As the entertainment world mourns the sad death of actress and presenter Sophiya Haque, we open up the Asiana archives to share an interview we did with her back in 2005,when the rising star was appearing in the West End musical adaptation of The Far Pavilions.
You either like spending two hours watching people sing to each other as they go about everyday tasks like opening doors (‘I’m opening the dooor, are you opening the dooor? Yes I’m opening the dooooor’) or they make you want to slam your head against one until your brain leaks out through your ears. Depending on whether stage musicals do it for you or not, you’ll either love or forever yearn for the return of those hours spent enduring it.
Whichever way you lean, the one thing you are bound to love is the electrifying sight of Sophiya Haque setting the stage ablaze every time she makes an entrance.
The unquestionable star of the £4 million extravaganza, Sophiya plays the temptress Janoo Rani (a more villainous version of the Rani character she played in Bombay Dreams and every bit the sexpot), proving to all those who questioned her qualifications as a judge on Bollywood Star that she can
act, sing and dance as well as the best of them. While her versatility as an actor will soon be apparent in her forthcoming role in Aamir Khan’s The Rising, for now, there’s no one better to play the sultry seductress better than Sophiya Haque. She oozes sexuality through every pore and, regardless of the fact that I find her in a baggy sweatshirt with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, she carries her sex appeal off effortless. Passionate about everything from her boyfriend of nine years to her impending movie career, she seems casually unaware of the effect she has on the stage hands, who break out into goofy grins as they pass her by.
And really, after spending a couple of hours in her presence, it’s easy to see why everyone keeps making a song and dance over Sophiya Haque. Man, this lady’s hot!
That’s a damn sexy character you get to play in The Far Pavilions…
Janoo Rani is an extremely strong woman who reaches a level of power that she wouldn’t have been able to achieve in that era. So it’s natural she’s so filled with passion. I don’t think she was supposed to be so sexual but she just turned out that way!
You’re the star of a £4 million musical and you’ve only done one show before this. How do you stay cool and not freak out?
Oh I freaked out alright! Not so much this time, but when I was playing Rani in Bombay Dreams I kept asking the directors: ‘Are you sure you think I can do this?’ I insisted that I started off in the chorus first so I could watch and learn, so that when I took over from Ayesha (Dharker), I was fully prepared. I was terrified of my voice and the lack of experience, but I went in with my major strength – which is to look the part, be confident and strong. Not that I amstrong but I give the impression that I am! I’m sure you need to be pretty strong too to be in a musical…
You need a hell of a lot of stamina and it takes up all your brain power because even when you go home, the songs are still going through your head. Now I know why they say ‘my life is theatre’!
Dancing stars in musicals are forever complaining they ended up losing their boobs because of all that vigorous training. How are yours shaping up?
They’re doing fine at the moment but I do have help in the form of a heavily padded bra. In The Rising, you’ll see my boobs look enormous. But I’ve got a great big top on with mirrorwork, chicken fillets stuffed down there as well as a heavily padded bra.
In this show you don’t seem to be wearing a padded bra. In fact, isn’t your top see-through?
I don’t want to shatter the whole illusion of costumes but it’s designed to look see-through. The outfit I wear for my first dance even has nipples sewn on to the bra!
The things you do for guys, eh? Janoo Rani does everything for her man, only to be spurned for another girl. Sound familiar?
Let’s just say I didn’t have to delve too far to find inspiration! Before I met my boyfriend Jules, I went out with a string of scumbags. When I went out to Hong Kong at the age of 19, my boyfriend in England phoned up and broke up with me on the phone, but he was thoughtful enough to let me know he was sleeping with his ex-girlfriend again. Then there was the guy who’d disappear for ages only to return when he ran out of money. Man, I could go on…
Janoo Rani has an awful lot of hate in her. Can you relate?
I didn’t have a great time in my 20s – I just had awful relationships and it changed me hugely. I’d never experienced hate before but suddenly
I was feeling this new emotion. I remember wanting revenge over this presenter guy who’d taken me to the cleaners – I wanted him dead. I found out he was with someone else while he was going out with me and he stole all my money, so I wanted to have him held hostage until he gave me back every cent! I knew the
people who could do it for me too. Nothing came of it of course, that would be criminal…
You’ve never chopped up a guy’s clothes up into tiny little pieces as retribution?
I’ve never been one to destroy other guy’s things. In fact I’ve always ruined my own stuff.
That way, when I calm down, it’s my mess to clear up. When I’m angry or upset at a guy, things come out in physical ways, like I’ll get a hernia or I’ll fall sick – my emotional problems manifest themselves in physical form.
Are you a possessive girlfriend?
