Every woman is a ‘woman of substance’
We ask her about everyday inspirations and what according to her makes a woman ‘a woman of substance’. She’s quick to reply, “I think every woman is a woman of substance. They balance their family and career, and wear different hats as a mother, sister, daughter... I think it requires a lot of skill and emotional strength. There are ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. Finding the ‘extraordinary’ in ordinary is what I really believe in.
We caught up with Soha Ali Khan while she was in the city to present the Phoenix Leading Lady Awards 2019
An Oxford graduate and an inspiring woman who has successfully transitioned from banking to acting to writing, we wonder what Soha Ali Khan aspires for in the long run. In a candid conversation, she tells us about her career, motherhood, and future plans.
Soha’s book had garnered rave reviews, more so for her writing style. She agrees, “Well, my publishers are keen on me writing more books. They’ve sent me a contract for two more books, which I haven’t signed yet. It’s a big commitment. Especially since the first one did well, there’s greater pressure to deliver and to ensure that it surpasses the previous one. Also, I have to think what the second one would speak about; again it being in a non-fiction space as opposed to fiction.”
She has been pretty candid in the first one. She explains, “It’s difficult to be honest and give yourself up when you don’t know who’s reading it and who you are sharing your stories with. So yeah, that was tough for me. But I did enjoy the process. What excites me about writing is the fact that you can do it anywhere as long as you have the discipline of taking out enough hours in a day. It’s a great profession.”
Born to such iconic parents, was she able to make them proud with her career choices? “I think so. You will have to ask my mother. But, I think that more than what we did, they are proud of who we are. And that’s not so dependent on your career and what you have chosen as a profession. It’s the kind of person you have turned out to be, and what values you have imbibed from your parents,” she says with a hint of pride.
While her role in Rang De Basanti was well appreciated, the roles she has essayed have been strikingly different. And then there was Khoya Khoya Chand too. She’s quick to point out, “Yeah, I think Rang de... was a great film, clearly an ensemble cast. Though I am very proud of my role in Khoya Khoya Chand. It was an author-driven role and gave me a chance to perform.”
In terms of characters that are closest to who she is, Soha names Sanjana from Tum Mile. In future, she would like to portray a character that is a little more layered or grey “as we all are in life,” she says.
Having been a successful banker we wonder if there are any regrets of not pursuing banking as a profession. “No. Actually, there wasn’t much job satisfaction. I did well at it, because I am very project driven. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t that excited to go to work. So I knew it wasn’t my dream job. Whereas I feel that with acting, you never get bored. Your environment changes with every film. Also, the different things I got to learn — horse riding, sword fighting, Kathak… I find this more exciting,” she elaborates.
Coming to films, Soha reveals that her mother helped her prepare for her first Bengali film. “She recorded my dialogues for me because I didn’t speak the language. She helped me with the diction. When I asked for her advice for Rang de..., she said, ‘There’s one director in a film, and you must ask your director for advice, because he has a particular vision. If I give you some advice, it could be conflicting,” Soha recalls.
We talk about her growing up days and if she feels like a Princess even today. She laughs, “It doesn’t happen enough any more. I was the youngest child in the family and everyone’s favourite. Even in school, I was the youngest in class. I was petite and frail in figure. So people were always protective of me. Growing up, I was aware that we came from a position of privilege in certain ways, in terms of social status or the whole tag of being a nawabzadi, even though it has no relevance today. Being a student of history, the fact that we have history behind us does feel special.”
Before we wrap up, we cannot help but ask her about paparazzi and how she deals with her daughter being papped all the time. “Well, it’s a double-edged sword. Just today, for instance, my daughter had a bit of a cold and I wasn’t sure if she was going for this playdate. So, all I had to do was go to Viral Bhayani’s (Page 3 photographer) page and see if she had gone. I could see she was happy, laughing and gone to her class. But apart from that, of course we are concerned. At least, Inaaya is not papped as much as Taimur is. He has dolls in his name. I think that’s probably a little unhealthy. It takes away the innocence. You don’t want to be followed all the time. Now it’s ok, but when he gets a little older, then it might not be so much fun, “she concludes.