You can’t be a South Asian and have missed the massive coverage of Sonam Kapoor’s glitzy wedding held recently in Mumbai that trended on social media as #Sonamkishaadi. You may have already seen the photos and dance clips, but here is a detailed account fo her love story with her husband Anand Ahuja

By Mahlia Lone

It seems the last name of Kapoor is a lucky one to have for Bollywood acting families; it opens studio doors, ensuring success and longevity of career. During Partition, Surinder Kapoor who belonged to a Punjabi Hindu family from Pre Partition Peshawar was invited by his distant cousin the actor Prithviraj Kapoor to migrate to Bombay and join the burgeoning Hindi film industry. Using his family connections, in 1950 Surinder became secretary to film star Geeta Bali who subsequently married Prithviraj’s middle born son Shammi Kapoor in 1955. Geeta kept acting after her marriage unlike most Kapoor bahus (daughters in law) and in her gratitude to her secretary she helped Surinder become a film producer. He got his big break as a producer when Rajesh Khanna who was a superstar of the 70s consented to do his film as a favour. He said, “Rajesh Khanna who played the title-role in Shehzada (which became a hit) was truly of a princely disposition. He started shooting for me without ever discussing the price, saying that we could settle that once the film is made, he said and made the banner S. K. International Films become an acknowledged company.”

In the’80s Surinder produced a string of successful films with his middle son Anil in the lead, such as Hum Paanch, Woh Saat Din, Loafer, Judaai, Sirf Tum, Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai, Pukar, and No Entry. His eldest son Boney learnt the ropes alongside his father and carried on his legacy as a film producer. Boney was famously married to the late South Indian born superstar Sridevi (see Memorable Romance GT March 16th 2018) and has two budding actress daughters, Jhanvi and Khushi and son Arjun Kapoor from a previous marriage. Arjun’s mother and Boney’s first wife, the late Mona Shourie, who died of cancer, was CEO of Future Studios, the largest ready-to-shoot, fully furnished, indoor shooting studio in Mumbai. The youngest of the three brothers, Sanjay is also an actor but never made it big as a lead.

This is the illustrious Bollywood film family that Sonam was born into in 1985 in the refugee neighbourhood of Chembur, Mumbai to Anil and his wife Sunita, a former model, and the daughter of a well off State Bank of India executive. Anil moved his family to the upmarket suburb of Juhu when Sonam was just a month old where the couple had their younger daughter Rhea, now a film producer, and actor son, Harshvardhan. The kids were educated at the Arya Vidya Mandir school in Juhu. This chain of English medium schools was attended by many Bollywood stars such as Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sonakshi Sinha, etc.

Sonam was a “naughty” and “carefree” girl who would pick on the boys, was sporty, playing rugby and basketball, as well as being a good dancer, training in Kathak, classical music and Latin dance. At 15, she took up a waitressing job that only lasted a week. A heavy teenager, she recalled, “I had every issue related to weight that I could have. I was unhealthy, I had bad skin, and I had hair growing on my face!” Then it was discovered that she is diabetic (she started taking an insulin injection everyday) plus has polycystic ovaries that causes hormonal imbalance because of which pregnancies are recommended at an earlier age.

Raj & Krishan Kapoor With Surinder, His Wife & 4 Year Old Boney Kapoor At A Studio Film Mahurat (auspicious Inauguration Ceremony)

Sonam was sent to Singapore to the United World College of South East Asia to help her get into a Western college. After which she got admission at the average University of East London in Stratford, but dropped out soon after. So it’s safe to assume that Sonam was not at all academically inclined.

In Singapore Sonam met with family friend Rani Mukherji who at the time was working on the film Black (2005) opposite Amitabh Bachchan, a casting coup. Sonam decided she wanted to work as a crew member on the set as she had aspirations to become a writer/director. Anil asked the film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali to mentor his daughter so Sonam became his assistant director.

Star kids are a saleable commodity in the Indian film industry drawing crowds to cinemas out of curiosity

Sunita Sunit Star kids are a saleable commodity in the Indian film industry drawing crowds to cinemas out of curiosity. Bhansali offered Sonam the lead in his next film, Saawariya (2007) opposite another star kid,  Ranbir Kapoor, son of Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, on the condition that she lose a lot of weight. At the time, Sonam at 5’ 96” weighed 180 lb. She spent the next two years overhauling her diet and fitness regime and lost a total of 77 lb. by jogging, doing yoga and playing squash. In addition, she studied acting with renowned coaches.

The debut movie of two star kids was hyped up but, despite being the first Bollywood movie to receive a North American release by a Hollywood studio, and having established stars Rani Mukherjee and Salman Khan in supporting roles, the movie, loosely based on Russian literary giant Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story White Nights, fared badly at the box office. Sonam and Ranbir who were distant cousins had been hanging out during during filming drifted apart. The young hot shot actor started dating another statuesque beauty Deepika, also a new entry in the film world.

On a side note, two more young actors also part of Sonam’s family are: paternal cousin  Mohit Marwah, and last but certainly not least her maternal second cousin, Ranveer Singh who is now engaged to Deepika. As they say, it’s all in the family.

