Mumbai: The ability to laugh at one self is precious. And when it comes with levity, it’s freedom to exhale. Actress and debut author Soha Ali Khan’s memoir The Perils of Being Moderately Famous is a lesson into the lightness of being. In its second edition, owing to a bestseller status, the daughter of privilege embarked on stories about her life, most poignant as a girl-next-door, unabashed with her fame... And the book has emerged as, yes a celebrity-speak, but in a beguiling and unassuming way. Soha’s twitter ID is filled with comments, and one from actress Shabana Azmi is apt, “... how lovely to find you are so comfortable in your own skin,” and credible given Soha’s perils of being from a staggeringly famous family — daughter to Sharmila Tagore and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Saif Ali Khan’s sister. In the city to promote her “moderate famousness” we caught Soha in a tete-a-tete on a taxi ride heading to a literature festival.
Talking 10 to a dozen, the actress and new mommy mulls about the real perils of such ilk, “It’s perilous being an actor in the Hindi film industry, being a woman today, and being from a family of superstars.
Trying to live up to expectations, and coming to terms with who you are — it’s a journey into acceptance. It’s not that I have felt destroyed by expectations, as I have lived a happy life. Though the book, I have chosen to reflect on the pros and cons, yes, there are insignificant things that might eat away at you, as being from the film industry is such a public forum, so you develop a thick skin. From childhood, I saw my parents, both huge stars, how graciously they handled the fame, being famous, for me is not such a big deal,” explains Soha, who journeyed through life, giving it an unseriousness she seems all the wiser because of.
On the “self-depreciating” humour moniker, Soha is quick to disagree, “I was not trying to do that! I disagree. I was not being hard on myself, just writing with the ability to laugh at oneself. It’s more than making fun of yourself, it goes deeper into looking at the lighter side of life, my humour comes from a joy of laughing.”
The likeable ease of her first book has tugged at her readers’ hearts, with it’s not wannabe, simple ‘propah’ harangue. Even Saif Ali Khan, aka Bhai loved her book, infact, “He told me you should do something in Britain too, as it’s tone was very Brit with its deadpan Brit humour. He is proud of me, he and mom were both surprised that I finished the book as writing takes discipline. He is an avid reader, and I definitely feel that there is a book in him too, or more!” she adds.
Soha’s four-month-old daughter, the light-eyed Inaaya Naumi fills her days — she gets up every five hours so her sleep cycle has changed — an anathema as the earlier Soha needed 10 hours sleep! Today, she gets up early much to the surprise of her family. “I didn’t know I’d wake up happily at 6 am. She takes up all my mind space, and I happily give it. It’s a roller coaster — You think a baby is helpless, but it’s the opposite. She’s her own person and I can see she is already showing great personality, it’s amazing that Kunal (Khemu) and I created her,” chirps a doting mommy. Inaaya has already had a few play dates with her already-famous cousin, her brother Saif and Kareena’s son Taimur. “Taimur’s play time is between 5 and 7 or 4 and 6. Earlier, I would go often to play with him, now it’s difficult as I’m busy with Inaaya. But, yes, he’s just so adorable, and is already fully playing, so it’s not much play yet as Inaaya is still a baby. Am waiting for a time when they can take on each other, that would be fun,” she says.
Her father Tiger Pataudi’s (Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi) opinion mattered most to her, she says, “Because of the person he was, grounded, nice and always interested in other people’s lives. That was a wonderful attribute, and we imbued that by example. I am like him, and my choices of going to Oxford were all a natural evolution of this, not like he told us what to do, but how he was. The only decision — my taking up films — was not what he liked, but as parents I think once they realised that it made me happy, and was coming from an honest place, they understood,” she adds.
Having the impeccably dressed legendary Sharmila Tagore as mom to imbibe too, in Soha’s perspective does bring a smile to the face (in her book), “While she has always been liberal, she is not one to mince words, be it my choice of films, clothing, hair style, etc. It can be difficult at times. In one way, I appreciate that because when I do get positive acknowledgements, I know she means it. My mother was the strongest critic of my book, and yes, when she is critical, it does hurt. A measured reaction with a maturity to understand and process, helps,” she says.
Next — diaper changing, and joys of motherhood, “At the moment, I can’t imagine finding time to write another, I am happy to give all my time to Inaaya. I enjoyed writing the book, and feel like I’ve only scratched the surface,” she says... under the surface will surely follow....