Desi-Box.com caught up with bollywood actress Soha Ali Khan to talk about her forthcoming film and her first ever british asian film Life Goes On.
DB: Hi Soha, how are you?
Soha: I'm good, thank you.
DB: That's fantastic. Now firstly, it's lovely to have you here with desi-box. After 7 years in the film industry, you're starring in your first ever British Asian production! How excited are you about 'Life Goes On'?
Soha: It hasn't been 7 years has it? (laughs)
DB: It surely has!
Soha: It’s been like 2 or 3 years tops! (laughs) I’m very excited actually, because as you said, it’s many firsts for me: it’s the first time I’m part of a British production; it’s the first time I’ve worked with a female director; the first time I am working in the English language; the first time I’m shooting with my Mom; the first time we shot a film in London… So for many reasons it was very exciting, and I’m just very happy that it’s finally coming out on commercial release in England on Friday, and then in India on the 25th.
DB: ‘Life Goes On’ was previously screened at various prestigious film festivals and received rave reviews. We’ve heard the version to be released commercially is slightly different to the one previously screened. Why the changes?
Soha: I really don’t know what changes have been made. I know that over the course of the year, Sangeeta’s been a little brutal with the cut, sort of trimmed it around the corners, made it more desi… I think you can become a little indulgent with a film like this, which has so much heart and so many beautiful moments, but then when we’re thinking of the fact that it’s for a commercial audience, they may not buy into all that. As long as they haven’t cut any of my scenes, (laughs), then I think whatever they’ve done will obviously be for the best and it’s really the directors call.
DB: Well, I’m sure we’ll find out on Friday eh? (Laughs) Now the film itself took inspiration from Shakespeares ‘King Lear’. Have you ever read ‘King Lear’? Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Lie Goes On’ and it’s similarities to ‘King Lear’?
Soha: I have read ‘Lear’, yes, when I was studying literature at school but it had been a while, and I’ve never actually performed Shakespeare on stage, which I did have to do in the film. My character is actually a young theatre student and she does play Cordelia on stage, in the film. That was one of the most challenging days for me as I was with a bunch of theatre actors who do all this all the time, and we had someone come in from the Royal Shakespeare Company and they trained us a little bit in delivery and diction, and that’s when I felt most tested. I think though, that the parallels with ‘Lear’ are really interesting in our film because it is also about 3 daughters and a father, and playing Cordelia/Dia who is the favourite but then is out of favour because she’s at odds with her personal life/love life versus trying to make her father proud and then there’s that conflict, and there’s all sorts of things. We have a lot of parallels with Shakespeare. I think Shakespeare is something that is so classic, but relevant even today.
I think you can become a little indulgent with a film like this, which has so much heart and so many beautiful moments
DB: Now touching back on something you mentioned earlier… This was your first time working with a female director. How did you find this whole experience?
Soha: I mentioned it as a one of many firsts, I wouldn’t say there was really a distinction in style per se. I know it’s Sangeeta’s first film but she way very firm and very clear with what she wants. Now I don’t know if it’s because she’s a woman… I’ve worked with many men in the past who have a great sense of aesthetic and style and music. Because she’s so musical herself and she’s sung in the film, but her attention to detail and the costume, and the beautiful saris and jewellery we’ve been given (which I have to confess is a little bit of my mother aswell, as she’s a style diva!)… But also in terms of the heart of this film, and the emotions and the performances, Sangeeta had a very firm but understated, gentle firm hand when it came to direction. I don’t think the fact that she was a woman came into play at all. I liked her approach… She was very soft, she would come up to you and speak to you gently in your ear. It’s also the first time I’ve worked on such a silent set, as I’m used to working in Bombay and up to the point someone says ‘action’, it’s mayhem with phone’s ringing, and trains and cars and traffic. Here, we were working in Slough, in a small intimate setting, and it was so quiet. So that was also very new for me.
DB: There are some great names starring in the film including the legendary Om Puri, and of course your lovely mother, Sharmila Tagore. What was it like working on set with your Mum?
