Cover story: Soha Ali Khan on her comeback, motherhood and that one priceless nugget of wisdom that she received from her mother Sharmila Tagore
Having debuted on the OTT platform recently and with another series set to release, we chat with the incredibly multi-faceted Soha Ali Khan on balancing films, family and fashion
Soha Ali Khan, an actress, a royal princess, an Oxford graduate in Economics, a daughter to legendary figures (veteran actress Sharmila Tagore and former team blue captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi), sister to Chhote Nawab (Saif Ali Khan), and a hands-on-mom herself - can teach us thing or two about balancing it all! If you follow Soha on Instagram, you know she is remarkably active in all the various roles that life has thrown at her. She invests the most in family bonds and nurtures them with love, especially in her four-year-old daughter Inaaya Naumi Kemmu. From being a nocturnal girl to a disciplined mother, Soha says that she is a changed person and wants to be a "role model to her daughter." While for the last couple of years Soha has taken a sabbatical from her film career, on the other hand she has been busy playing the enthusiastic mother and the content homemaker. Not many would know, she also endorses Saif Ali Khan’s ethnic wear brand House of Pataudi. Clearly, Soha is acing that elusive balance between work and personal life and has been seen endorsing products like Vicks and Furnmill on social media which she says she has a nostalgic connection to. Soha recently made her OTT debut with a film Kaun Banegi Shikharwati that was released on January 7. She also has another all-women web series titled Hush Hush with National Award-winning actor Juhi Chawla directed by Tanuja Chandra. We caught up with the actress over a Zoom to talk about her comeback, work-life balance, fashion and how being a mother has been rewarding for her in more than one way and that one priceless nugget of wisdom that she received from her mother on motherhood.
How does it feel to be back in front of the camera?
It’s fantastic and empowering, especially with Hush Hush since it’s all about women from actors to the director. There has been so much laughing, giggling and crying on the set. I have missed playing characters on screen and it’s been fun to balance my work and (my daughter) Inaaya at the same time.
Was the break from your film career intentional?
Yes, it was intentional. It was difficult and still tough to leave Inaaya at home and go to work. It requires superhuman strength to say bye to her and go to work. I ensure she is doing something when I am going to work. If she is not around I am always like what is she doing and how is she. Now she is going to school and she has friends and other people in her life apart from me, though it is hard to digest (laughs). I don’t want to seem like a guilty mother. I want to show her that I am passionate about the work I do and so I am going and I wouldn’t do it if I don’t love it so much. 'So if I am going to work I am going to have a great time and meanwhile, you have a great time doing what you are doing'.
What does a day in Soha’s house look like?
Everyday is different. When I am shooting I am working a 12 hour shift in the morning or night, and that is my world. I feel when I am shooting it’s more peaceful because then I can actually sit in the van and read a book, I don’t have to look after anybody else. I know somebody is looking after Inaaya and Kunal and someone is looking after the home and I can focus on my work. The days when I am not working are chaotic because the entire day goes into household chores. I have Inaaya and I can spend all day doing what she wants to do. Now she is back in the school for half the day and the whole house is empty and feels odd!
What about your fitness?
I workout on a daily basis either yoga or exercise and these days I have a trainer coming to my house. I like having massages and binge-watching TV. When Kunal is out it’s just me and I can just do what I want to do. I like the nighttime.
You have been very active on social media. How important is it for you?
Social media is something that I enjoy. I enjoy sharing aspects of my life with other people because I feel there is a connection that we can form and people will connect with you and you also connect with them. I relate to some activities on social media. I reach out to people on social media to check where I can get a certain thing. It’s a strong medium to stay in touch and connect with people. But as far as the phone is concerned it’s just a way to stay in touch with my mother who is in Delhi and my daughter when I am at work.
Being a daughter of two legendary personalities, hwhat has been your biggest learning from your mother to raise Inaaya?
You lose focus when you are a mother. As grandparents, there is an energy that is not the energy of a mother. Most mothers are impatient and angry, they want to hurry and fathers are laid back but thankfully that’s changing now. My mother told me not to finish Inaaya’s sentences. Let her finish her thoughts. She is trying to tell you something and you are leading her to tell you something else. She is trying to impress you and she wants you to be proud of her. You don’t have to guide her with your thoughts, she needs to speak her mind, you have to listen to her. Don’t influence her so much and allow her to be herself and I have really tried to step back and let her take the lead.
How have you evolved as an individual after becoming a mother?
I was one of those people who would sleep at five in the morning and wake up at lunchtime, I never knew what breakfast was as a meal. As I used to eat dal chawal when I would wake up. But now I wake up at 6.30 am and by 11 pm I can’t keep my eyes open. There are times when I stay up but the next day is difficult. So firstly my schedule has changed and my priorities have changed. I used to travel a lot. I would take a flight in the morning and be back the same night, but now I often say no for such hectic events. I want to be at home a little bit more. As a person fundamentally, I have become more patient and have learned a lot from Innaya. I have learned that I may want her to be a certain way but she will be her own person so I have to let her be the way she wants to be and that’s a big lesson I have learned from her.
Inaaya is a paparazzi favorite. What is your take on that?
I don’t even know how I feel. It’s not been too bad. As a mother I am possessive and protective about them when she is facing flashlights and children should not be exposed to flashes and worry about the psychological impact. I have explained it to her and told her why people are taking her pictures and she seems to have grasped a little bit of it and she is okay with it. I also don’t want to scare her and hide her away from things. I want her to live a normal life the way I lived. Of course, I grew up when there was no paparazzi but people would approach my parents all the time for their autographs. This is a phase. I think this is part of the job that I have signed up for and I do feel that the paparazzi have been very respectful.
You also seem to have a unique sense of style. What does fashion mean to you?
I am very casual when it comes to fashion. Most of my friends and my husband will tell you that I don’t make a huge effort to dress unless someone is paying me huge money to dress up (laughs). I feel it is unnecessary and try to get away with minimal. But I am changing now. I am making more of an effort. I understand the importance of self-grooming. I understood that I wasn’t giving importance to myself and thought I didn't need to dress up or apply makeup. I thought I am a mother so I need to tie my hair up and wear dal stains on my clothes - but then I realised I was losing myself. I think when you dress up and put on some make-up, you feel good. Fashion is different for different people and I don’t follow trends and I don’t necessarily wear what people wear on the runway. For me, fashion is more about art and expression and style is about what is wearable and what is appropriate for an event.