Actress Sonal Chauhan on shooting in Dubai with Nagarjuna Akkineni

Dubai is like a home away from home, the actress said.


Husain Rizvi

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Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Published: Sun 20 Mar 2022, 5:45 PM

Last updated: Sun 27 Mar 2022, 3:46 PM

Sonal Chauhan loves Dubai and it shows. The Jannat star is currently, as her Instagram posts suggest, enjoying the city. Sonal is set to appear in Praveen Sattaru’s The Ghost for which she is currently shooting in Dubai.

The action thriller also stars popular Indian actor Nagarjuna Akkineni. There is not much about the film that has been revealed except for a short teaser which was released last year. It shows Nagarjuna in and as 'The Ghost', with a not so subtle description: "You can’t kill him. You can’t run from him. You can’t negotiate with him. You can only beg for mercy.”

Sattaru has been actively sharing BTS pictures from the shoot. Be it a dirt bike sequence in the desert, or a pleasant afternoon on a yacht, fans have received regular updates from the director who shared the images on his official Twitter account.

Photos: Praveen Sattaru/ Twitter
Photos: Praveen Sattaru/ Twitter

Sonal grabbed eyeballs with Jannat (2008), a romantic drama starring Emraan Hashmi. In the film, she played the role of Zoya Mathur, the hero's love interest. It earned her a Filmfare Awards nomination for Best Female Debut.

Following Jannat, Sonal made her way to the South Indian film industries, before coming back to Bollywood with Bbuddah... Hoga Terra Baap (2011), in which she starred alongside Sonu Sood and Amitabh Bachchan. In 2013, Sonal was back in Bollywood with 3G: A Killer Connection, a horror thriller starring Neil Nitin Mukesh.

Sonal has also contributed to OTT platforms with projects such as Skyfire (2019) and The Power (2021).

Last month, speculations surrounding the female lead cast for The Ghost were in full swing. According to reports, Bollywood's Jacqueline Fernandez was earlier cast as the female lead, however, due to unknown reasons, she backed out. Before Jacqueline, Kajal Aggarwal was cast in the film but opted out due to pregnancy.

Now, Sonal, who is playing the lead role in the film believes she did not "replace" anyone. "Casting or filmmaking is a process. During casting or location setting, there are various options that are explored and eventually, one person does it," she said in a conversation with City Times. "And, I think that I was supposed to do The Ghost, that’s why I am doing it and I am very happy about it."

What is it like shooting in the city? Is this your first shoot in UAE?

This is not my first time shooting in the UAE but as always it is amazing shooting here. Dubai, whether I am here for a holiday, or work, always welcomes me with arms wide open. This time also, it is amazing. The weather has been kind, and there is always something new about Dubai; so much development each time I come here, people are really warm. It is like a home away from home. Now, I cannot wait for the film to come out and for people to watch what we have made here.

You mentioned earlier that a good script has to mentally and emotionally connect with the audience. How do you, as an actor, ensure the same?

Well, there’s nothing you can do to ensure a script will emotionally connect with the audience. I think the only thing one can do is to read it and see if you are connecting to it. That’s what I do. I also take a narration from the narrator. First, I have to connect to it when I read it, and then, during the narration, you get to know how close the director is to the script and how much he understands it. And, that is all you can do.

Eventually, there is a lot that goes into filmmaking and the product that comes out is sometimes entirely different from what you read on the script. So I guess you just have to go with your gut.

This is your first time acting alongside Nagarjuna, how is the chemistry? What is it like working together?

The chemistry between me and Nagarjuna sir is something that the audience has to decide and I really hope that they love and appreciate all the hard work that we have put into the project. As far as working with him is concerned, it has been absolutely fantastic. He is absolutely charming, super-intelligent, a great actor, and a great co-actor which is very important. It is very important for your co-actor to be as enthusiastic as you are.

He has all the qualities, which is amazing, and there is so much to learn from him. When he is on set, it doesn’t feel like I am going to work, he just makes it all very easy and fun.

How is your movie selection process - what attracted you to this role?

The one thing that attracted me the most about this role is that I am getting to do a lot of action in this film. That is something I have always wanted to do. It is very rare for an actress to get an action oriented role. Most of the action films in India are focused on male actors but here, I am getting to do a lot of action alongside Nagarjuna sir. The moment I heard that, I said, ‘Okay, I definitely want to do this.’

Apart from that, it is a very interesting story and the director Praveen Sattaru is somebody I wanted to work with. He is very unique in his own way and brings something really different from what we get to see usually in films. And, of course, Nagarjuna sir. The moment I heard of him I thought it was a perfect role and film for me to do.

OTT is a Covid baby. It gained a lot of relevance amidst the pandemic. Do you think, in any other era, OTT would have flourished like it has now?

I think OTT was already conceived before the pandemic hit the world. It was actually waiting to explode. I feel the pandemic accelerated the process. It was always a winner. But when the pandemic happened, people were sitting at home and they had the time to consume that content. I am so glad it accelerated the process because it is something which is the future.

With several OTT platforms coming out, it is like the turning point for, not just the Indian film industry but for the entire world of filmmaking. And, I think it’s fantastic and I am all in for it. It is really good for everyone who is part of this industry, from actors and filmmakers to technicians, and anybody who’s got anything to do with films and acting because there is so much work for everyone now.

Are you part of the cinema or OTT gang? What draws you to OTT?

Well, I am a part of the acting gang. I think, for an actor, the only thing that matters is a good role. Yes, OTT platforms are definitely offering a lot more of that but I don’t really see them as two separate things.

Wherever there is an opportunity to do something meaningful, I will grab it.

What do you like to do in Dubai when not shooting?

There are so many things. Firstly, one of the most important things that I love about Dubai is the food. There are a few restaurants that I always have to visit. Then, I like to go explore different restaurants. Apart from that, SHOPPING!

Rapid fire with Sonal Chauhan

Favourite spot in Dubai – DIFC, All my favourite restaurants are there

Favourite Arabic dish – Arabic Mezze Platter

Favourite activity in Dubai – Eating at my favourite restaurants

One thing you wanna try the most in Dubai – Skydive

Beaches or mountains in the UAE – Both

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