Soha: Like they say you should keep family and business apart and I think that’s probably true especially when it comes to acting. When you work with someone intimately, whether it’s a husband, mother or child, it’s difficult. I think because you feel exposed and like they know your every expression; when you’re being fake and when you’re not, and there’s a little bit of pressure because of that. And then there’s the issue of my mom being this larger than life, legendary, iconic actor and then me being in the same frame with her… and you know how we love to compare people? So I was a little apprehensive about that, and also because my mom likes to get involved and direct people. Like when we go to the gym together, she’ll be the one telling other people how to operate the machinery. I was a little worried she might be directing the film instead of Sangeeta. But she was really good and very restrained, and she said ‘there can only be one director, and that is Sangeeta, and I defer to her, and you must take your instructions from her’. Just once in a while she would say ‘don’t wear those shoes’ or ‘don’t wear that top’ (giggles), but otherwise she was very good. We had a great time actually, and in the end it was good fun.
DB: Is your relationship in the film in any way similar to your real-life relationship with each other?
Soha: Well, yeah. I’m the youngest of 3 siblings so I related to that. I think the image of my mom is romanticized in the film as there’s this typical Bengali mother who holds the family together, and is virtuous and loving and supportive and strong, and all of that. She is all of that, and she is a huge inspiration to me aswell actually, in my own real life. The only scene in the film when we have lots of dialogue together, I’m actually telling her something quite shocking, which I don’t think any unmarried daughter actually wants to tell her parents… And so, when she looked at me, it was that sort of ‘I’m so disappointed’ and kind of strict expression I’ve seen many times – that kind of makes you shake a little. Her expressions were so honest and true to how she is at home; the lines were kind of blurred between what’s real and what’s not.
DB: Great stuff! Now, you graduated with your Masters degree in Oxford, England. How does it feel returning to the place you studied, as a movie star?
Soha: It’s great fun! I love the city and always, it’s any excuse to go back! I really wish I could be there on Friday for the premiere but I’m in the middle of shooting here (India), but I do go back as often as I can. I love the vibe, I love the fact that it’s so multicultural, I love the fact that it’s this huge busy city yet you’ve got all these parks right in the middle of the city. Being a student there is of course completely different to going back there to shoot a film, but as I said, any chance to wander around the streets, especially when the sun comes out, it’s doubly nice, it’s lovely. And then to meet up with school friends who are all kind of bemused after discovering I’m in the entertainment field after studying international relations, when the plan was to go off and work for the UN… But I like to think I’m doing my bit for world peace through entertainment! (laughs)
There’s the issue of my mom being this larger than life, legendary, iconic actor and then me being in the same frame with her… and you know how we love to compare people
DB: (Laughs) Ok, so this next one might be difficult for you! If you had to convince a person that has never been to the cinema to watch a film in their entire life, what 3 reasons would you give them to go and watch ‘Life Goes On’ when it’s released in UK cinemas on the 11th March?
Soha: I would say it’s a film about family, and for anyone who has lost someone that they love, it’s a film that will definitely touch you and strike a chord with you. I would say go the cinema, ‘cause it kind of helps you to go through things that you might normally not; finding expression and relief in ways you usually wouldn’t. The second reason is I think that it’s beautifully shot with wonderful cinematography, so visually it’s a treat, and finally I think it’s got stellar performances from some legendary actors, and I think it makes it a really convincing and beautiful piece of cinema and one that I think is really multicultural so it will appeal to people across the board.
DB: Great! And finally then today, what is planned in the life of Soha Ali Khan for the rest of 2011?
Soha: I’m shooting at the moment for my first comedy, a film called ‘Chemistry’ which is good fun. We just wrapped a wonderful schedule in France in January where it was -4 degrees, but we got some great songs and more of a mainstream soft dance number, very commercial, which is again something I haven’t done a lot of. And I’m doing a film called ‘Soundtrack’, which is an official remake of a British film about a DJ who loses his hearing, where I play a girl who’s deaf so I’ve had to learn some sign language and go to some speech classes, because of course the concept of life without sound is completely alien to me. And then of course we will be working on Deepa Mehta’s film, ‘Midnight’s Children’ in 2011. So there’s very different films, an eclectic range of films that I’ve got going on. But the first thing is to get ‘Life Goes On’ out there and hopefully get a good response from people.
DB: Finally, is there a message you would like to send out to your desi-box.com fans?
Soha: I’d love for you all to go on Friday and in the weeks that follow, and watch ‘Life Goes On’, and I know the cricket’s on… But it’s a film that needs your support.
DB: Anyone in particular you’re supporting in the cricket?
Soha: Well, India… and we won today…We did well, and we’re doing well, and I know we’ve got some stiff competition from England, but I’m optimistic about the final! (Laughs)
By Sabah Ismail