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I will listen to you if I can learn from you’: Sara Ali Khan opens up about her career- Cinema express

I will listen to you if I can learn from you’: Sara Ali Khan opens up about her career and next release, Gaslight

Sara Ali Khan chooses to be unfettered by critics who are only trying to bring her down. She chats with us about the ups and downs in her career and speaks about her next release, Gaslight


Published: 26th March 2023
I will listen to you if I can learn from you’: Sara Ali Khan opens up about her career and next rele

“Just yesterday, I was recalling an incident with a friend. This one time I went trekking with a group to Tulian Lake in Pahalgam (Jammu and Kashmir),” begins Sara Ali Khan, speaking from Lahaul and Spiti (Himachal Pradesh). “We made the bad decision of returning downhill after dark. It was 1 am. Somebody warned, ‘look, there is something behind you.’ I replied, ‘If it is a ghost, don’t bother, but tell me if it is a bear.’”

When she gets a window, her will to run uphill isn’t stopped by packed schedules or burly bears. She managed, for instance, to squeeze in a trip to Spiti Valley between two schedules of Murder Mubarak, a horror-comedy she is working on with director Homi Adajania (Being Cyrus, 2006; Cocktail, 2012). Also in the pipeline are Kannan Iyer’s Ae Watan Mere Watan, in which she plays a college girl who joins the 1942 Quit India Movement, and yet-to-be-titled projects with Laxman Utekar (Luka Chuppi, 2019; Mimi, 2021) and Jagan Shakti (Mission Mangal, 2019). Her immediate release is Pavan Kirpalani’s Gaslight, in which she is starring with Vikrant Massey and Chitrangda Singh for the first time. “I can’t sit idle,” confesses Sara. “And in Gaslight, a high-energy person like me is bound to a wheelchair. It was so out of my comfort zone.”

In the whodunnit, Sara plays Meesha, a young, paraplegic woman, who returns to her ancestral mansion and tries to uncover the secrets behind her father’s disappearance. The trailer shows a different shade of Sara, who seems uncharacteristically solemn and speaks in a low, husky voice, fitting for the lead of a dark mystery-thriller. It is an unlikely role for an actor who has mostly played to her personality and essayed bubbly parts. “It is important for me, as an actor, to not adhere to any genre. I want to do any kind of film as long as it has an interesting story.” And she is particularly intrigued by whodunits like Gaslight. “Even as a viewer, I love the genre—it’s so much fun to try and guess the identity of the perpetrator. I hope that filmmakers will keep approaching me with such different work.”

This is Sara’s sixth year in the Hindi film industry. After graduating in History and Political Science from New York’s Columbia University in 2016 (in three years compared to the allocated four), she went on to utilise the next year doing weight training. She made her debut in 2018 with Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath, in which she gave an assertive performance as Manadakini Mishra, the daughter of a priest who falls in love with Sushant Singh Rajput’s Mansoor, a Muslim porter. It was a performance that burst with quirky energy. An untrained actor who was facing the camera for the first time, she showed rare assurance and confidence even though her character in the film, in a funny, meta way, kept harping, “Pata hain kitna pressure hain hum par? (Do you know how much pressure I am under?).” Sara received rave reviews for her acting skills and went on to win the Filmfare award for the Best Female Debut.

Next came Rohit Shetty’s action-comedy Simmba (2018), in which she had the herculean task to match the screen presence of Ranveer Singh. It turned out to be a quintessential “love-interest” performance, but Sara still got to exhibit her dancing acumen. 2020 was a tough year for the actor. Coolie No. 1 and Love Aaj Kal were panned by audiences and critics alike and their failure planted a big question mark on the promise of Sara Ali Khan. She was viciously trolled on social media for her laboured performance in the Imtiaz Ali directorial. A particular scene (‘Tum mujhe tang karne lage ho’ (You are bothering me) from the film also served as meme fodder. In 2021’s Atrangi Re, however, Sara played on her strengths and redeemed herself. “The takeaway from all of these experiences in the last five years is that I am at a stage of life where it’s okay to make mistakes. After Love Aaj Kal and Coolie No. 1, I think I was too harsh on myself,” she says. “My journey was good till Kedarnath and Simmba. It went downhill after Love Aaj Kal and Coolie No.1 and again, I was appreciated for my performance in Atrangi Re. It is important to work with diligence. Don’t bog yourself down, learn from your mistakes, and just go onwards and upwards from there.”

The failures never made her question her craft. “I think my craft will keep growing. That’s why I surround myself with actors and directors I can learn fromWorking with Aanand L Rai for Atrangi Re is an experience I will cherish forever. My craft gets honed by the on-set experience I get.” Sara, who isn’t deterred by small setbacks, isn’t bothered by criticism as long as it is constructive. “I will listen to you if I can learn from you, but if you are only trying to bring me down, then I won't get affected.”

Her mother, actor Amrita Singh, has been instrumental in getting Sara up in her low phases. “I always go to her for advice,” she shares. “She is a smart woman, who has also been an actor. She retains the balance in my life and doesn’t let me down.”

It is almost impossible to imagine her feeling down, given how outspoken and outgoing she is—traits that you see in her Instagram activity as well. She frequently posts videos of herself sipping tea or enjoying a plate of maggi in the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and they are never captioned without her ‘shayari’. Mountains, she confesses, bring her calm. “I go to beaches too, like I went to Maldives with my mother and my brother (Ibrahim Ali Khan). But in the hills, you get a kind of happiness, silence and solace, which is unbeatable.”

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