The svelte Sara Ali Khan ventured into acting with Kedarnath and Simmba. Since then, there has been no looking back for this petite beauty. Since her debut, and following the commercial success of her films, she has gone on to work in a variety of advertisements. Her latest venture, Atrangi Re, saw a Christmas Eve release on Disney+ Hotstar. Produced by Yellow Productions and T-Series, and directed by Aanand L Rai, the film stars Akshay Kumar, Dhanush and Sara Ali Khan in the leading roles. Sara discloses her wish of working with filmmakers Zoya Akhtar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, her relationship with her mother and her sibling and more in this enticing interview with Lipika Varma.
We have a lot of expectations from director Aanand L Rai’s film. How was your experience working with him?
Insha’Allah, I hope people love it. I would like to say that I had a lot of fun working with [Director] Aanandji. More than anything, what is special about him is that he is an extremely simple person. This is not a simple story. But Aanandji is so simple, emotional, and sensitive that he has managed to present his character in the same light. I have learned so much through Aanandji. Himanshu [Writer] pens it beautifully; both don’t give weightage to the lines as much as the character. He wants you to understand the thought of the character. He wants your eyes to speak differently than your words. This is the first time the director has told me ‘You are mouthing cuss words with your tongue, but your eyes are filled with tears…aankhen ro rahi hai.’ I was like ‘How do I do this?’ Slowly and gradually, I started understanding Aanandji’s language.
‘Chaka Chak’ is a peppy folk number and you have danced so well. How many days have you rehearsed?
It wasn’t that; we were in lockdown. We were shooting in March 2020 in Banaras and then the lockdown happened. No sooner was the lockdown to open that we were to do this song. Thus, I got 5-6 days to shoot. But my body had not moved for so long. I was locked down. We didn’t do anything for almost 6-7 months. All that irritation of not working was put into this song. Vijay Ganguly [Choreographer] made me sizzle to his tune very nicely.
Will we see you working down South? Any discussions in the offing?
I would love to work in every language. Not only South films, but I wish to work in Punjabi films, and Bengali films. Undeniably, I am Indian, and wish to do any film from any territory of our country. I only intend to make a mark of my own first in Hindi films. In the meantime, if I get offered films from any region of our country I shall do it happily. I have yet to get any offers from down South.
Any future films signed?
There will be an announcement. From the very beginning until today the two things that have been important to me is that I want to be a part of stories that deserve to be told and I want to work with filmmakers that will help me perform. I think I am trying to do that with films.
Would you like to name the filmmakers that you wish to work with?
I want to work with everybody. Mr Bhansali, and Zoya Akhtar are the names that excite me, off the top of my head.
Would you like to work for any particular genre?
I don’t think there is any genre I don’t wish to do. Kedarnath, Simmba, Luv Aaj Kal and Atrangi Re are all different films. Whether people appreciate my films or not, I feel good. Even my songs are so different; Aankh Mare is not the same as Chaka-Chak which is not the same as Husnn Hai Suhaana. All are very different. If I can sit in my room and have fun watching YouTube videos of my work my songs, I feel like I have done different stuff. I need to do much more; I would love to explore action
The Professional Side
What are some technical know-hows you have learnt from your co-stars and directors?
All my directors have been very supportive for me. Right from Gattu [Abhishek Kapoor] sir to Aanandji, if the continuity AD comes to remind me of something, they will tell him to go away and encourage me to do whatever I want to do. The technical thing about Aanandji is that he is emotionally very strong. He is sensitive but does not want to limit you technically. You learn so much. I learned that when you scream with blank eyes, it’s irritating. From my co-stars…I remember all the actors, right from Shushant to Dhanush, who’ve told me this – ‘Since this is a tight close-up shot, don’t shake your heads and eyebrows too much. Be natural.’ Varun [Dhawan] and Ranveer [Singh] also all gave me these tips.
Dhanush is known to be a very disciplined actor. Did you give him a tough competition?
Not at all. That was never the intention. It was great as he is so senior. He is a multiple National Award winner. He is called Thalaiva for a reason. I remember, when we were shooting in Madurai, it was so crowded, and people were yelling Thalaiva at the top of their voice. I was like wow, what’s this? He has also worked with Aanandji before and so they had that kind of rapport. Aanandji was like my father figure and Dhanush was like my fairy godmother, that was the dynamic. It was never ‘Actor hai aur usko takkar dena hai!’ That can never happen. No one can give him any competition. He is outstanding. The intention was to be inspired by him and learn from him and perform to the best of my ability.
Do you agree that down South, the fans hero worship actors?
I don’t know about this; all I can say is that people in places all over the world have a different way to do it. When I worked with Ranveer [Singh] and walked with him in malls, people were screaming his name as loudly as they were screaming Thalaiva. If you idolize or are a fan or a well-wisher then the language you follow does not matter. Of course, there is hero worship down South that is more prevalent than with us. But in our industry – with whatever I have gauged through social media – there is an element of aspiration which is not so much about ‘Yeh Bhagwan Hai’ but ‘I can become this,’ especially with the girls in our generation. I feel relatability is an aspect and very important in today’s day and age, rather than that godly kind of fan worship.
The Personal Equation
What did you do during the lockdown?
I spent a lot of my time with my mother and forced my brother to spend as much time as possible with me. I watched movies and read; in fact, I had stopped reading. Life had gotten so busy in 2019. By the end of 2018, two films of mine had seen the light of the day. The entire year of 2019, I was either shooting or doing some brand adverts, working on covers etc. It was a beautiful year for me but very hectic. Between all this, getting time for myself and with my books stopped. So, I think a large part of the lockdown was kind of family time. More than family time, I love my mom and my brother. I was happy to have some, me time. Even if I must sacrifice work sometimes to be with my mom and brother I shall do it. But prioritizing time for myself, and my reading, that was important.
What books did you read?
I did a lot of reading. I finished Anna Karenina which is just a beautiful book and I’m happy about it. I also completed Madame Bovary and finished a lot of [Leo] Tolstoy books consisting of short stories. I read a lot of Russian literature. I read a lot of love poems by William Wordsworth, the nature poet.