‘I Want to Play Strong Women’: Sonakshi Sinha 

Sonakshi Sinha debuts on OTT with police procedural, Dahaad, which explores caste and gender inequality in rural Rajasthan
Sonakshi Sinha in Dahaad
Sonakshi Sinha in Dahaad

Sonakshi Sinha’s initial box-office success was barely her own. Right from her resounding debut in Salman Khan’s Dabbang (2010), she mostly starred in a slew of male-dominated action films. There was Rowdy Rathore and Holiday with Akshay Kumar, Action Jackson and Son of Sardaar with Ajay Devgn, R…Rajkumar with Shahid Kapoor, Lingaa with Rajinikanth among many others. That she was trying to break out of this pattern became evident when she started acting in another, albeit unsuccessful, a cluster of women-led films: Akira, Noor and Double XL. The actor seems to have finally cracked it with her debut OTT series, Dahaad, which has received rave reviews.

“Post the success of Dabangg, I did a lot of commercial movies. As much as I enjoyed that phase, I can’t go back to doing those roles. I want to play strong women, and Dahaad came at the right time,” says Sonakshi, adding, “The script was well written. I was so moved that I immediately said yes. It was so satisfying to portray such a powerful character.”

In the eight-episode series, which released on Amazon Prime on May 12, Sonakshi plays a cop, who is on the hunt for a serial killer (played by Vijay Varma) behind the disappearance of multiple women across rural Rajasthan. It holds up a mirror to society by asking the right questions over caste, poverty and gender inequality. The show, which also stars Gulshan Devaiah and Sohum Shah, has been created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s production house Tiger Baby, which debuted with the Ranveer Singh-starrer Gully Boy in 2019. The duo has previously also collaborated on films such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Talaash.

Dahaad is special to Sonakshi in more ways than one. Not only does it fit the kind of cinema she has been looking for, it also helped the actor fulfil a long-time dream of her father, veteran actor Shatrughan Sinha. “When I was young, he would say my daughter will become a police officer someday. When I began shooting for the show, I sent him a picture in the uniform and said, ‘Your daughter has now become a police officer, and your dream has come true’. My parents are quite excited about the show,” says Sonakshi, who dabbled in costume design before getting into the movie business.

It, however, took rigorous prep for the actor to come into her own as a cop. From emulating a police professional’s gravitas to effectively executing their compassion, she pushed herself to portray the role to the T. “A lot of officers would come on the set during the shoot. I would watch the way they talk and walk. They even taught us how to salute, and once you wear the uniform, your stance automatically changes,” she says, adding, “There is, however, this misconception that women police officers are masculine in their mannerisms. They are hardened because of their experiences, but at the same time they are empathetic. I was never briefed to approach the role like a man. Reema also told me to be myself and play it straight forward.”

The show was also an opportunity for Sonakshi to learn new skills. While she has explored action before, for Dahaad, she trained in Judo. But, her biggest takeaway was learning how to ride a bike.“I got so good at it that the director asked me to do the bike scenes, instead of going for a double. In fact, I recently bought a bike too,” she says. The Lootera actor will be next seen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s OTT debut, Heeramandi. The period-drama series on Netflix will revolve around the life of courtesans pre-Independence. It will also star Manisha Koirala, Aditi Rao Hydari and Richa Chadha.

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