There’s something about Sara Ali Khan that sets her apart from the rest of her contemporaries. From the ease that she exudes as an interviewee to the way she takes all the questions head-on – none of her qualities are like that of a newcomer. Maybe her upbringing and qualifications are to be credited for her confident demeanour. Or maybe that’s just how she is. She has a witty well-read dad in Nawab Saif Ali Khan and a super talented mom, Amrita Singh – who happens to be an absolute firecracker. Naturally, she has grown up to be smart, vivacious and flamboyant. A graduate from Columbia University in New York, this 25-year old is all set to begin her acting career opposite Sushant Singh Rajput in Abhishek Kapoor‘s next.
When I reached the famous Mehboob studios in Bandra to interview this gorgeous youngster about her debut film, Kedarnath, she was already busy talking to another journalist. I was next in line and along with me, a number of photographers were waiting for Sara. They requested the debutante for pictures saying they’d leave immediately thereafter. Sara excuses herself from the interview, obliged the photographers, said “Thank you” and “Namaste”, and within 3 minutes, went back to the interaction. Everyone was happy. That’s the grace and maturity she has. But I saw a different side to her that day. When I was introduced to her by the PR, she got extremely thrilled! “Listen I check all MissMalini posts, I stalk all of them. I think it’s such a cool Instagram page. I just love it. Listen, you guys are so nice about me all the time. There are times where you all have said ‘she’s looking so pretty and all’ and I can see I am looking bloated and all. You guys are so sweet, it’s lovely.” she said, adding, “I’ve been told not to behave this way.” Sara was a breath of fresh air and boy, was I glad that she wasn’t hiding this side of hers. This was enough to get both of us comfortable for the interview.
She quickly settles in the chair at Mehboob studios and with a big smile on her face, gets ready for our tête-à-tête.
Sara, I have seen a couple of your interviews of yours and you’ve finished shooting for two of your movies. Has it sunk in that you’re a Bollywood actress, yet?
No, no way! I am sitting in a room right now. Sushant is giving some interview in some corner, there are Kedarnath posters, there are lights, there’s media, there are bouncers, and there are PR people– I am in shock. I don’t know what’s going on. I will have a real moment with you and tell you that happiness, enthusiasm, excitement, nervousness, all of this you expect but I am almost heartbroken that this film is releasing because it’s such a personal journey. It’s a passion project for me. It’s been everything that I’ve wanted, everything that I dreamt of. I’ve lived Kedarnath every day since I have read that script. I have read that script, I have re-read that script, I have acted that script, I have dubbed that script and I am now promoting that script. And in a few more days, it’s not going to be my baby anymore. It’s going to be India’s film. I know that I am actually giving you guys something beautiful but I am also giving something beautiful that was just mine, Sushant’s (Singh Rajput) and Gattu sir’s (Abhishek Kapoor, director) until now. I can’t tell you how that feels. After the 7th (release date) it’s all of ours. I am so possessive about Kedarnath. I just hope and pray that everyone loves it and deals with it with the sensitivity that I have.
We have always heard people say that star kids have it easy, but there is another side to it. So how has your journey before you became a part of Kedarnath been? What was that phase like?
See you know, when you talk about the star kids having it easier or not… Everybody is born where they are born. The first thing about it is that this is very important to acknowledge, without getting misunderstood, that you don’t choose who you are born to. Am I proud of my father and mother. Would I want any other parents? Definitely not. I am so proud that I am Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter. It is who I am and I am proud of that. But I didn’t choose that. So to be victimised because of that in any aspect is not necessary or essential at all. If I am good, you guys will like me. If I am not good, the same pages that I follow and stalk will say she’s a flop. And I understand that and it’s your job to do that. So I respect that. So as far as being a star kid is concerned, I am a kid of a star. So I guess that is true. Before Kedarnath also I was supposed to do a couple of other projects that didn’t really pan out and that’s it. What else can I say?
Before you even signed the film, I am sure you must have discussed this with your parents. What was that conversation like? Were they always okay with the idea of you entering movies?
Firstly, let’s start with the fact that it would be extremely hypocritical of them to not be okay with it because they are both actors. So there was no scope of that. But as actors, it was their minimum duty to make me aware of what it is that I am dreaming of, what it is that I am praying for. So the only thing they did was try to show me what being an actor would entail. It’s not all like chane ke khet mein. There’s more than that to it. So, that is what they tried to do. What they were trying to show me was that it can be up and down, it can have its trials and tribulations, there will be days when you can’t get out of bed and that isn’t only after a flop. I mean I wasn’t getting out of bed all of January, February and March because I didn’t know what was happening with Kedarnath. And it can take a toll on you because the minute you’re invested in something and you love it, it can take a toll on you. So I think that it was just a very honest, very appreciated and a very obvious attempt to get me aware of what I am dreaming of rather than trying to change it. Truth be told, with no arrogance intended and all respect to both my parents, after hearing a script like Kedarnath, they couldn’t have stopped me. Being a mama’s girl or papa’s girl I may have listened to them if they asked me not to go to a party, not to wear an outfit or even not to wear a nail polish. But this is my dream, they can’t… and I think they knew that they couldn’t.
One thing that Saif, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Amrita told you that is always going to stay with you?
As far as acting is concerned, the main thing that she’s told me is that the person that you are translates on screen because your eyes hold the person that you are. So, try to be as honest and as pure as a person so that you can sleep well at night and wake up happy in the morning and perform honestly in front of the camera. I will never forget those words.
