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Soha Ali Khan has a foothold in Bollywood

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Courtesy: IndiaFM

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

She is the youngest, from a family of stars to enter films. She started off two years ago and has done films ranging from the commercial Shaadi Se Pehle to the aesthetic Antarmahal. But what got her talent noticed was the big hit Rang De Basanti. Her next release Ahista Ahista will be her first solo release. So let's have a chat with Soha Ali Khan and know more about Ahista Ahista, her views and other film related issues.

Firstly, why is the film titled Ahista Ahista?
I think it's a beautiful title. Also, it deals with the relationship of two people who meet and how their relationship slowly develops. The film runs at natural pace. It's a slow and beautiful way in which two people meet and get to know each other.

Can you tell us what the film is all about?

It is a story about a boy called Ankush played by Abhay Deol, who lives in old Delhi. He lives on the streets and works as a witness for court marriages at a small amount of Rs.200. And then my character Megha, comes into his life. She comes from a small town and finds herself in old Delhi, which is obviously new to her. They meet by chance and how due to circumstances they are forced to spend sometime together. Their relationship develops. It is a very touching, heartfelt story about emotions, love and friendship. The dialogues are very natural; the situations very realistic, and even the songs have been worked out in a very natural sort of way.

Tell us something about your character in the film.
My character is that of a girl called Megha. She is from the small town of Nainital. She leaves her home for a particular reason and finds herself in old Delhi which is very new to her. Since, she is from a small town, she is very protected and timid. When she finds herself in Delhi, she obviously is quite daunted. She doesn't really trust the environment of this bit city. Finally she begins to trust this boy played by Abhay and their relationship develops. In the time she spends in Delhi, she finds herself a job and discovers a lot about herself. She opens up, attains a certain amount of independence and confidence.

Since this is going to be your first solo release, was there a sense of greater responsibility and pressure?
Yes. In fact, in many ways, I feel that this is my launch film. I have done films before but this is my first single heroine film. I am both, excited as well as nervous. Many people were saying that I should not do a single heroine film. But I think it's about right time. I've always said that it's more important to be a part of a good film as opposed to being a big part of a mediocre film. So I was waiting for the right script and I found it in Ahista Ahista. I am happy to be the only girl, in what I think is a good film.

How was it working with your co stars?
I've known Abhay since before the film He's a friend. I've seen his first film Socha Na Tha which was written by Imtiaz Ali. He has also written Ahista Ahista. I was very surprised to see how much feeling Abhay brings to his character. For somebody who is fun loving and jovial, he takes his work very seriously. He is very real and natural. I hope that doesn't change, because that makes his performance very special. As for Shayan Munshi, I have worked with him on another film called Postcards. He is another actor who is young in terms of experience, yet incredibly focused and hard working. I think that's really going to pay off for him. He is a very nice human being and I think that really makes a difference. If you are a nice person, people really want to work with you. He is very open to learning and getting inputs from other people. I would also say that it was wonderful for all of us to work with Shivam, our director, who is one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. He's brilliant in terms of making a film by taking a good script to a different level on screen. Also, in terms of making his actors comfortable and giving them time and kindness. So I think all of us have benefited from him.

Were there any fun moments on the sets?
We were working on a very tight schedule, as we wanted to finish this film in a given number of days. Besides, for a relatively small budget film, we worked in a number of locations from Lonavala to Pune to Old Delhi, to the remote parts of Maharashtra. So the experience was so much fun. I liked the feeling on the sets, because I was working with intelligent film makers. Our cinematographer Prakash Kutty took good care of me. In fact, it was the first time that I felt like a "heroine" because he was focusing hundred per cent on my angles and my lighting. That's something that I have never experienced before. I have never been given that much importance before. So that was exciting in a way. Also, there were lots of fun experiences. We used to imitate our director as he has this particular way of describing shots and speaking. That happens when you work with friends. So there was a good feeling on the sets.

Shyan Munshi has got a lot of bad publicity in the media, due to the Jessica Lal case. Do you think this will affect the movie as well?
Its not just Shayan. A lot of actors are sometimes portrayed in a good or bad light by the media. This is because of things that they do outside of their work. So sometimes it becomes unfortunate when what they do or what they are "alleged" to do affects their work. A lot of this is speculation and media hype as well. I can only speak from my personal interactions with Shyan. He has been a very good human being around me and the people he interacts with. He's been a conscientious and hard working actor. He's done good work in this film and also in Postcards. People, who work with him and know him, like him. So I think the audience will appreciate his work. Besides, it is important to draw a distinction between art and the artist. You should judge a film for what it is. Your personal judgments of the person should take a backseat while watching the film.

Abhay Deol is yet to prove himself as an actor to the masses, as his first movie didn't really give him a jump start. So do you think Ahista Ahista will do the trick for Abhay?
I think that he has done a fantastic job in the film. Firstly, I think it's a very wonderful role for him. It's a very interesting character. It's a challenge for him, and I think he has lived up to it in a wonderful way. People make mistakes and learn, and I think his performance in Ahista Ahista is 100 time better than that in Socha Na Tha. I think he has already shot for four films. We'll be seeing a lot of him in the coming months. Besides it's a very eclectic mix; it's a hugely diverse range of films that he is doing. So I think by the end of this year, he'll be in a very different place from where he is now.

