She may not have hit the bull's eye with her debut film. But as they say, that Rome was not built in a day! She took time to announce her 'arrival' in Bollywood, but she did it in style! It's tough to say that whether she happened to Rang De Basanti or was it the other way round. Either which ways, this film did to her what Rangeela did to Urmila and others, i.e. to catapult her in the big league! Even her actor brother Saif Ali Khan couldn't stop singing praises about her. Now with Sudhir Mishra's Khoya Khoya Chand she is re-living the same moments which her actress mother of yesteryears, Sharmila Tagore used to live. Sounding all excited over the phone, Soha Ali Khan tells Devansh Patel why she is so mesmerized with her character, the film and much more in this very special interview. Didn't I say - So Ha So Good (read - so far so good).Tell us little about your background - from working in the corporate sector to films. What has been the journey like?
Well I worked with the Citibank for about a year and a half. It was just a conscious effort to do something else before I got into the films, primarily because most of my family was working in films. So I felt that everyone would think that I took an easy way out. But then, ultimately I think cinema is a very seductive world. I think the opportunity of being an actor and playing roles was something that appealed to me so much. I enjoyed theater when I was very young. At an amateur level, I did lots of American plays - Tennessee Williams was my favorite. We also did a play called Streetcar Name Desire, where I played the lead role and then we did some musicals. In the Little Mermaid I played the witch, which was so much fun.
What was your initial reaction when Sudhir came to you with Nikhat's role? What made you go for it?
A lot of people say about their roles that - this is the role of their lifetime but I would like to think that for me it's a very genuine statement, I do feel I will never come across like this role ever again. It has given so much scope to do so many things. I remember when Sudhir called me and told the story and offered me Nikhat's role I was just floored away because it's a very challenging role. I don't know what made him think of me for Nikhat's role. I think Sudhir is remarkably intuitive. He has lots of confidence in his abilities to draw out performances and emotions from people because he is very good with emotions. I just really love the character and was incredibly challenged by the idea of having to play an actress and do different things and learn various skills like classical dance, horse riding, sword fighting, playing tragedy alongwith comedy, emotion, drama, seductiveness and playing some one who is so much more mature than me in many ways.
What's Nikhat like and what are her aspirations, her values. Please tell us something about it.
Well, she is passionate about acting and had wanted to be an actress from a very young age. She is very influenced by the other actors of her time -a big star like Prem Kumar (Rajat Kapoor) and Ratanbala (Sonya Jehan) whom she looks up to and emulates in many ways. Nikhat is very ambitious, incredibly hard working and very passionate. She has had a tough life, a very difficult childhood and she is the bread winner for the family, yet she is naive, innocent, principled and romantic.
What's your personal opinion on Nikhat's character? Do you relate with her at some level?
Well, we are both actresses. When the film begins, she is at a very embryonic stage in her career, she moves up the ladder during the course of the film. This is so interesting for me because I am in that journey as well. After having said that, we are very different people because our backgrounds are so very different.
How did you get into the skin of Nikhat's character?
This required a certain amount of preparation because it was quite removed from my own personality and because its set in the 1950's and 1960's. I spent some time with Jyoti Deb, who helped me with my Urdu diction and it was great fun as we spent a lot of time reciting Ghalib and learning nuktas, learning my lines with him as well as the performance scene (film within film segments) where Nikhat is enacting a role. There was quite a lot of time spent with Nandita Puri learning Kathak. Couple of riding and sword fighting lessons as well, watched lots of films and listened to music of that era to help me get in the character.
And what's the relationship you share with Shiney Ahuja and Rajat Kapoor in the film?
I share a very interesting dynamics with Zafar (Shiney Ahuja) and Prem Kumar (Rajat Kapoor). With Prem Kumar there is an element of seniority, there is always a distance because she always looks upto him and there is some kind of infatuation as well. With Zafar, they are peers; they are on an equal footing, so, she is far more comfortable with Zafar. They share a kind of camaraderie, which is so genuine. Of course, later, they fall in love.
What was it like working with Shiney and Rajat? What do you feel about them as actors, and their role in this film?
Working relationship with both off them was fantastic. They are both very good actors. Shiney is incredibly intense, hardworking and has a very different approach to working with other actors. I think he has a sort of niche in the industry, which is quite unchallenged in terms of the way that he looks. I think he is very masculine. Given the complexity of the character, there is genuine emotion, there is vulnerability. Rajat is really a good choice for Prem Kumar because he has a certain stature - a height and a way of carrying himself and the way he speaks. I think we have been blessed with quite an interesting ensemble of actors in Khoya Khoya Chand.
Any fond memories?
There are so many. I have never really felt more like a heroine than I have in this film. So that's been really special. The kind of focus, responsibility, and ownership that I have over this film is first rate for me. And also, I was doing a kathak piece, followed by cabaret, horse riding and even wearing a body armor suit alongwith sword fighting in the rain was unforgettable. Everyday was an adventure.
Which is your favorite song?
My favorite song would definitely be the cabaret song. It was fun to shoot. It really was stepping out of character, it was liberating in many ways because it's so out of your skin and you can really enjoy yourself and let it go and just be someone else completely. The kathak piece was very scary; I was more petrified than anything. Even the thirak thirak song was a lot of fun in the end. I enjoyed shooting this song. But the cabaret one is special.
What was the atmosphere like on the sets?
I was always happy to be on the sets. There was a sense of ownership with this film as there was a huge amount of collaborative effort with everyone working on it. For me it has been a very special film. I enjoyed spending time with Sudhir, we had some great conversations. We shot in Goa, whereby, we used to rent bikes and go out. I got along very well with the entire team. Working with Sachin (the cinematographer) was also fantastic. He has a good temperament and also a good sense of humour. I would like to work with him again. I discovered that Shiney has a good sense of humour too. This is so important on a film set as it just helps you relax.
Anything that you would want to say to the readers of IndiaFM?
I would ask them to see the film. I think that it's very special. I know that when you say it's a period film a lot of people think that they can go to sleep and a lot of people say 'Oh! It's going to be boring coz' it's not a commercial film'. But I think Khoya Khoya Chand has all the ingredients, which makes for a successful commercial film - glamour, dances and songs and comedy. But specially the emotion and the entertainment value in this film is special. It has some very good performances with a superb ensemble cast.
Don't you think that with you in the film, it should be called Soha Soha Chand?
I think it is a special film for me. Like I said earlier, I have never felt so much possession over a film. Khoya Khoya Chand will be in my top five films I've done.