When ELLE decided to get two of our top stars together in a conversation, it seemed easy enough as an idea. That was until, we began to juggle their peripatetic life, and transcontinental schedules. But the two ladies, Jacqueline and Sonam, made it work. They share an easy friendship that is as enviable as it is rare. And now it almost seems like we are prying over their conversation on love, life and babies. Join us, won’t you?
Sonam Kapoor Ahuja: I’ve known you since Alladin (2009). How many years is that?
Jacqueline Fernandez: That’s 10 years! Incidentally, I also celebrate 10 years in Bollywood this year.
SKA: So we’ve been friends for 10 years? And not once have we had a fight or disagreement or anything, right?
JF: Absolutely not! I remember that once we hadn’t seen each other in a really long time and you got mad at me. You said, “Jackie! You know I’m always there for you.”
SKA: Yeah I said, “You come home whenever.” I know you were going through a really bad time.
JF: I was.
SKA: And I was a little scared for you, so I wanted you to come home and stay with me.
JF: I did, and I felt a lot better.
SKA: So, what do you think was your first big milestone in the Indian film industry?
JF: Working with Salman Khan in Kick (2014). Though I’d like to say that the stuff I did before that, like Murder 2 (2011) and my first film for that matter, was also great. But the minute I did Kick I felt this huge change.
SKA: I’d say Murder 2. I felt like everybody noticed you in that film.
JF: It was the beginning of what was to come but Kick was…
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SKA: Yeah, it was like super stardom. I remember we had gone for dinner right before you started Kick and you didn’t know Salman [Khan] really well at that time. You went up to him and introduced yourself. I remember you guys showing me that song that you did before Kick came out—you know when you were doing the whole split wearing a dress and you were like, “I’m worried about the dress going up.”
JF: We were all worried about that song, like there was a portion as well where Salman [Khan] had to put his coat. I remember doing that shot with my dress, and he was like, “No, no, no we can’t have this, this is too much leg.”
SKA: It was super hot!
JF: You have always been an advocate of…
SKA: … the lesser clothes you wear, the better it is!
JF: But also about being yourself.
SKA: I honestly feel Jacq, even if you wear really short clothes, you never look trashy because you’re not doing it for anybody but for yourself. I feel you look amazing. You have an amazing body.
JF: I remember when I was first starting out, and I had no idea about styling. I remember I used to send you pictures of whatever I was wearing somewhere, and I’d be like, “Do I wear these shoes or do I wear this one?”
SKA: I’d always just tell you to be hot!
JF: Yeah you were like, “Jackie, just show your legs, show your legs!”
SKA: Let’s talk about the one film you’ve done over these 10 years that you felt has had the most impact on you emotionally?
JF: I recently did this film and it was really unlike anything I had ever done. It’s not a very commercial, Bollywood character. It’s a character that I really had to work on because I didn’t relate to it at all. It was something that taught me and challenged me a lot. It just changed my perspective completely to the work that I wanted to be doing.
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SKA: This is Shirish Kunder’s short film—the Netflix one?
JF: Yeah, Mrs Serial Killer. When it was first given to me, I loved the story but I thought there is no way I can pull something like that off. I made this conscious decision to change myself a little bit and have a little bit of confidence.
SKA: Talking about confidence, I was just wondering—there’s a way that the film industry looks at girls. Do you have a hard time getting people to take you seriously?
JF: Yeah, it’s absolutely true.
SKA: I know how smart you are.
JF: I’ve been to university, I was Miss Sri Lanka. But just the work that I’ve done, it required physicality.
SKA: And discipline!
JF: Yeah complete discipline. It requires learning to dance, looking good and being a certain kind of bubbly character. So much hard work goes into that aspect of the commercial Bollywood heroine, but at the same time…
SKA: …there’s a misconception.
JF: Yeah, a certain level of respect is missing. Until and unless you take on something very challenging in terms of strong characterisation and content, it doesn’t actually show through. Despite all my effort, I got recognised only after I did this film.
