MUMBAI Soha Ali Khan was born to be a celebrity. Her father was one of India's finest cricket captains; her mother, an award-winning actress; and her brother Saif, one of Bollywood's leading actors.
But Soha, who gave up her job as a banker to act in films, says fame and money aren't everything.
The 34-year-old, best known for her role in the 2006 blockbuster "Rang De Basanti", spoke to Reuters about her new film "Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns", her place in the Indian film industry, and tackling intimate scenes in Bollywood movies.
Q: Tell us about your role in "Saheb, Biwi and Gangster Returns".
A: "So much about the film and its characters depends on the suspense created around them and who they are. I play a girl from an aristocratic background. She seems vulnerable and sweet and innocent but when it comes to a situation where she feels threatened, she does what it takes to survive; all the characters do."
Q: Were there any apprehensions about acting in a sequel?
A: "There were apprehensions, yes, but no apprehensions about being part of the sequel. In fact, there is a security about being part of a sequel where the first part has already made an impact and there's an interest in part two and there's a great director at the helm. It's a secure environment to be part of: the audience is receptive, the critics are receptive."
Q: So what was the apprehension about?
A: "When I saw part one, I almost fell off my chair when I saw the number of intimate scenes. I didn't know whether I would be able to do that, or whether I would have a relationship at the end of it. When I met Tigmanshu (Dhulia, film-maker), there was no real clarity in terms of the intimate scenes. He kept saying ‘we'll see about that'. But later he told me that part two would be toned down because he wanted to make the film more accessible and to able to show it on TV, because we don't want to alienate any audiences."
Q: Are you uncomfortable when there are such scenes in a film?
A: "Actually as a female actor, doing the limited intimate scenes I have done, I do what I'm comfortable doing. The discomfort comes when you are accountable to other people. You know as an actor that there is nothing intimate about that scene when you are doing it. It's a set full of people and people are screaming and there is nothing romantic about it at all, but with the lighting and the music, it can look quite sexy on screen.
"Also, when you are in a relationship, you can be quite irrational about these things. When I have seen Kunal (Khemu, Soha's partner and a Bollywood actor) do those scenes on screen, it hasn't been enjoyable at all. Your mind gets to work and it's not an enjoyable thing to go through. But it's part of the job, so you discuss that. You make your partner feel comfortable. As sensitive people, you want to minimise the discomfort you inflict on others."
Q: Is that tough given the profession you both are in?
A: "Yeah! I'm not as professional or as objective as other people. I get upset. But I am also sophisticated enough to understand that my being upset is coming from an irrational place and I am also doing exactly the same thing. My mother said, ‘if you are going to be with an actor you will complicate your life'. And I am complicating my life, I accept that."
Q: Is Kunal more accepting of such scenes than you are?
A: "We are both very strong-headed and this relationship is important to both of us, so we want to make it work. We don't tell each other what not to do or do. I trust him to consider me when he is agreeing to do a film that involves an intimate scene. I trust him to handle it. Similarly, he trusts me to handle it too. We are both professional but we can both be equally petulant and irrational."
Q: You've not really done out-and-out commercial cinema. What do you think is your place in this industry?
A: "I don't know. I have never thought about it or strategized. It's been an individual journey. I didn't get into films because my mother was an actor or my brother was an actor. It may sound insincere but I don't want to be famous; I don't want to make pots of money. Yes, I want to be financially independent and I want to be happy. I feel that the more rich and famous you become, the more complicated your life gets and I like a simple life."
"Of course, you want people to appreciate your work: I'm not going to say no to awards, but it doesn't matter where I am on the celebrity index scale."
Q: Does this make you lose out on roles, especially in an industry where there is much lobbying for roles and films?
A: "I certainly feel that not enough roles are coming my way. I want to do more work, but I don't let that push me into discontent. You shouldn't lose yourself in the wrong things. There is a lot more that life has to offer you."
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