Sara Ali Khan has made a grand impact with her debut film Kedaranth. And now her second release Simmba is also a hit. Not only has she won the hearts of moviegoers she also has fan clubs all across India doting on her from even before her debut film released. In a freewheeling interview with Subhash K Jha, Sara reveals her plans to conquer the box office.
Congrats Sara, you seem to have become quite a star?
Arrey kahan? I am just running around trying to cope with the workload. I don’t have time to feel like a star. I don’t think I’m a star yet. But I hope I get there some day. I don’t think I will ever let myself feel like star. The minute you do, others will stop seeing you in a favourable light.
Your gorgeous grandmother Sharmila Tagore says you’ve immense poise for someone so young. Where does this self-confidence come from?
I guess it comes from being honest. And that’s the only way I can be. Let those who can lie convincingly do it. I can’t! I start fumbling the minute I lie. Staying true to myself suits me just fine.
What kind of reactions are you getting from family and the media?
The family cannot be expected to be objective. They are expected to be nice to me in whatever I do. After all I am their daughter. But the way the reviewers’ critics and audience have reacted to me is overwhelming. This is a moment I am not going to forget ever in my life.
Do you deserve all the love you are getting?
80 percent of it, I deserve. The other 20 percent I don’t know where it is coming from. And it’s making me feel very grateful and emotional. I don’t have any experience in acting. All I had was my honesty. And that was my only go-to. Kedarnath was my first experience in what happens before the camera; of course I had been on film sets before to see my mother (Amrita Singh) shoot in Kalyug and my father (Saif Ali Khan) in Omkara. But all I did was play around with my parents’ co-stars’ makeup. Kedarnath was my first opportunity to observe filmmaking and be part of the process. My only tool of working on the sets was my honesty. Of course I always wanted to be an actor.
Posing as a child in front of the mirror? Wearing your mother’s clothes?
All of that, all of that.
In that case why did you go to Columbia University?
To me education was not a means to get a job. It was my way of widening my horizons. I didn’t think I was going to be a practising lawyer after attending Columbia. Education has made me a confident person. It doesn’t only teach you history and geography. Education gives you an insight into life. It gave me a heightened awareness of life that helped me become a better actor.
You were raised mostly by your mother. Not having your father around, was that a lacuna you felt?
I was more than okay with that arrangement. I think having two happy parents in different homes is much more preferable than two unhappy parents in the same home. I think I am the way that I am because my mother didn’t let me feel any kind deprivation for even a second. I have a very hands-on mother. Once my brother and I were born she did nothing but look after us.
So she never allowed you to miss the presence of your father?
My father was always a phone call away for both of us. I’ve never felt he was not there for me. In many ways I am glad my parents were not together. I know they’d have never been happy together. And if they were not happy I’d not have been happy.
Now Saif gives so much attention to Taimur which you never got. Do you feel a pang of envy?
Not at all. He’s my brother. I will tell you something. When my father was living with us, he was completely taken up by me. When he moved away he was still as caring. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me. Even when he doesn’t live with us, the thought that he’d do anything for me makes me feel very special. My father may not be there for me the way he is for Taimur. But that doesn’t make me feel any less special.
Do you look forward to working with him?
God willing, we will work together soon. But for obvious reasons it’s not something that would happen over and over again. But if we get a script that justifies our presence we will do it without a moment’s thought.
Whom do you consult on your scripts, Mom or Dad?
Both of them. But at the end of the day they both encourage me to follow my heart. So if I am convinced about a script I’d do it regardless of their advice. But if I am not convinced I wouldn’t do it.
What did your brother Ebrahim think of Kedarnath and Simmba and you?
He’s studying abroad and he’s the only member of the family who hasn’t seen my films.
Does he aspire to be an actor?
He does. But as I’ve discovered, it’s an easy dream to have but a very difficult dream to achieve. But I feel Ebrahim has the talent. Once he enacted a monologue for my mother and me. I was holding the sheet of paper on which his lines were written. I couldn’t look at the sheet, I was busy looking at his eyes. They were so emotive.
How do you field the improper questions from the media?
I am never asked anything improper. To be honest, mujhse kya improper pooch sakte hain? What have I done? I have literally been around for just a few months.
Are you looking forward to taking all the debutante awards?
(Giggles nervously) I don’t think I’m going to win them. One never knows.
Sadly they keep pitching you against Janhvi Kapoor?
Such comparisons are inevitable. But it is her job to do her own thing, and mine to do my own thing. And it’s some people’s job to compare us. We’ve to respect everyone’s job. She is busy with her work. I am busy with my work.
The catty competitiveness that existed during your grandmother and your mother’s times no longer exists?
I don’t think we can afford that kind of open rivalry. The media is too active. Anything we do will be reported the next day.