My father has told me, to remember even though it’s the best job in the world, that it is a job and you do have a family and you do have friends and you have a life and all of that deserves as much importance also. Which is easy to forget especially if you’re a newcomer and especially if you’re ambitious, both of which I am. So, to just remember and take a breath and have a piece of chocolate once in a while, even if your dietitian and manager are staring at you, it’s okay. I think that’s what he’s taught me. Kareena, I think, has taught me more from example. I think she’s such a balanced person. You know she strikes a very beautiful balance between her social life, her domestic life and her career. And that’s something one really aspires to do.
Sara, we saw you address the fact that you have PCOD. It is a very normal thing.
Ya, 1 in 3 girls have it. I am so shocked that people are shocked that I am talking about it. Why is it so shocking? I am not the weird one. It’s normal, it’s okay.
I am glad that you have come up and spoken about it. You know I have friends who have PCOD and it kind of affects them a lot emotionally.
Yes, it does. The thing is because I am an actor, the puffy face or the acne or the bloating or the weight gain will be seen faster. Honestly, all of that is not even 15% of what PCOD really is. The main thing is the imbalance in the hormone level. So what that really does is that, you’ll have an amazing day and an amazing shoot, your co-actor and your director will say well done, your mom will say beautiful things to you and you’ll go home feeling low because your hormones are not aligned properly. It can take a toll on you. You do feel emotional, you do go through these mood swings. But I think knowing that you have PCOD, it helps because there are times where I am telling myself ‘listen baby, you’re upset but you need to know it’s your hormones’. It happened to me day before yesterday. I was giving interviews and somebody said you’re looking so pretty, somebody was really lovely to me, I had just gone on India’s Got Talent, I had met Karan (Johar), Sushant and I had a blast and we laughed with Malaika (Arora), and I was standing with some and I looked at her and said listen I think I am about to cry. I think she just smiled at me. But the fact of the matter is that sometimes you do get hormonal and you do get emotional but you tell yourself that ‘Brother it’s the hormones, just ride it and you’ll be okay’. Have a sip of coffee and get up and go, it will be fine.
After Kedarnath, your next film is Simmba. Tell me about that experience. How has it been shooting with Ranveer Singh?
You know Ranveer is such an outstanding actor but that’s not surprising because we know that. He’s the biggest superstar in our country. What is surprising is that he’s more hardworking than a newcomer. He will rehearse his lines with an AD or an actor before the take, 10 times. He is so focused, so dedicated, never distracted and you know he’s a huge personality. Everybody wants to be around him, everybody wants to talk to him, but when he’s on set, he’s a no-nonsense person, he’s there to work. He’s there to do serious work and seriously inspirational work. So I think that’s been the biggest giveaway of working with Ranveer.
Is there any anecdote you would like to share maybe from Simmba or Kedarnath?
There are so many things, where does one even start? Kedarnath was just a riot of fun except for the fact that we didn’t have much food to eat because we were on mountain tops. I have spent 7 days eating a lot of Maggi and Kurkure. Then suddenly the costume woman and I were having issues because the zip wouldn’t go up. I was putting on weight and okay, let’s be honest, I was daabaoing on besan laddoos also because it was yum. There was fresh prasad from there. I became friends with one of the priests there in Kedarnath. Because Sushant and Gattu sir would watch the match every day after the shoot was over. But I don’t like to watch the match, no offence. So I would go to the temple and I would listen to the aarti and hang, so the priest and I became friendly. He used to give me these fresh besan laddoos and I used to say ‘ya, ya I’ll take for Sushant and I’ll take for Gattu sir and chalte, chalte nothing for Sushant nothing for Gattu sir, just a slightly larger Sara which is not a funny story because it is extremely unprofessional to be like this when you’re on shoot. I promise to never do this again and I didn’t do it during Simmba even though Hyderabad has yummy food. I had chicken biryani, but only once. When I went to Goa I had this tandoori prawn, but again, just once. So I have learnt how to start behaving.
Is it difficult to resist the temptation especially when there is so much food around?
It is the hardest thing. On the set, there’s chai and biscuit, that’s zeher. It’s everywhere and everybody is having it chuski maar-maar ke. You are just looking at them and giving such bad vibes that probably that chai is already zeher because you’ve poisoned their cup by just looking at it because you want it and you want it now. And working with Sushant and Ranveer, both of who are fit and cool, but they have chocolate around them all the time. Funnily enough, they are 2 of the only people I have seen do this. I’ve seen them scoop out Nutella and eat it and I am just standing there looking like a lost puppy with eyes and mouth on the floor. And then they would look kickass and I am like how is this happening? And I am eating my broccoli on the side looking at it and saying ‘this could be Nutella’.
Taimur Ali Khan is just a 2-year-old kid and he’s still the paparazzi’s favorite. As a sister does it bother you that there is so much limelight on him right now?
You know this is going to sound a contrived answer, and I am not fully there yet, I’ll be honest with you, I am only 90% there, but I strive to not let things that are out my control to bother me. I started being somebody, I was born a somebody that could get very bothered. But being around in this world has actually taught me that there’s enough to worry about that you can control, so you shouldn’t worry about what you cannot control. As a sister, it’s more my duty and more my prerogative to ensure that he lives a normal life, he has an education, he has good friends rather than trying to hide him from the media because I am not going to succeed in doing that. So why spend my mental time doing that? You know that’s pretty silly. At the end of the day, it’s okay. Every situation has its negatives and positives. If you can’t change it, then learn how to adapt. My father and Kareena are fairly intelligent and sensitive people. I am sure they will ensure that his upbringing is not compromised because of the media attention that he gets. And I am sure it’s going to be okay, so it’s fine.
Welcome to the movies, Sara, and good luck for your debut film!