Hope in her eyes...

Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan is all set to make her big screen debut with the films ‘Kedarnath’ and ‘Simmba’.

In newness Sara Ali Khan

She’s a born star: Saif Ali Khan’s and Amrita Singh’s daughter has shown a humongous spark in the promos of her debut film Kedarnath. The general consensus in the industry, trade and even audience is that Sara Ali Khan is set for instant stardom with her charismatic persona and acting talent, apart from being among the strongest contenders for Best Newcomer awards this year.

When we meet at Film City, Sara is eagerly clicking photographs with individual journalists, and she gamely poses for us as well. After 20 minutes of conversation, we feel we know each other for years. And there is no breaking the ‘ice’ as the conversation is completely ‘fluid’!

As this is her debut film, we first ask how she is finding the promotional blitz and flurry of electronic and print medium interviews, and is she used to it? Candidly, she says, “People have horrible things to say about this part, so I guess I am really not used to it because I am having a blast! People are talking so warmly, so lovingly, and saying such nice things about me and my film, which is like my baby! What could be nicer?”

Two to tango

And speaking of babies, Sara is delivering twins this month, we tell her, as her second film, Simmba, releases on December 28. She laughs and agrees.

Her mother always says that one man — Dharmendra — is solely responsible for her existence in cinema. Who is that one person in her life? “It wouldn’t be fair for me to mention one name. I would say that both Abhishek Kapoor (director of Kedarnath) and Rohit Shetty (Simmba’s director) have shaped me. Yes, but the first opportunity came from Abhishek, so that makes him really special!”

How has she been so effortless, even in demanding sequences, in her very first film, despite not being a trained actor? “I don’t know enough to truthfully answer that question,” she replies with disarming honesty. “There is something new to learn every day, and just as I am learning, my parents are also learning even now, after starting out decades ago. I think that, for an actor, being present and real is the most you can do. Between the commands of “Action!’ and “Cut!” you must try with sincerity to show what your character is feeling.”

She adds, “In that, I was very lucky! I had a director whose eyes were on me, and Sushant Singh Rajput, a co-actor who not only gave me cues but also bits of advice and inputs. If my Hindi is even decent, it is only because of him. He told me that we should converse with each other only in Hindi, and corrected my diction, too.”

And, was she lucky with her other star? She laughs and says, “Oh, Ranveer (Singh) is amazing, he’s such a bundle of energy, and it was such a privilege to work with him. I have been a fan of his! When we first met, it was in Hyderabad for a wedding where I shamelessly asked him for a picture together, and then one more as it was not so good. The second time was for our shoot, and that was also in Hyderabad!”

Sara emphasises that she feels blessed as she was treated with a lot of love and respect and given lots of comfort by both her units. She adds, “As the world knows, Kedarnath had its ups and downs. Though we had the conviction that we would overcome the odds because we were good people, a part of me was petrified! I have never slept for days, called my producers repeatedly to ask, ‘Are we on track?’ Mom was loving and supportive, but after a point, even she got concerned.”

Did Sara interact with the survivors, victims or their kin of the flood that wreaked havoc on Kedarnath in 2013, and which is replicated in the film? Shaking her head, she answers, “No, I never met any survivor, but we all saw many documentaries. Believe me, no one can understand the magnitude of that disaster without visual inputs. One second, a building, the ground, and people are there, and then in the next second, they are not there! There were people talking about their families. One person said how he could have either saved his daughter or his son and pregnant wife, and he saved the latter because two is better than one!”

Did all this enrich Sara as an actor or as a human being?

“It definitely enriched me as a human being. Kedarnath is an extremely full experience! It has taught me a lot — how to sleep at night when I don’t know if my film is going to release or not, which for a newcomer is worse! As I said, it taught me that between ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’ nothing matters but the character, whether at that time you are tired or hungry! So it teaches me to focus and prioritise.”

On the job

She goes on, “I get a broader picture too — like if one more take is needed, it is not just us actors and the director and DOP. It is about every light-man lighting the shot exactly the same way, the focus puller adjusting the focus exactly the same way too, the gaffer doing his job in identical fashion, and the spotboy needing to get one more round of tea, perhaps.” So, which fine day did she decide her career would be in acting, or was it always the case?

She smiles, “I was four or five years old when I wanted to be an actor, but I was also studious. So, off I went to Columbia University in New York, and since it was a liberal arts school, I also learnt Economics, History, Political Science, Drama, Maths and Chemistry. And that’s when I realised that nothing gives me the rush that acting does. See, knowing is one thing, and testing and eliminating other options and then deciding that at 20, I had the same passion for acting as when I was four, was what clinched the matter!”

She does appreciate her parents’ support and advice but says that, in the event, they had not liked the scripts of her two films, she would have done them anyway. “They both know I have a mind of my own,” she smiles. And Sara disregards competition for a valid reason: “The audience deserves more and more fresh talent, and everyone has his own uniqueness that no one else can emulate,” she says. “As for me, no one should say that Sara Ali Khan cannot do everything. I want to do everything from an Imtiaz Ali film to a David Dhawan movie!”

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Hope in her eyes...

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