SKA: I feel like that’s the best thing about you. You always look at the positive side of things. You don’t discuss or talk about how you work so hard. You had absolutely no friends when you came to Bombay. I know how hard it is, how cutthroat it is. People don’t see that because we don’t— especially you—don’t discuss that. You don’t talk about the negative aspects of the film industry.
JF: Honestly, I have realised that the more you focus on the wrong things that are part of our industry, the more you’ll keep drawing these things to yourself. It’s funny because, you know people keep asking you to “be real”. But also even when you’re being yourself, you’re judged for being positive, or maybe being happy.
SKA: You’re not the best when it comes to, let’s say, pushing yourself with PR.
JF: Oh my God, I remember you having this conversation with me literally in the first year I knew you. In our industry, some people are only surviving on PR.
SKA: And on relationships. And I’m not talking about boyfriend-girlfriend, I’m talking about the relationships they’ve cultivated. What I love about you is that you have five-six friends and they’ve been your friends for nearly 10 years. I think that’s incredible.
JF: We’re celebrities, so there’s a fixation on always wanting to judge us. It used to be quite hurtful in the beginning but I’ve gotten over that. I know who I am. Like you said, you keep your close friends close and they know who you are and you do your work. At the end of the day, that’s what is most important.
SKA: My next question is about the many hats you wear. You’re an actor, restaurateur, and an entrepreneur. You have several passions. But, which is your favourite thing to do besides acting.
JF: Out of all of these things that I do, I love the creation and marketing aspect of it all. I am probably a terrible business person. I haven’t studied business.
SKA: What did you study?
JF: I did my minor in media law and economics and I did my major in mass communications and media. I like the envisioning aspect of work. And that’s what entices me to do all these things. If it’s fitness, or if it’s health and beauty, YouTube or restaurants.
SKA: Okay, now let’s talk about your childhood.
JF: I have actually really been blessed to have my parents travel to where I am because it has become difficult for me to take time off. It’s literally impossible for me to go visit them in Bahrain; that’s where I grew up. I’m someone who has grown up in a close-knit family and I had a great childhood. I have a really big family—two brothers, two sisters, my mum, my dad, lots of animals and pets.
SKA: So where do you see yourself in 10 years and what is it that you want most from your life?
JF: I used to look at people and they used to have two and five-year plans. I took things as they came and slowly realised that is not the greatest thing to do. Everybody needs to know where they are financially. There are going to be circumstances where you have to figure out how you’re going to sustain and survive. You need to have a plan. Yeah I think my plan for the next 10 years is to secure enough for myself. We are entertainment personalities and that’s in our blood at the end of the day. But I need to build a business around it for myself—either through social media, or it’s fitness or health.
SKA: What about your personal life?
JF: You can’t plan love, right?
SKA: Yeah you can’t plan love for sure but there are things that you can do to make sure you find love.
JF: I think the path that I will be going down, it will leave more room for free time and meeting people. We’re in an industry where we meet the same people every day, so it’s actually been hard for me to maintain my social life.
SKA: I can’t remember the last time you dated somebody.
JF: I don’t remember either Sonam! And I keep telling you to hook me up with someone. But I would love to adopt a child at some point in my life.
SKA: That will be amazing. I can see you do that.
JF: That is definitely something on the cards. I need to secure myself because I am a single girl.
SKA: I think it’s pretty incredible what you have done and I am so proud to be your friend and I am so happy that I interviewed you.
JF: I know. Me too. Thank you ELLE for making this happen.
Photographs: Emre Guven; styling: Malini Banerji; hair and make-up: Shaan Muttathil/ sparkle talent management; assisted by: Pujarini Ghosh, Tejaswini Sinha (styling), Aishwarya Bahl (intern); special thanks to Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Turkey, Komal Seth and Ankur Talwar