As someone who learned "everything on the job", actor Sonakshi Sinha says she counts all the "good, bad, ugly" moments from her career as part of her growth.
The actor, who made her debut with Dabangg in 2010 as the love interest of Salman Khan's cop character, has now donned the police officer's uniform for a critically-acclaimed turn in Prime Video series Dahaad.
But she does not consider her journey from Dabangg to Dahaad, her digital debut, a "full circle" yet.
"It's not a full circle. 'Meri jalebi ban rahi hai'. I'm still going around in a spiral. And, I want to keep growing. This is a good place I have reached in 13 years now. Whatever I've learned, I've learned on the job with the people I've worked with, the roles I've done and the things I've worked on," Sonakshi said.
"Everything teaches you something and whatever experiences I've had, whatever work I've done... good, bad, ugly, whatever it may be, have all led me to this moment," added the actor, known for films such as "Lootera", "Noor" and Force 2.
In the last one decade, there has been a shift in the portrayal of women police officers on screen -- be it Tabu in Drishyam, Kuttey and Bholaa, Sanya Malhotra in Kathal, Shefali Shah in Delhi Crime series and Raveena Tandon in Aranayak.
Sonakshi said it's "about time" that these changes happened. "It's actually a really good time for a woman to be an actor in the industry because great characters are being written and there's such lovely content coming out, so it's a fantastic time," the 35-year-old actor said.
The praise coming her way for the portrayal of Anjali Bhaati, the sole woman cop in the interiors of Rajasthan who suspects a serial killer is on the loose, has been "overwhelming" for her.
"It's like my debut has happened all over again. I'm getting so many messages and calls from people I haven't spoken to in a year or so. It's truly overwhelming, it's been so good. Even my family loves the show," she added.
Dahaad is directed by Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi, with Kagti serving as co-creator of the show along with Zoya Akhtar. Sonakshi said she was waiting for a character that was "so powerful, raw and empowering".
"When it came to me, it just resonated with me and everything that I stand for. It just felt like a perfect fit. I had to say yes. In fact, I told Zoya and Reema that nobody other than me is playing this role and I'm saying yes right away. I guess, stars really aligned on this one," she said.
The character of Anjali Bhaati, a woman from lower caste who is fighting discrimination at job as she deals with the pressure of getting married, was easy to play because of the way it was written, added Sonakshi.
"I just had to show up, wear my uniform. The second I wore the uniform, I became this character. Automatically, the way you talk changes, a sense of power, a sense of authority comes in," she said, adding she trained in judo and learnt how to ride a bike for the role.
The actor, also a painter and fashion design graduate, said she became a good rider and now owns a bike.
"I love it when I learn a new skill for work. So, all of these just add so much to you as an actor. It makes your character come to life and that's why I think people are connecting with it so much." Anjali Bhaati is how women should be portrayed on screen, as go-getters and achievers, Sonakshi said.
"That's the kind of portrayal we need to see on screen of women—strong, focused and determined women who actually go out and achieve something in their lives, no matter what obstacles come their way. It was an inspiring character for me."
Societal pressure of getting married is an aspect of Dahaad that strongly resonated with her as well as the audiences, believes Sonakshi.
"No matter what profession you are from, no matter what you're doing in life, women are always thought of as incomplete if they are not married. I'm glad that the makers really touched upon some real topics in the show." There are also moments when Anjali Bhaati is mocked by men in the series, including being called "Lady Singham" in a reference to Ajay Devgn's cop role.
Sonakshi said these moments were included in the film after Kagti and Akhtar's discussion with women cops.
"Female officers said people don't even think twice before teasing a woman in uniform. They'll never do that with a male cop. Just because she's a woman who's wearing a uniform, they feel they can get away with it. And, you have to put those people in their place," she said.
Dahaad also stars Vijay Varma, Gulshan Devaiah, and Sohum Shah.