Next, Sonam chose the role of an aspiring singer opposite her idol veteran actress Waheeda Rehman and Abhishek Bachchan in the drama Delhi-6 (2009), another commercial failure. Though she received some positive reviews with critic Rajeev Masand stating that Sonam was “a firecracker, instinctive and uninhibited in what isn’t even a conventional female lead.”

Finally the next year, she had her first hit with I Hate Luv Storys. During filming the actress was briefly dating the movie’s director Punit Malhotra, who is the nephew of famous Indian designer, Manish Malhotra. Despite her limited success as a box office draw, that year, Sonam became the first Indian actress to appear on The Hollywood Reporter’s “Next Generation: Asia Class”, a list of newcomers in film.

Now Sonam is a huge Jane Austen fan. With her younger sister Rhea at the helm as producer, the two sisters decided to remake the Hollywood romcom Clueless in Hindi, a cinematic adaptation of Jane Austen’s comedy of errors novel Emma set in modern day. But the resulting movie Aisha (2010) made under the Anil Kapoor Films Company banner failed to leave much of an impact and couldn’t draw in the masala crowd.

Sonam, however, had quickly emerged as a style icon for younger women and got several ad endorsements, including the lucrative and high profile L’Oreal campaigns. She represented the global brand for the first time at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival in 2011 and became an instant internationally recognized Bollywood style queen.

After a few more misses, the romantic drama Raanjhanaa (2013) marked a turning point in Sonam’s career. She played the role of a Muslim student pulled into politics after the murder of her Sikh boyfriend. Determined to make her role work, she prepared intensely for her part, by spending time with students, and practising with the Jawaharlal Nehru University theatre club. At this time in her personal life, Sonam was set up with entrepreneur/model Sahir Berry by Rhea on a social media network. The two dated for a few months before breaking up. It seemed she wasn’t clicking with anyone.

Rhea and Anil produced the dramedy Khoobsurat, (2014) in which Sonam, who played a physiotherapist, starred opposite Fawad Khan, who played an Indian prince. The movie was a modest success in India, and did especially well in the international market.

That same year, Sonam was introduced by her stylist Pernia Qureshi to fellow Delhi-ite Anand Ahuja. Pernia became friends with Sonam when she designed costumes for Aisha. Incidentally, Pernia’s mother, Nasreen was born and bred in Lahore and worked as an actress here before moving to New Delhi when she married wealthy Indian Muslim meat exporter, Moin Qureshi.

Back to Anand Ahuja. Anand belongs to a merchant class Khatri Punjabi Sikh family and is third generation wealthy. His grandfather Harish Ahuja is the owner of the country’s largest export house Shahi Exports that exports garment and has an annual turnover of over $450 million or INR3,000 crores. Shahi Exports supplies garments to Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Esprit, Wal-Mart, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger among others. In 2015, Harish Ahuja bought a 9,000 square feet sprawling bungalow built on a 3,170 square yard plot on Prithviraj Road in central Delhi–where a lot of the top industrialists live–for Rs. 173 crore, which is now worth Rs. 300 crores according to India Times.

Anand was born to Sunil and Beena Ahuja in 1983 in New Delhi and grew up in the family house in the posh Jor Bagh locality of Delhi with his younger brothers, Anant and Amit but since then the family has moved to the exclusive Golf Links gated community.

After doing his high school from the American Embassy School in New Delhi, Anand graduated in economics and international relations from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, he went to Wharton to pursue MBA, but did not complete his degree. After interning in Duetsch Bank, he worked as an assistant buyer at a Macy’s Inc. store owned by his uncle, and then as a product manager at Last Sportswear and Amazon.com in Seattle. Getting a good knowledge of the business, he decided to return to India and set up his own clothing brand, backed by his family of course. He set up clothing brand Bhane with a showroom in New Delhi’s upscale Meherchand Market. After he started dating Sonam, the actress and her siblings were spotted wearing the brand at a number of events to help bring it publicity.

Sonam and Anand hit it off almost immediately. Just a month into their relationship, he popped the question to her, which took her a few months’ consideration to answer. But the two lovebirds were not ready to settle down quite as yet. Though she remained tightlipped about her relationship, photos floated about of Anand and Sonam together at public as well as family events and holidays abroad.

The 5’ 9” tall weighing 143 lbs. muscular basketball playing and gym honed guy with the well-built chest and dark brown eyes was well dressed to boot. Escorting her to events, he was content to stay discreetly in the background. Rather than living off her reflected star wattage, he focused on starting India’s first multi-brand sneaker boutique, VegNonVeg that retails international footwear brands, like Nike and Adidas, and lesser known but cult labels like the Japanese Visvim. Meanwhile Sonam was hard at work solidifying her career.

Her next movie Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015) with Salman Khan became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of all time. Though she was praised by film critic Rachit Gupta for her credible performance as a royal, she got the dubious honour of winning a Golden Kela Award for Worst Actress. She followed this up by appearing in the British band Coldplay’s music video for Hymn for the Weekend featuring Beyoncé. Her regular Cannes appearances as a fashion forward Indian star were sure making her internationally famous. Top designers the world over started vying to dress the Bollywood actress.