Not at all! I love watching women fawn all over my boyfriend because he is so adorable. He knows I’m a huge flirt and he also knows that’s a part of my personality. But I think he’d like me to be more jealous.
You once said that you’d pretty much cheated on every guy you’d been out with…
I didn’t cheat on every boyfriend I ever had and Jules knows he can trust me implicitly. Okay, fair enough when I was younger I tended to have
affairs with people. For instance there was this one guy who I never saw because he used to work all hours of the night. He was my first proper boyfriend and when he came in at six in the morning I’d be sitting there all alone waiting up for him. I was a young girl at the time and yes, I ended up having an affair. So sue me!
Is Jules getting to reap the benefits of your super toned body?
We hardly get to see each other! He used to kiss me goodbye in the morning and his eyelashes tickled my ear but I’m the sort of person who once awake, stays awake, so I’ve even had to forego my early morning kiss before he went to
work. The theatre is terrible for your sex life! But he’s working in India at the moment and I’m totally absorbed with the show, so… oh well.
Fair to say he’s your ideal man?
Definitely. I used to have two types of guys. One was a boffin, nerdy style guy who I loved dearly but it wasn’t passionate enough, or the other was
the rock-star type who would squash my personality and be a complete arse.
Janoo Rani is a terrible mother. Do you think you’ll be good at it?
The older I get, the more I realise how amazing my mother is because my dad wasn’t around when I grew up. I think that’s the one thing I’d want for my kids – to have a dad – because I missed out on mine when I was growing up. Although I did pick up a terrible gambling habit from mine…
You had a pretty wild childhood, we hear…
Me and my mate used to run away from home once a week, get some money together, dress up to go to the off-licence and buy really cheap booze. Nitro Express – it was a nasty sherry. We’d get on the number 29 bus into town at night and get utterly trashed. We were terrible! I remember picking fag butts off the floor and squashing them together to make one cigarette. And the only people around at that time of night were the tramps – so we’d share the bottles with them. The hygienic implications!
You came to the world of sex early on too.
He was in his 30s and I was in my early teens; he opened up my world. I was absorbed in him for ages but then he started going on about the mistakes I’d make in my life and that’s when the magic stopped for me. Because I thought, hang on, I don’t want to hear about your mistakes, I want to make my own.People who take too much advice end up making other people’s mistakes.
People unanimously say you ooze sex appeal – Have you always known this?
When I was a kid, boys didn’t used to fancy me. It wasn’t that I was ugly, but I was different-looking and the white boys just didn’t go for the dark girl. I never felt sexy or desirable in that way. I think losing my virginity probably made a difference and added an extra element to my dancing. I’ve seen it happen to so many other dancers and it definitely happened to me!
Do you get the feeling girls don’t like you much?
I have a lot of male friends and I found out that pretty much all their girlfriends hated me, even ex-girlfriends from years ago. I thought ‘God, I haven’t even met half these people’ and it made me back away. So now I tend to not open myself up to other girls; I can honestly say I’ve had about three girlfriends in my entire life. I don’t know what it is and I’ve always had to work doubly hard to make myself appealing to other women. I’ve got this obsessive need to be liked by everyone…
There seemed to be tension between you and Honey Kalaria on Bollywood Star?
At times, Honey infuriated me! I would have to wait for her to finish before I could speak. She was just driving me nuts because she was being overly complimentary and, towards the end of the second day, I was trying not to listen to her. It was just funny. We had hundreds of people coming to see us and the directors were all lined up on the side saying to her: ‘Why are you wasting your time complimenting these people who you know are not going to go through?’ But I have to say when she was teaching the girls the dance routines she was absolutely brilliant. She is a really sweet girl and I hate to be mean about her but she’s not my type!
Did the tears on Bollywood Star help you cry on stage for The Far Pavilions?
It’s strange, because when we did the auditions for Bollywood Star and I had to judge the contestants’ acting ability, I didn’t think much of being able to cry on cue. But I’ve also never had to cry before as an actor, but in the scene where I’m rejected, I just found myself welling up with tears and I wasn’t summoning them, they were just there. It’s like therapy.
Finally, seeing as you’ve gone for older men in the past and your dashing co-star Kabir Bedi is recently single… well, would you?
(Laughs) Kabir’s got his own thing going on for him but I don’t do the older man thing anymore! The flirting in the theatre is appalling – it’s a very sexy place to be. It stays cheeky and, because everyone has such busy plots, people are getting changed all the time, there are naked bodies everywhere. Just as well I’m happily taken, eh?
(14 June 1971 -16 January 2013)
Interview by Poorna Shetty
Images by Alexandre Pichon