As she started modelling back in the day, people had never seen a face as beautiful as anything and a personality as charming as a princess. Soon after, landing herself in Bollywood with her debut period film, Taj Mahal; the sultry model turned actress tied the knot with an Indian national, Narain. Bagging an inspiring role in Shahrukh Khan and Kajol starrer, My Name Is Khan latte, the absolute stunner after getting critically and commercially acclaimed, is all set to debut into local cinema with Ho Mann Jahan. Speaking about the film, her family and prospective to aspects of life and acting, we get an inside scoop by Sonya Jehan!
PakiUM: So Sonya, Ho Mann Jahan happens to be your first film in Pakistan. What are your expectations from the film and how did you end up doing it?
Sonya: I’ve worked with Asim Raza since I was 16, my first commercial was with him and I think it was his second. He was also just starting off as well. When he contacted me in India for the film, which he was very keen on doing, so I just jumped into the opportunity as I love working with Asim, the Vision Factory team; they’re very young and energetic. It was a no brainier for me, it had to be done!
I’m obviously very nervous as its my first Pakistani movie but at the same time I’m overwhelmed with the response and the way people have reacted to the trailers and the music. I think I’m excited, nervous, confident, there’s a lot of mixed emotions!
PakiUM: Tell us a bit about what sort of character you’re portraying and how was your experience working with Asim and company?
Sonya: My character’s name is Sabeena, she’s a very independent and mature person. She basically comes into the film at some point and she’s kind of a kite to one’s of the characters. I don’t want to tell anything besides that because I don’t want to spoil it for you!
The experience was amazing as I previously mentioned, the Vision Factory is very professional and fun, there was never a moment of dullness. There was always someone cracking a joke and I think amongst all the actors there has been a sense of comradely, so it was real nice to see a family-ish atmosphere.
PakiUM: Though you got a chance to prove yourself with great productions in Bollywood as well as Hollywood, do you believe that Pakistani actors are warmly welcomed to other industries?
Sonya: I’m not a political person but as far as acting is concerned I think it does not belong to any particular country. I think it’s a craft and you can take that craft anywhere with you, be it India or the west or Timbuktu (Laughs), as long as your craft is accepted and respected. Honestly, there’s a lot of good will amongst the people working in India and I think vice virsa, I think the film fraternities on both sides of the border are keen on working with each other.
PakiUM: How did you start your career as a showbiz personality and what sort of difficulties did you have to face, do you think having a legendary family helped you in getting noticed?
Sonya: I got approached for my first film Taj Mahal which was based on the story of Mumtaz, and this was right after I had graduated. Akbar Khan – the director is a very passionate historian and he heard of me as I was Noor Jehan’s granddaughter and he wanted someone new from Pakistan. I was asked to audition and I got the role.
I’m not a trained actor, its not what I had studied. I’m a screen printer by profession, so for me acting was very challenging and I feel it still is. Every time I do a project I’m extremely nervous but I think it’s a good thing, you should always be a bit on your toes when you’re doing new work.
PakiUM: Though your career has never been on a fast pace, now that quality films are being made locally, what are you plans of acting further after the release of Ho Mann Jahan?
Sonya: As you said I have taken a bit of a slow take on the film industry because family is my first priority and I think the kids are now at a stage where I could actually take up more projects. And I really do enjoy working, I am always open to interesting work and good directors.
PakiUM: Your brother, Sikander recently made a turn towards the films but unfortunately his first film bashed at the box office though his charm wasn’t ignored. Tell us something about how he intends to continue it?
Sonya: Sikander is my sweet little young brother, I’m lucky to have a brother like him. He’s been approached to do commercials for so many years but he had never done it and I’ve been pushing him all that time. Finally when he was asked to do this movie, he just planned to do it!
He’s pretty much like me as far as acting is concerned, he’s serious when he’s working but it’s not something he intends to pursue. His restaurant, Xander’s is his first priority and he’s opening up a second branch right now Mashallah. We both have our priorities straight and acting is something we enjoy, it runs in our blood. Sikander doesn’t really have any projects lined up as such but I hope he opens up, because life is all about having fun and that’s why he did Dekh Magar Pyaar Say!
PakiUM: Tell us something about how you managed shoots with personal life, how do your children react when they see their mother on screen?
Sonya: I have a very supportive husband, and Asim is also a very supportive director, he also has a family so he understands what it’s like. So, we worked around a schedule which suited all three of us as my husband is working as well, besides that I think my children are very independent. Noor’s going to be eight and Nirwan’s four and a half and they understand that Mama has to go on work now (Laughs).
Both of my children get excited but my younger one, Nirwan doesn’t really register, he’s just very blunt. He’d either love my photos or he’ll hate them (Laughs), whereas my daughter, Noor is a real little patakhi herself, she loves performing arts and intact she’s taking dancing classes. She wants to become an actor once she grows up, so she takes it a lot more seriously, she give’s me her opinion on what I’m looking like and which other actors she like, she’s a big fan of Mahira. So it’s nice, it’s fun!
PakiUM: What makes you aggressive?
Sonya: I’m not an aggressive person overall but people who are inefficient upset me.
PakiUM: What is Narain’s best and worst habit?
Sonya: Best would be that he’s incredibly supportive and the worst habit of his is that he never closes cupboards, he opens all of them and never shut them (Laughs).
PakiUM: A film you’d like to be part of that has already released?
Sonya: I haven’t really gotten a chance to watch any of the recent releases. Unfortunately my kids have monopolised the television at home, so I end up watching lots of animation and I’d love to work on animation actually!
PakiUM: Describe yourself in five words
Sonya: I am hardworking, efficient, thoughtful, short tempered and creative.
PakiUM: Biggest regret of life?
Sonya: Not studying enough, I would’ve liked to continue my studies; maybe in culinary as I love cooking or go to acting school, that would’ve helped.
PakiUM: In what way do you think Ho Mann Jahan would play its part in the revival of Pakistani cinema?
Sonya: I think Mahira recently said it very correctly, it’s not the revival, local cinema has already revived. I think the quality of work that is coming out of Pakistan is very good, the music scores are excellent, cinematography and direction is up to international standards. So I believe it’s already up there, now the next natural step is just to push and sell our movies abroad. It’s giving an area to people where they can be more creative as Pakistanis are naturally artistically talented.
PakiUM: On the ending note, what message would you like to give to the PakiUM readers?
Sonya: As you all know, Ho Mann Jahan is my first Pakistani movie, so I’d request all of you to watch the movie and show their support for me and my team. It’s surely going to be an enjoyable ride and I can at least guarantee everyone that I loved working on it!
Interview conducted by Ahmed Sarym