Next Sonam starred in the biographical thriller Neerja (2016) as the eponymous air hostess Neerja Bhanot who died while saving the passengers of the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in 1986. Again Sonam got into her role by researching the real life events, and met Bhanot’s family. The film became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films featuring a female protagonist and was critically well received with Sonam’s performance noted to be her best to date. Hindustan Times critic Rohit Vats wrote that “she carries the film entirely on her shoulder. She looks earnest, scared, benevolent and bold, all at the same time. Sonam won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress and National Film Award – Special Mention. Anand was seated next to Sonam and stood up to applaud and cheer his “partner in crime” when she received the award on stage and Instagrammed: “my fave! #everydayphenomenal.”

Soon after, Sonam was asked about her relationship with the entrepreneur by a reporter. She replied cryptically, “There are a lot of other things which make you a whole person besides who you’re dating. My personal life is out there because I’ve always been myself but if you’re talking about personal life as in (context of) boyfriend, then I’ll never talk about it.”

Rhea regularly helps style Sonam at high profile events like the Cannes Film Festival and both sisters are considered stylish and modern. Inspired in part by Anand, they launched their clothing line Rheson in 2017.

“Sonam and Rhea Kapoor have, for years now been considered style icons for young India,” said their brand consultant Anya Rangaswami. “Rheson (RHEa + SONam; pronounced ‘reason’) was conceptualised to be a brand for fashionable young Indian women…at an affordable price…through Shoppers Stop (department store chain and online retailer)…. The first of its kind, the brand aimed to position Indian retail on the global fashion map, building a homegrown brand at a scale never seen before.”

Certainly the Ahuja business acumen and garment industry knowhow was rubbing off.

After a two-year hiatus from films, Sonam came back in a film that addresses important social issues Pad Man (2018) playing a social worker in Arunachalam Muruganantham, who campaigned for menstrual hygiene in rural India. Pad Man is based on a short story in Twinkle Khanna’s book The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad and co-stars Twinkle’s husband starring Akshay Kumar. Sonam said she wants to make films with a social message and not just provide entertainment. She, in fact, publicly criticised fellow actress Katrina Kaif for doing “over the top films.”

Most recently, Rhea has produced the romcom Veere Di Wedding, playing in cinemas now, about four girls who embark on a road trip with an ensemble cast co-starring Sonam and her best friends, Kareena Kapoor and Swara Bhasker. When a reporter asked her if it was true that real friends can’t be made in Bollywood, Sonam disagreed, “Completely untrue. Jacqueline, Bebo (Kareena) and Swara are my closest friends.”

A month before their wedding took place, Sonam and Anand decided they had waited long enough and they were ready to formalize their commitment. Within a month, all the preparations were made hastily but expertly.

Mr. and Mrs. Anil Kapoor put up a grand show, hosting a pre-Mehndi party, followed by a Sangeet, the wedding and a grand reception. Sonam’s cousins: Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Jahnvi Kapoor prepared dance performances for the Sangeet. All the top Indian actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, etc. fully participated with fervor. Anand and Sonam tied the knot on 8th May in the 55,000-sq ft. mansion of Sonam’s maternal aunt interior designer Kavita Singh, married to pharmaceutical magnate Jasjit Singh, in Bandra, Mumbai in a traditional Sikh Anand Karaj ceremony.

bWood Style Queen at cannes Film Festival
Actress Sonam Kapoor poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘BlacKkKlansman’ at the 71st international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 14, 2018. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock (5684288ci)
Sonam Kapoor
‘Mal de Pierres’ premiere, 69th Cannes Film Festival, France – 15 May 2016

After the wedding, Sonam jetted off to Cannes to fulfill her responsibilities to L’Oreal as one of its Indian ambassadors where she cut a wedding cake and Instagrammed, “Anand Ahuja this was for us!”

The couple will not leave for honeymoon right away but have decided to postpone it till October-November due to work commitments. Neither will they be moving to the Ahujas London house as was reported earlier. Instead Sonam will go back and forth between Mumbai and Delhi for the time being. Bollywood Hungama quoted a close friend of the Kapoors saying that the couple have been hunting for residential properties in Mumbai prior to their wedding, “It is true that the couple was seen checking out some property in Mumbai close to her parents’ home. But they didn’t zero in on anything they like. Honestly Anil Kapoor wants Sonam and her husband to stay in the Kapoor bungalow. Anand’s business and family are in Delhi. Sonam’s home and career are in Mumbai. For some time at least she will be shuttling between the two cities.”

Next up, Sonam will feature in a biopic of the actor Sanjay Dutt, entitled Sanju, plus is filming the romance Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, co-starring her father and Juhi Chawla, releasing later this year. In addition, she has signed on to play the title role in a film adaptation of Anuja Chauhan’s novel The Zoya Factor.

Looks like the actress has no intention of slowing down and Anand has no mind to hold her back. They must have an extremely trusting, supportive and secure relationship. Sonam said, “I need to be thankful for so much.” Sounds like she found her true match.

Good Times

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