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Cinema

Her father's daughter

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The TV channels that Peepli Live made fun of tell you that she's Bollywood's breaking news these days. For the last fortnight or so, star daughter Sonakshi Sinha's debut film Dabangg has been pretty much prime time stuff: certainly more than the Pakistan floods though not as much as the CWG mess.

But then that's how brands are constructed and launched these days. A new heroine must be seen and heard in ample measure in order to be discussed. As Bollywood's latest rule goes: nothing succeeds like excess. And Ms Sinha is happy being every television's tooty-fruity of the fortnight.

Perhaps the anchors are taking a break right now - for she's sitting in a ritzy hotel in Mumbai's Andheri East, running her fingers through her dark flowing hair wearing blue jeans, a yellow top and a smile that doesn't reach her eyes. Sonakshi has her mother Poonam's beaky nose and perhaps thankfully, very little of her father Shatrughan's craggy face. Remember her parents clinging in the rain crooning Barkha rani jara jam kar barso (film: Sabak, 1973)?

Sonakshi's keen to talk about Dabangg, shot over 140 days in Wai, Panchgani and Dubai. A beige salwar kameez and a huge bindi got her the role. That's what she was wearing at actress Amrita Arora's ladies sangeet when actor-producer Arbaaz Khan spotted her. That ethnic wear underlined how she was a perfect fit for the part of "the fearless village girl" that she essays in the movie.

She accepted the movie because "who would refuse an opportunity to work opposite a superstar like Salman Khan" and because "I knew that his brother producer Arbaaz would leave no stone unturned for his first project. " And you can put it out on the ticker that she hurt herself mildly in Dubai while shooting the song, Chori kiya re jiya, on an all-terrain quad bike. And that she gave maximum retakes when asked to turn in a certain way for the song, Tere mast mast do nain. The 23-year old speaks with poise but is bereft of spark or x-factor that makes a newcomer stand out from the rest.

However, she lights up like a pinball machine when the topic of discussion shifts to her father Shotgun Sinha. "He was skinny and lanky and had a scar on his face. I really admire him for the way he turned his weaknesses into his strengths. Even when he played a villain, the audiences rooted for him. That's simply amazing, " she says.

Campaigning with her father in Bihar during the 2009 Lok Sabha election proved to be an eye-opener for Sonakshi. "The crowd had to be seen to be believed. There was complete hysteria. That is when I saw the true extent of my father's star power with my own eyes, " she says.

Her mother Poonam Sinha - Komal during her days as a heroine and Poonam in her middle-aged avtaar in Jodha Akbar - is Sindhi. "But after marriage she took to participating whole-heartedly in Bihari festivals like Teej and Chhath. I am a happy mix of both cultures, " she says.

Her earliest memory of acting goes back to playing a court clerk in a school play. As a teenager, though, she got interested in fashion designing and later also modelled in a Fashion Week. When the chance to act in a big budget Bollywood flick came, Sonakshi couldn't refuse. "Such opportunities are rare, " she says. That's true. Unlike the postman, opportunities in Bollywood don't always ring twice.

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