She was one of the most promising faces of Bollywood in 1994.
Ten years down the line, she has many films to her credit. Though her only successful films were Diljale and Sarfarosh.
Sonali Bendre, however, insists she has no regrets in life. "Life goes on and one should look ahead and not backward."
Her latest film Anaahat (Eternity) releases on September 26. This Amol Palekar directed film is her first in Marathi. It is based on a play written by Surendra Verma called Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak.
In a conversation with Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Sonali talks about her life after marriage to filmmaker Goldie Behl and her career:
Why this move towards serious cinema?
I have never planned my career. I never wanted to be an actress. Films were an instinctive step, just like modelling and television.
When Amol Palekar asked me to do this role, I was working on Mahesh Manjrekar's Tera Mera Saath Rahen. I jumped at it because I liked the script.
Why a Marathi film?
It started as a Hindi film. Amol then shifted to Marathi because it is his mother tongue and he would be more comfortable doing it.
I had no problems -- I am fluent in Marathi since I speak it at home.
What is the difference between Marathi films and Bollywood?
There is no reason to compare Bollywood and Marathi films. Both have their own charm.
Tell us about your role in Anaahat.
I play a strong, powerful woman. But I won't call her a feminist. You don't have to be brash or loud to be heard or to make things clear.
She has grace, softness, everything. When people come up with strong, woman-oriented roles where she has to act like a man, I wonder how a woman can do that -- a woman has her own strengths and she cannot match up to a man.
Why would I deny that role?
What about the costumes?
I play a queen. It is a period film so it has period costumes. We are using real jewellery and I like the look.
Do you think a Marathi film can succeed commercially?
This film is for a thinking audience. There will be English subtitles.
So commercial success is not important to you at this stage?
It is important. The world runs on success. If you are successful commercially, the world opens its doors for you.
I did this film because of a certain challenge: Could I do it? That was uppermost on my mind. I could.
You have to grow otherwise you will stagnate and die.
Amol Palekar's films are more for awards, not rewards. Comment.
I was told that you need certain PR exercises to win awards.
Those who win say awards are not rigged. Those who don't win say it is rigged.
It is too political; I don't understand much.
Can you share your experience while acting with Amol Palekar?
It was a pleasure. The film is 90 minutes long. It was completed over 18 days in Hampi, Karnataka.
How was the experience of working with your co-stars?
Anant Nag and Deepti Naval are fabulous co-stars. This is their kind of a film.
I believe your parents wanted you to do this film?
They were very happy that Amol Palekar signed me on. They like him very much. Otherwise, they never bother about what films I am doing.
Hum Saath Saath Hain and Sarfarosh did fairly well for you in 1999. What happened after that? Why did your career slip?
Filmmaking is a director's medium. Most of my films have not done well, but I have been around. I don't regret anything.
Every day life brings joy to you. Frankly, I have led a wonderful life. I was lucky. I thank God for that.
Did you ever aim for the number one heroine slot?
I was never that aggressive. Unless you are aggressive, you will never become number one.
I don't have any godfathers in this industry. The only father I have is my own.
Why did you drop out of the television?
You get too tied up. But yes, if there is an interesting story, I will surely do it. I am open. I did television when most filmstars were not doing it.
It is time-consuming and a lot of hard work.
So far, I have not got anything interesting.
Which is the most satisfying role you have done so far?
Anaahat is satisfying. But the most satisfying is still to come.
That is something you should ask an 80-year-old actress. I am just beginning to discover myself. I will answer this question after 10 years.
How has life changed for you after marriage?
Why didn't I do it before [laughs]. It is wonderful that you have someone to share something.
It is amazing that you get strength. I suppose you will call it growing together. Goldie was a friend, then was a boyfriend and is now a very supportive partner.
Do you think Indian audience write off a heroine when they marry?
Too bad for them [laughs]. Believe me there is no dearth of work after I got married.
Before I left for my honeymoon, Karan [Johar] called to say he needed me for a guest appearance in his film. But I have become choosier now.
Are you involved in your husband's work?
I encourage him by not interfering in his work. Behind the camera is a specialised field. Therefore, I keep away.
How do you find time for him?
By refusing many offers [smiles].
Do you ever feel you were unlucky in your career?
It is a perception. What do you want from life? Did you get what you wanted in life? I did.
I am sure when I restart my career. I will be doing great things. I learnt a lot in all these years.
You may or may not have money in life, but at least the learning experience is always with you.
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