In a conversation with indianexpress.com, Soni talks about her love for the craft, her defiance towards the Union, what kept her going in a male-dominated industry, and the special bond she shares with Sonam Kapoor. Edited excerpts.
When did the love affair with hair and make-up start?
It all started with seeing my mom and nani (grandmother) getting ready while growing up. I still remember the way I would sit on the bed and watch my mom get ready – applying the perfect surma, doing her lips and blushing her cheeks. It kind of showed me the path that I had to take in life. Also, while growing up, I realized that all the actors looked almost the same, as artists were incorporating the same techniques and make-up. I felt the need to do something different and change the way they look.
When did it all begin for you?
I started off at a time when there were only a handful of women in this profession and we had to fight against the Union, but I was blessed to have some amazing women directors supporting me, especially Farah Khan, and production houses like Dharma Production and Yash Raj Films, which supported women. I have worked with some of the best people and learnt something new from each one of them. It’s been a fantastic journey.
You have always openly spoken about how volatile and violent the Union is. In 2004, when you were trying to fight it, you found very few supporters. You still don’t have a membership card; does that work out for you?
It was really frustrating when I started out, because we had to hide inside vanity vans when the Union would turn up. I used to ask myself, “Why should I do that? I am not doing anything wrong. I am a woman, we live in a secular country and we even have a female President, so why should someone tell me what I can and cannot do with my career?” I would never listen to them and refused to pay the fines levied on me, because I wasn’t doing anything that is not my right. I have been dragged out of make-up rooms on set, and had to call cops for protection.
Has this experience made you stronger?
Yes. Till date, I don’t have a Union card and I don’t even want one. I am happy with how things are right now, but they still find ways to trouble us. I was once told women are incapable of dealing with the huge amount of pressure on set with 17-18 hours in play – men can handle it better. I would also get threats: “You come to Film City, we will show you what we can do. We will chop off your hands”.
It was scary, but my family’s support kept me going. Also, the huge support from directors and producers, especially Farah Khan, Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra and Sajid Nadiadwala. If it weren’t for them, I would still have to hide inside vanity vans.