Sara Ali Khan on her father Saif Ali Khan: We argue about what Hitler's motivations were
Having set her heart on a career in showbiz mid-way through her graduation course, Sara Ali Khan on putting her education into fast-track to dive headlong into Bollywood
Almost overnight, Sara Ali Khan found herself being promoted. Putting an end to months of comparisons with debutante Janhvi Kapoor, Khan found herself being pitted against the inarguably talented Alia Bhatt, even though she had weeks to go before her acting prowess could be put up for scrutiny. It may be worthy to point out that following her debut in Student Of The Year, Bhatt had to put in a hint of toil to establish her credibility with acts in Highway and Udta Punjab. Yet, for Khan, an hour-long chat show — in the company of father Saif Ali Khan — did the trick, making her instantly affable for both, cinephiles and media professionals. Evidently a chip of the old block, Khan, in many ways, is a reflection of her father, who has long established his place in the industry as among the most well-read; one who can pick up a conversation on any subject. And while her intelligence shown through in the Karan Johar-hosted show, it is the unmistakable earnesty with which she tackles questions that makes her worthy of attention.
As we meet her for the first time during a round of promotions for the Friday release Kedarnath, Khan's wit isn't lost on us. Neither is her vulnerability, as she juggles questions with emotions, instead of the stoicism that industry veterans familiarise themselves with. She tells us she was 20 years old when she arrived at the decision to make a career in Bollywood. "I was studying in Columbia [University, New York] and realised that that was not what [I wanted]. In my university, I also did theatre, and knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I love history, and can continue to do so. I was in a history museum last week, and was reading a history book 25 minutes ago. So, that is something I can continue to pursue. But, acting is age-sensitive. It was now or never for me, and it can never be never. Even though I had a blast in Columbia, I finished a four-year-degree in three years, because I didn't want to waste a year [as an actor]," she says.
Her time spent in New York was cherishable, yet, she points out, it was fighting for the comfort that she seamlessly received at home that went a long way in shaping her. "Going to New York was an equaliser," she says, alluding to the years she spent in the absence of her "loving, doting and giving" parents. "I have grown up with a mother [Amrita Singh], and father, both of whom have never let me think that it's possible to not get something I want. These may not be materialistic things, because I'm not a materialistic girl, unless you're talking about bangles, in which case, I'm obsessive. But, they have given me immense attention and time. Going to New York made me recognise that sometimes, I would have to fight for these things, because I don't have Saif and Amrita, the strongest people I know, behind me. I could not get anything I wanted on a platter."
Her Bollywood background, she says, couldn't even shield her from racism. "I understood what it takes to be an Indian in America. There are moments when you feel like the other, even the lesser. Luckily, I've grown up [learning] that I must not care about what people think, beyond a point." Even though Abhishek Kapoor's romance drama has seen mixed reviews from critics, Khan, it has been suggested, has put up a promising front. An unconventional debut had her juggle the shooting of Kedarnath with Rohit Shetty's upcoming masala flick, Simmba, and Khan attributes her inexperience for her ability to pull off the two diverse films.
"Neither of the two characters resemble me. The experience of having Sushant [Singh Rajput, Kedarnath co-star] before me, while Abhishek was behind the camera, and that of being alongside [Simmba co-star] Ranveer Singh while Rohit [watched over me] was at stark contrast to one another. Because I am an actor with no expertise, all I could rely on was my gut. In both films, I was merely reacting to my surroundings. And if my surroundings were different, so were my acts," she says, matter-of-factly.
At home, the newest addition to Bollywood has a hard time keeping from discussing work with her father. "He looks at me like I'm a traitor for discussing films. He lives with Kareena [Kapoor], is a brother to Soha, and is an actor's son. So, now, if I discuss work, he's like, 'Please don't do this to me.' So, we don't talk about films often. We talk about history, argue about what Hitler's motivations were, or who was wrong in the Cold War. Sometimes, we discuss religion and how different beliefs and social systems came about. We both enjoy culture, travelling, good food, and great conversations."
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