December 5, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): Unknown to many is the fact that Soha Ali Khan, the youngest daughter of Sharmila Tagore and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi made her debut in films in a Bengali film Srikanto, based on a famous autobiographical novel authored by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The film was directed by National Award-winning director Anjan Das. But the film failed to click and the Soha Ali Khan debut faded from memory and also from her filmography. Over the years, she has established herself as an actress who chooses her assignments and roles with care, featuring in some very significant films like Rang De Basanti, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Khoya Khoya Chand and one small film called Mumbai Cutting that was part of a ten-film project on the city of Mumbai. She has picked two Best Supporting Actress Awards for her performance in Rang De Basanti. Her first Indian-English feature film Life Goes On, written and directed by Sangeeta Datta who lives in London, is scheduled to release in UK in November and in three North American cities in December. The film is also part of this year’s Kolkata Film Festival. In Life Goes On, being distributed and marketed in the USA by Databazaar Media Ventures, Soha plays Dia, a student of dramatics in London who lives with her mother Manju and father Dr. Banerjee. Sharmila Tagore and Soha play out their off-screen real life relationship on screen for the first time.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B0044FDPA4″ display=”inlinepost”]Excerpts from an interview
How do you define the character of Dia as you have perceived it – (a) per se, (b) as a daughter who lived with her parents, (c) as a daughter close to her mother, (d) as the girlfriend of a Muslim young man, (e) as a sister to her older siblings, (f) as a human being caught between her duty towards her father and her love for the man she has chosen to be her husband?
It is difficult to describe her as only one of the above as all of these things are a part of her complex identity. And that is what the film, in my opinion, tries to explore – for the Indian diaspora struggling to find their roots or hold onto them. Issues of identity come to the fore – but we are not defined solely by our religion, language, nationality, gender etc. Our personalities are far more complex and overlapping than that. Dia is all of the above – a young girl, devoted to her parents, torn between wanting to make them proud and her own personal values and choices.
How close or distant is Dia of Life Goes On from Soha Ali Khan in real life?
Very similar I would say. Like Dia I too, am a young girl with a very secure family background. I am very close to my parents, have spent a few years in the UK as a student like Dia is doing. So, I am familiar with the culture, the accent etc, and so on. Like Dia, I have struggled with my personal decisions when they clash with what my parents expect of me, a major being my choice of working in films. My real mother plays my on-screen mother. So what could get closer to reality than that!
What kind of homework did you put in for the role?
To be completely honest, there was no homework required except for the parts that called upon me to play those excerpts from Shakespeare’s King Lear where I play his youngest daughter Cordelia. It involved memorization and a quick workshop with Alison from the RSC. But it was great fun as I love theatre. I was familiar with the accent and so that came naturally enough – I have more trouble shedding it when speaking English in Hindi films! It is a film with a lot of heart and emotion and so was more about feeling it in the moment. Dia, I feel, is an extension of me so I just made myself imagine how I would react if that happened to me…pretty morbid stuff!
How would you define yourself as an actress – a natural actress, a trained actress and a director’s actress or a little of all these?
I would say mostly I am natural and organic; I like to feel it as much as possible. But I am also a director’s actor as I take instructions well and ultimately it’s the director’s vision. I have learnt a lot about acting from hands-on directors like Rituparno Ghosh who directed me in my Bengali film Antarmahal and Sudhir Mishra. who directed me in Khoya Khoya Chand.
What criteria do you apply when you accept a role in any film? (a) Banner? (b) Director? (c) Role or character? (d) Footage in the film? (e) Price? (f) Story?
Choosing a film is ultimately an innate organic response – I know immediately on hearing the story whether I want to be in it or not. Though it is important to be paid your price it is not the breaking point if I love the script. I would say script and my role in it is of paramount importance. But a film can never be bigger than the vision of the director. Of course, a good banner and a noted producer ensure the marketing needed to get an opening and a proper release. Otherwise, the experience can be heart-breaking!
Looking back on your career, which of your films would you pick as your favourites and why?
Personally for my performance I like Tum Mile and Life Goes On as I know I went to a place in them as an actor that I never have before. I felt truly empty at the end of the film, like I had given a lot of myself. I am very proud of them. Khoya Khoya Chand and Antarmahal were beautiful and challenging period films where I was out of my comfort level in many ways and I feel proud of them too. Mumbai Meri Jaan and Rang de Basanti are powerful films which I am proud to have been a part of.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Still working in films, hopefully. I love acting and want to do this for a long time! I imagine in another five years I will have a family of my own too. That is the general plan! But then I am not much of a planner. I do not have long-term vision!
Your dream roles if any?
Nope. I feel if something has been done then best to let it be – and to do something new. I think I would enjoy an action comedy role though! Also a dark psychological thriller maybe…
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