BOOK EXCERPT

‘She’s Saif Ali Khan’s sister!’ Soha Ali Khan on fame, reflected glory, and charting her own career

‘Are you famous? It’s a good question,’ the actress says with humour and honesty in edited excerpts from her memoir.

‘Are you famous?’

It wasn’t the first time I had been asked that question (and it probably won’t be the last), but I have always struggled with the right answer. I was in Selfridges, the well-known Oxford Street department store that has become a social landmark in London. It was July, 2015, and the much-anticipated summer sale had just kicked off which meant the store was teeming with people. I had managed to get my hands on Charlotte Tilbury’s ‘Pillow Talk’ lip liner, indisputably the luxury launch of the decade, which promised the perfect shade of nude so that your lips appeared bare of make-up altogether.

As I was waiting in line to pay the sixteen pounds you couldn’t convince me for the world I was throwing away, an Indian girl at the cosmetic counter recognized my face and called out to her friends. Soon a decent-sized group had formed around me, asking for selfies. Some of the non-Indian people also stopped to look.

‘Are you famous?’ asked the saleswoman as I got to the front of the queue to pay for my shopping. I glanced at the name tag on the saleswoman’s shirt.

‘Well, Becky, not if you have to ask,’ I quipped, but inside I was feeling an odd mix of embarrassment and self-importance.

‘Who is she?’ I heard her ask one of the gaggle of giggling girls as I turned to leave.

‘Don’t you know?’ the girl gasped.

I smiled at her response, feeling quite pleased with myself. I had only recently become active on social media and my Instagram account was gaining in popularity with followers from the UAE and England as well as other parts of the world.

‘She’s Saif Ali Khan’s sister!’

I closed my eyes momentarily as irritation gave way to submission. Of course! And it was true. I was. I am. It’s probably safe to say I have been recognized as Sharmila Tagore’s daughter or Saif Ali Khan’s sister more times than I have been recognized as Soha Ali Khan. You would think it would get irksome but I have learnt, over time, to embrace that part of my identity.

Are you famous?—It’s a good question, one that I have often been asked and one that I frequently ask myself. I would say I am ‘moderately famous’. People in India, and some outside of India, know who I am. What does that mean?

What it doesn’t mean is that they always know my name. They will stop in the street and point me out to their companions (this happens often). Some have seen my films and do know me, and some are fans of my brother, Saif (Bhai), my sister-in-law, Kareena, my mother, Sharmila Tagore (Amman), or my father, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi (Abba), and recognize me as the youngest member of a somewhat notable family. I am not competing with my family members nor am I jostling for my place in the sun. I am content to bask in reflected glory whilst seeking out my unique destiny.

Aamir Khan and Soha Ali Khan in Rang De Basanti. Courtesy UTV.
Aamir Khan and Soha Ali Khan in Rang De Basanti. Courtesy UTV.

I was still lying in bed, scrolling through my Twitter feed, sipping coffee, more asleep than awake, when I saw the headline: Soha reveals major secret about Kareena Kapoor Khan’s pregnancy.

What? When? Where? Who?

I couldn’t answer any of the four basic questions journalists are taught to ask but I was already panicking— the coffee had turned to mud in my mouth and I was finding it difficult to breathe.

I am usually so careful, I never say anything about Amman, Bhai and Kareena—and especially nothing about the baby. Had I inadvertently let something slip?

I sat up and scanned the rest of the article and the more I read the more I relaxed. The major secret was that Bhai and Kareena, or Saifeena as they are together referred to, were not planning to have their child in London as far as I knew.

I remembered the interview. I remember answering the obligatory question about how I was feeling about becoming a bua again, dismissing the one about what preparations we were making, expressing vitriol over the one about whether I wanted a girl or a boy for them.

‘Will they have the baby in London?’ The question had come out of the blue and I was bemused.

‘Why would they have the baby in London?’ There was some furious scribbling and a furtive exchange of glances and I hastily added, ‘I have no idea what they are planning and as far as I know they aren’t planning to have the baby in London.’ I ended with my most convincing but-what-would-I-know shrug.

So the fact that the baby would not be born in London—or Bolivia or Zimbabwe or Mars for that matter—was major news. Any tiny detail or non-detail is major news. And some journalists will come up with the most ingenious ways to uncover these titbits, as illustrated below by the line of questioning I am often subjected to:

Whilst premiering the first episode of The Great Indian Home Makeover—a televised show on interior redecorating that I host— Q: Tell us about the show.

