"I am currently the best version of myself, and I'm really enjoying that," Sonakshi Sinha tells me when I ask about her recent weight loss. The 31-year-old Bollywood actress comes from a star family: she's the daughter of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha and actress Poonam Sinha, but her career hasn't been smooth sailing.
Ever since she made her debut in 2010 opposite Salman Khan in the super hit film Dabangg, she has been picked on for her weight, but that doesn't faze her. "I was always ridiculed. Growing up I was an overweight teenager, but I have always been confident no matter what size I was."
Even though she lost a significant amount of weight before her debut, her transformation this time around is more dramatic, and people are taking notice. “I discovered Pilates six months ago, and when I started, I realised it affected me in ways training didn’t, and I was watching what I was eating as well. Once I started seeing results, I stuck to it – I am surprised at my own dedication,” she laughs.
So far, her eight-year career in the Hindi film industry has seen her star opposite some of the biggest names in Bollywood – including Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Ajay Devgn, Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan.
“I feel like the audience accepted me from my first film. It is not just about the weight. How you entertain them is more important. Now they will just see a better version of me – I call her Sonakshi 2.0.”
Sinha has dabbled in a variety of genres, but has found success mostly in action comedies such as Rowdy Rathore, Holiday, Dabbangg and Dabbangg 2, though her most critically acclaimed film to date is Lootera, which was partly based on the poem The Last Leaf by O Henry.
Her latest film, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi (Happy Will Run Away Again) is a sequel to the 2016 film Happy Bhag Jayegi (Happy Will Run Away). Starring Diana Penty, Abhay Deol, Jimmy Shergill and Ali Fazal, it is the story of an Amritsari girl Happy (Penty), who wanted to marry her boyfriend Guddu (Fazal), but was forced to marry Daman Singh Bagga (Shergill). So she decides to run away. She ends up in Lahore, Pakistan, and Bilal Ahmed (Deol) tries to help her go back to India.
Click to watch the trailer for Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi:
“Comedy is a genre I really enjoy. Personally, I don’t take things very seriously. I love to laugh and make others laugh, too, which comes into play when I am performing comedy. In fact, I find dramatic films more challenging. Because I am cracking jokes all the time, getting into a sad space is something I have to really put my mind to. Also, in this film, I have had the chance to work with actors who are really good at comedy, which inspired me and helped me perform even better,” Sinha tells me.
The actress relates to her character Happy in the film: “She is a very modern girl – she is educated, ambitious, would do anything to keep her family happy – and I think a lot of girls will relate to her as well. Playing her came very naturally to me, since I am a lot like Happy myself and I feel like I have a lot of Punjabi traits as well,” she laughs.
Given how well the first film did at the box office, is she feeling the pressure to match up? “Not at all,” she says. “We have just brought back whatever the audience loved in the first film – the same characters, the same elements and even the same actors – the story just moves forward now. Last time, Happy landed up in Pakistan, this time, she lands in China.”
There is always talk of actresses not getting along on set when working on the same film, but Sinha doesn't seem to have that issue. She says she enjoyed working with Penty as a co-star, and has only complimentary things to say about Alia Bhatt, with whom she's currently working on Kalank.
"Alia is one of the finest talents we have. We have shot a few scenes together and they have turned out great. I don't understand why people say that actresses don't get along – if anything, when we meet, we are only encouraging each other. In fact sharing space with any talent – male or female – is great because you feed off their energy. Diana was great in the first film, and our Happys have a really good equation in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi."
Sinha has also lent her voice to the new version of the 1958 hit Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu – it is not the first time she has provided vocals for a song, and it is something she wants to explore in the future. Indeed, she has already recorded a few singles, which will be released once the videos are ready.
Sinha seems to like trying out different kinds of films, and I wonder if her parents play a part in her selecting a role. “Not at all. The decision is completely mine. I discuss my projects with them, but they have given me freedom to make my own decisions.”
Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is in cinemas from August 23