Growing up in a small town close to Nainital, Sonam Bajwa’s biggest dream was to be crowned Miss India. So when she lost out in the 2012 competition, she was heartbroken. “As a kid, I wasn’t very pretty, so my dad would ask me why I wanted to participate in Miss India every time I stayed up late to watch the finale. At that point, I wasn’t even allowed to stand in front of the mirror because my folks felt I would run off to Mumbai. After I had done all that to reach Miss India and didn’t win, I felt hurt. But other doors opened in the form of two Punjabi films, one of which ( Punjab 1984 ) got me noticed in Bollywood,” she says.
Her luck began to change and when she was shortlisted to act opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Happy New Year , she felt she had arrived. “I had auditioned several times to get to that point. It was then the makers decided to choose Deepika and not go with a newcomer. It was a lesson on how cinema works and how nothing is certain till a film hits the screens,” she says.
Moving on, she auditioned in Mumbai for Kappal and was selected after delivering lines in Hindi and English. Till then, she had only heard of Rajinikanth and Mahesh Babu, but was confident she would learn more about the four southern industries on the go.
“When I auditioned for Kappal , I had not even watched a single Tamil film. On my first day of shoot, I was given a long dialogue which I wasn’t able to say correctly, so we pasted a copy of it on my co-star Vaibhav’s T-shirt and I had to read it out. It was a terribly hot day and I kept making mistakes. If I got the lines right, I would forget the expression and vice versa. After the shoot, I went back to my room and cried for hours. Thank God, I got better as the film progressed,” she says, relieved.
Not only has her acting got better, her knowledge of the industry has improved as well. “I try to learn as much as possible from people around me, as I don’t have many friends in the South. When people approach me with a script, I rely on Google and Wikipedia to learn more about the subject and the people concerned. That’s when I came across Simran. I look up to her because she was the top star of her time and a Punjabi to boot,” she laughs.
At a time when PR skills and presence on social networking sites decide the fate of an actor’s career, what is Sonam’s approach like? “I was a bit late to jump on the social media bandwagon and by the time I tried to create Twitter and Facebook accounts, I realised others had taken over my name! I then opened a Twitter account under a different name but unfortunately deleted the app by mistake, and so lost that account too. But I am quite active on Instagram and like the fact that it’s driven by pictures. Perhaps, I should focus more on my PR and social media skills, especially because I want to act in other languages too,” she says, indicating her chances in Bollywood.