Exclusive interview: Soni Razdan talks about realities of Kashmir and being a proud mother to Alia Bhatt
Soni Razdan is in a happy place. She is all set for the release of her big project, Yours Truly, where she plays the central character after a rather long time. The Sanjoy Nag’s romantic drama is an official adaptation of one of the short stories from the book LOVE STORIES #1 TO 14, authored by Annie Zaidi. Also starring Soni’s husband and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, the film, which was screened at Busan Film Festival last year, deals with themes of loneliness and love. “It is quite an unusual film about a woman who lives a solitary life, is about to retire from her job and is in search of love at that age. But the reliability factor is high because one doesn’t need to be elderly to feel lonely. The film speaks to the heart, to anybody searching for love. It is not a run-of-the-mill story,” says the 62-year-old.
Tales from Kashmir
In the last couple of years, Soni has spent quite a lot of time in Kashmir, courtesy Raazi and No Fathers in Kashmir. The latter was delayed for eight months before it got a U/A certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification. The Ashvin Kumar film, however, received great response from the audience, which she feels is the true reward. “The long wait was stressful. I always knew it was a good film, but the kind of love it has received is what makes me really happy,” says the UK-born actor. Written and directed by Oscar-nominated Ashvin, the drama is based on two lovestruck teenagers who uncover secrets of the lost fathers of Kashmir and are involved in a 70-year-old conflict of the state. “The amount of understanding we have about Kashmir is not enough. Although it’s a sensitive subject, it has been told in a relatable manner. At the end of the day, it’s a story of love and loss,” Soni adds.
During her time in the conflict-struck state, Soni — a half Kashmiri herself (born to German mother and Kashmiri father) — explored the interiors of the state, while shooting for the films. “No Fathers in Kashmir saw quite a few difficult times when shooting in Kashmir. Burhan Wani (militant) was killed, so the state was shut down. We found alternatives for roads that led us to the shooting locations and even hotels. Demonetisation also happened a day before I landed. It was rather stressful,” she says. Apart from professional trips, Soni also discovered a few parts of the state by herself. “I went back just to meet people and in the process, I did my little journey there. I made quite a few friends with interesting stories to tell. Kashmir has many realities and each one feels differently about them. It’s a complex situation and is also heartbreaking,” she adds.
Advice for Alia
Soni made her screen debut in Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane in 1981 and became a familiar face with popular television drama Buniyaad on Doordarshan in 1986. She also made appearances in Monsoon Wedding, Page 3 and Love Breakups Zindagi, apart from stage productions, where she worked with the likes of theatre personality Satyadev Dubey. However, lately, Soni has been identified in popular consciousness as Alia Bhatt’s mother. “I’m extremely proud of Alia for the work she’s been doing. But her projects have made her busy and we hardly have time to spend (together). Working in Raazi meant spending two weeks with each other, and that was one of the best parts,” she shares. The doting mother also has just one advise her daughter: to be punctual and grounded. “Everybody’s time is money. So I always tell Alia that it’s important to be punctual. Although you’re famous, you’re not the greatest thing on the planet. You’re not saving somebody’s life, but you’re working like anybody else. In a business like this, one gets carried away with fame, which is understandable. I’ve always asked Alia to be realistic and enjoy the fruits of her hard work,” she says.