How was it working with the director, Shivam Nair, considering that this is his first film?
Yes, this is his first film, but a lot of directors consider Shivam their mentor. Even I didn't know Shivam before working with him, but I knew of his reputation. He is the kind of person who immediately inspires confidence from the way that he talks and represents himself. He sees what your strengths are. He immediately knew what my strengths were and also knew how to work on those strengths, so as to make my performance and the film better. So I immediately trusted him! The trust between an actor and director is very important. He won that trust initially and after I started working with him, I realized his capabilities.

What I appreciate is that when he directs, he tells you what to do and more importantly what not to do. So he gives you the scope to play it the way that you want. Yet he'll rein you in and let you know when you are overdoing it or under-doing it. In my case, the character I play is a very under confident character whereas the person that I am, is very confident. I am a city girl, so I obviously had more experiences than she had. Therefore before the shot Shivam would go, "Lights, Camera, Soha less confidence, Action!!" So that would just keep me on my toes. He is alert and cares supremely about film making.

How was your experience of working with the producer, as even he is just one film old?
I think Anjum Rizvi is a producer who is very good at marketing He has some wonderful contacts. He cares about filmmaking and wants to be a part of good films. He won't get creatively involved in the film. He would rather leave the reins to the director. He used to come on sets which is important, so as to see if his money is being well spent, and to see if people are working efficiently. He is a lovely person. So it's good to work with good people.

Tell us about the music of the film.
As I said it's real The songs are worked into the film, except for one fantasy number. The tracks set the atmosphere. Himesh has done the music. He is doing very well currently and I don't need to give any introduction to him. I have two songs that are my personal favorites. There is a song called Ishq Ne and Ahista Ahista, which is the title track.

Why should people watch Ahista Ahista?
I think because of the fact that this is a human story, the film remains true. It doesn't go into realms of fantasy, over-hype or over-emotion. It stays real, true to the story, emotions and characters. The audience will relate to it. I like films that are true to reality. I like it when you watch a film and get completely involved with the character because the character does things that any normal person would do. As much as we say that we like big glamorous films, we in fact have a host of films coming up this year, which are set apart and true to reality. People will be touched by it as it is a very sensitive film.

What is more important to you, critical acclaim or commercial importance?
Both are important But commercial success is not something I bank on and it is not something that I'll sign a film, hoping and expecting. Even a film like Rang De Basanti which had UTV, Aamir Khan, A R Rahman and Binod Pradhan can't bank on commercial success. Of course, it was a commercial success. But then it was also a new and different film. So as an actor, I'll look at a film creatively, rather than looking at it as a commercial success. I always see if a particular film and script will be exciting to me as an actor. I wonder if it is going to achieve something new in terms of cinema or even on an international plane. Then I would like to get involved. So I think critical acclaim becomes quite important in that sphere. You do want to be recognized and appreciated. You do want to go down in the annals of cinema as a good actor rather than a star.

I've come from a family of stars and honestly glamour and fame are not that important to me. As anybody else living in Bombay, I've seen how it comes and goes. And how in the larger scheme of life, its not remembered as much as the few names in history, be it Gandhi or a few others. Some names are important today but tomorrow they may not be. A film is hugely successful today but tomorrow it may not be. I would rather go down in history as a good actor than a star.

Your future projects
My future projects are interesting and diverse. There is a Sudhir Mishra film that I've signed which I'm looking forward to. It's a challenging role for me. Set in the 50's, it's a beautifully romantic film and very different. There is an Aparna Sen film that I'm doing with my Mother and Konkana Sen Sharma. I'm also doing a Rituparno Ghosh film, which is a small film in Hindi. And to balance this, I'll also be a part of Sanjay Gupta's upcoming Dus Kahaniyaan which is a commercial film. I've done an English film called Postcards. There are some other commercial films. But when it comes to commercial films, I'm being doubly careful about what I sign.

How much do you think you have grown as an actor since your first film?
Hugely! I think everyone does. Also, I think I'm getting roles that I am comfortable and excited about doing. Rang De Basanti and Antarmahal have been two important films for me in terms of characterizations as I feel that I have been able to perform. I think my roles in these two films were well written and appreciated more than other films. So after these, I am now getting films that I would like to do. Also, now I am becoming more comfortable, knowing the angles and how to interact with the camera, make up, hair and things like that.

What is your comment on the banning of Fanaa in Gujarat?
Well, a lot of films are being banned these days. Even The Da Vinci Code is banned in some states. I don't understand the reason because I don't see anything objectionable in these films. I think we should be secure enough to allow people to watch certain films. I don't think we should ban films on the basis of our personal views about the artists involved. Its art and these people (actors) are playing roles. We should appreciate that. Whether they are good or bad people doesn't really determine if they are good actors or not. We should be able to appreciate good art. Even in the case of The Da Vinci Code, I am quite surprised that people in Italy and Rome have allowed it to release, but it's not allowed in some states in the South or in Punjab. There seems to be a sort of trend of banning films and taking hard stances. I don't think that is necessary. I think the real solutions lies elsewhere.

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