Women’s Day Exclusive: Soha Ali Khan on working in films and how things have evolved for women
In an exclusive chat, actress Soha Ali Khan spoke about how her first role in Bollywood was affected because of her progressive choices.
By Shweta Parande
Bollywood actress and author Soha Ali Khan was a part of a panel discussion on women empowerment and embracing equity, at an exclusive gathering in Mumbai on March 1. The event was organised by Airbnb ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8. After the general chat on the topic, CineBlitz got to speak exclusively to Soha Ali Khan about her experience working in the film industry, and how the scenario has changed now. Excerpts from the chat.
What has been your experience working in the film industry? In the discussion, you talked about coming from a place of privilege and yet there must have been some challenges that you faced…
Absolutely. It would say something as simple as in my very first film, Dil Maange More (2004), where I was offered one of three roles. I chose to play Neha who chooses her career over Shahid Kapoor’s character, which I thought was a sensible choice at the age of 18…but I realised that I was writing myself out of the film and out of the role of the heroine, which then went to Ayesha Takia. Because if you choose the hero, you become the heroine, (but) if you choose your career, then people are like a little, y’know, ‘what a strange choice’. So, I quickly learnt how movie maths works.
How different is the situation now in the film industry?
But I am happy to say that now, many years down the line, things have definitely changed – on a script level, and when it comes to seeing women on screen, they are trying to make them really rounded off as characters. For instance, women on screen now have jobs.
(Back then) even in a movie like Dil Chahta Hai (2001) that was so progressive, none of the women had professions – except for Dimple Kapadia’s character which was older (than the man) and that relationship didn’t work out. You know, there are things that have subconsciously existed for a long time, and now consciously people are at least doing that (trying to bring about a change).
Has there been a major change and what is the future of women in the industry?
The most important change I would say is that women in their forties are being represented on screen. Also, it’s nice that women aren’t just being portrayed as mothers. It’s all right if you don’t want to be a mother or don’t want to get married – it doesn’t make you less of a woman. So, you’re seeing different kinds of women being represented on screen. Even female actors are being given employment…behind the scenes also you are seeing women in non-traditional departments like cinematography and editing, and that is nice. But it’s still just scratching the surface.