A: It’s a home makeover show where we surprise a homeowner and make over one room in the space of forty-eight hours.

Q: Speaking of redecorating how are you doing up the baby’s room in Saifeena’s house?

Whilst at a press conference for Balmain watches—

Q: Tell us what you like about Balmain watches.

A: They are stylish, elegant and feminine. A woman’s watch is more than just a timepiece, it’s a piece of jewellery, a style accessory.

Q: Speaking of time, it’s a happy time in the family with the baby coming. When is it due?

Whilst at a store inauguration for a jewellery brand—

Q: What is your favourite piece of jewellery?

A: My engagement ring, for obvious reasons.

Q: Speaking of rings, you will be ringing in the new year with a new family member, how will all of you spend New Year’s Eve?

Whilst promoting the film 31st October

Q: Tell us about the film and your role in it.

A: It’s a real-life story about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and I play a Sardarni. I have three children in the film.

Q: Speaking of children . . . (Okay, this one I can forgive.)

Whilst at a Femina Diva style contest—

Q: What does style mean to you?

A: Wearing your personality on your sleeve, being comfortable, confident and carrying yourself in a way that makes you stand out.

Q: Speaking of standing out, isn’t Kareena setting new fashion trends with her baby bump?

During a lifestyle interview—

Q: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

A: I don’t plan ahead much—I try not to live in the past or plan for the future, I live in the present.

Q: Speaking of presents, what are you going to give the baby, have you decided?

During a press conference to announce Kunal and my production company Renegade Films—

Q: Why did you choose to name your company Renegade Films?

A: Renegade means rebel. We liked that it stands for going against the grain, doing things differently.

Q: Speaking of names, is it true they are naming the baby Saifeena?

You get the drift. I calculated that the damage done in this instance was minimal, so I tossed my phone aside, took another sip of my coffee and turned to the less alarming headlines of the national press.

Excerpted with permission from The Perils of Being Moderately Famous, Soha Ali Khan, Penguin Random House.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Now that you’ve reached the top, how often do you say, “Thank You”?

What kind of a leader are you?

How do you define success? The typical picture of success is a large bank balance, expensive material possessions and fame. But for some, success is happiness that comes from fulfilling a childhood dream or attaining a sense of purpose. For those, success is not about the volume of an applause or the weight of a gold medal, but about showing gratitude and sharing success with the people without whom the journey would be incomplete. Here are a few ways you can share your success with others:

Speech

While it sounds simple and formulaic, a genuine, emphatic and honest speech can make everyone feel like they are a part of a winning team. For a personal touch, acknowledge the team’s efforts by mentioning each one of them by name and thanking them for their unique contributions. Hearing their own name makes people feel proud and honoured.

Realise the success should be passed on

Instead of basking in the glory of their own achievements, good leaders encourage, motivate and inspire others to achieve success. A good leader should acknowledge his own mistakes, share his experience and knowledge and cultivate an environment where every milestone is an accomplishment for everyone in the team. Talk about challenges, the personal and professional struggles that you had to overcome. Sharing setbacks helps others to relate to you and helps them overcome struggles they may be facing.

Celebrate

Nothing beats shaking-off the deadlines, work-pressure and fatigue by celebrating success together. Enjoying a job well done together as a team brings about a spirit of camaraderie. A catered lunch, evening drinks or a weekend off-site, the important thing is to enjoy the win with people who have gone through the same struggle.

Keep it flexible

The last thing you want is for work celebrations to become monotonous and repetitive. Not all milestones have to be celebrated in a grand manner, some can just be acknowledged with gestures such as personal Thank You notes or writing a recommendation on LinkedIn.

Make success more meaningful

Go beyond numbers, sales targets and profits and add meaning to the achievement. Reminding everyone of the larger purpose inspires people. It’s easy to lose interest when you do something in a routine fashion. Giving a larger meaning to success makes people feel more involved and energized.

Great leaders are those who share their victories with others. They acknowledge that the path to success is collaborative. Great leaders don’t stand in front of their team, but are found working amongst them. This video is an ode to such leaders who epitomise the Chivas culture and know how to Win The Right Way. Follow Chivas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Chivas Studio Music CDs and not by the Scroll editorial team.