and top actors wanting to work with her. She gleams with pride but insists that all the hype doesn’t make her head spin, “I still have miles to go, but I am enjoying this happy phase in my career.”

But the fact is that Sonakshi has quickly shot to the top and is ranked among the most promising actresses in Hindi films today along with contemporaries like Anushka Sharma and even picked up the Filmfare Award for Best Debutant, Female, in 2011. And now, she’s working with a string of top actors from Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn to younger ones like Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.

Says trade expert Komal Nahta: “Right now, she’s in an enviable space as whichever film she has done has crossed the Rs 100-crore mark. For a newcomer to get such meaty roles at the beginning of her career and to deliver hits is no joke. She’s definitely here to play a long innings.”

Sonakshi is all set to woo her fans once again in Dabangg 2

The young star is hoping that she will once again grab eyeballs in Dabangg 2, which is directed by Arbaaz Khan and is scheduled to launch in a few days. She says: “When we wrapped up the shoot of Dabangg we were in sync with our characters Rajjo and Chulbul Pandey. Though the look in the sequel has not changed drasti-cally, what has perhaps changed is that the story has moved on.”

Dabangg 2 has high hopes riding on it. Says Nahta: “Dabangg was a blockbuster and it will be interesting to see whether cinegoers will once again love the sizzling chemistry of Rajjo (Sonakshi) and Chulbul (Salman).”

For Sonakshi it has all been better than a dream. Industry gossip is that her price for a film is nearing a crore. And her most recent release Son of Sardaar, where she plays a Punjabi girl opposite Ajay Devgn has already raked in Rs 105 crore and the money’s still coming in. And before that her daredevil character in Rowdy Rathore opposite Akshay Kumar worked wonders and helped the movie rake in Rs 132 crore. In between, she even did a special appearance in a dance number in the film Oh My God.

Son Of Sardar, where Sonakshi is paired with Ajay Devgn, has raked in a cool Rs 105 crore at the box office

Currently, Sonakshi is juggling a host of ventures. She has set a punishing pace and will be doing four films in a year. The first to release — post-production is on currently — will be Lootera directed by Vikramaditya Motwani in which she is paired opposite Ranveer Singh. She says: “The film is set in 1950s and I play a Bengali zamindar’s daughter. Character-wise it has been quite a difficult role to play.” Close on the heels of Lootera will be Milan Luthria’s sequel Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Again in which she plays a struggling actress opposite Akshay Kumar. Shooting is still underway for this movie.

Sonakshi is hopeful that her dream run at the box office will continue in 2013. She has signed up Prabhu Deva’s yet-to-be titled film opposite Shahid Kapoor. But the one that she is most hopeful about is her pairing with Saif Ali Khan in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullet Raja, which deals with the mafia raj in Uttar Pradesh. “I am playing Saif’s love interest and will join the crew next February,” she says.

Sonakshi is obviously a smart player who knows the ins and outs of the industry. And — with acting in her genes — she’s savvy enough to know that the script is all-important. She says: “For me, the script has to be edge-of-the-seat to hook me.

It has to make me laugh and cry at the same time. I look at the script from an audience’s perspective because if I am not moved then it will be the same for the audience.”

She doesn’t take much time to prepare for a role and everyone who has worked with her insists that she’s a natural in front of the camera. Ace photographer Dabboo Ratnani who shot Sonakshi for three years in a row for his calendar says, “I remember the first day when I met her in my studio. Her eyes are her biggest plus points and I wanted to feature her expressive eyes in the shoot. Once the lights were on, she knew exactly what she had to do.”

Designer Manish Malhotra (far left) had Sonakshi (far right) walk the ramp for him recently at one of his star-studded fashion shows

Ratnani adds: “And it’s not just in Indian clothes, she looks great in Westernwear too. Recently we did a shoot where she wore short dresses and she carried off the clothes with ease.”

Stylist Rick Roy who styled her look in her last film Joker is also full of praise for the actress. He says: “The best thing about her is that she respects work of others. She is open to suggestions and surrenders completely at the hands of designers.”

Sonakshi has earned the reputation of portraying a desi girl image in all her films. But she is comfortable with this tag and says, “The directors whom I worked with felt that this desi look would suit my body structure and overall personality. But I am open to do glamorous roles in the future.”

It’s this mix of her desi look and her girl-next-door avatar which is working for Brand Sonakshi. And she has been quick to endorse products from soap to tea to beauty cream. Says Roy: “She has a very Indian face but at the same time she can pull off a Western look with elan. I styled her look for a Provogue ad where she was completely spontaneous.”

The actress romances co-star Akshay Kumar in Rowdy Rathore

Films were not seriously on her mind when she was growing up. Indeed, she attributes her magic formula to the destiny factor. She giggles, “I think I am at the right place and at the right time doing right roles. I am lucky that I was offered a plum role by Salman

Khan who insisted that I play Rajjo in Dabangg.” Sonakshi studied fashion designing from SNDT College, Mumbai before making her debut in Dabangg in 2010. A keen follower of fashion trends, she has walked the ramp for several designers like Dev and Nil and Manish Malhotra.

Sonakshi insists that sudden stardom hasn’t changed her life so far. She says: “I am a simple young girl who loves her family a lot. I prefer to be at home when not working and rarely go out partying.” But she’s quick to add that she’s a complete gizmo freak and is “in love with my iPad and can’t leave my home without it. I love to play games on my iPad in between shoots.”

Her mother Poonam Sinha too says that nothing has changed at home. “Sonakshi may be a big star outside but at home she still gets a scolding from me if she doesn’t clean her room. But she’s a bright girl and quite mature for her age.”

Her performance in Dabangg opposite Salman Khan (middle) last year won Sonakshi the Filmfare Award for Best Debutant, Female

Poonam adds: “Though as a parent I try to hold on to the reins, she knows how to deal with the industry. In every ways, Sonakshi is totally a daddy’s girl who is very honest, principled and has a mind of her own.” Both mother and daughter recently shared screen-space in a facial bleach ad.

Sonakshi also surprised everybody when she matched steps with choreographer Prabhu Deva in a special appearance in Oh My God. In Dabangg 2 she even learnt a few Kathakali steps for the song Dagabaaz Re. She says:” “I always love to learn new things to get things correct. I am like a sponge and can learn an infinite number of things at a time.”

And being a star kid she turns to her father Shatrughan Sinha for career advice. “My father always told me that if you cannot be the best, be different. And today this is what I actually believe in. Though my mom sits with me for every script narration I still consult my father before signing every film,” she says.

Despite tasting success too early in her career Sonakshi is quick to point out that she is determined to stay grounded. But she reckons that there’s still a long way to go — she still has to do all kinds of cinema and make use of all the opportunities that come her way.