Soha Ali Khan finally reveals her role in Deepa Mehta’s closely guarded adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s 1981 Booker prize-winning novel, Midnight’s Children. “I play Jamila, Saleem Sinai’s sister. The two aren’t real siblings but when Saleem develops feeling for her, she doesn’t respond well,” says Soha.
Though Saleem is supposedly the promised child born at midnight, it’s Jamila who becomes more successful, says Soha. “I go on to become an accomplished singer and a bulbul of Pakistan who also sings for the President,” she explains. “They use my voice to motivate troops going to war. Jamila is quite vain and too young to care about anything but herself.”
Soha rates Rushdie as one of the most intelligent authors today. “One of the reasons I said yes to the film is because of his excellent style, attention to detail, bizarre visual meanderings and digressions,” she says. “I was ready to play any part because I wanted to be part of the film.”
To prepare for their roles, the ensemble cast consisting of Shabana Azmi, Shahana Goswami, Seema Biswas, Shriya Saran, Indian American actor Satya Bhabha and Soha, did a weeklong workshop in Sri Lanka. “We learnt to let go of our inhibitions, to get in character and how to respond to other characters,” says Soha. “Things emerged in the workshop that Deepa incorporated into the screenplay.”
Salman Rushdie has been a figure of controversy since he wrote The Satanic Verses which is banned in India.
So does Soha forsee trouble for the film? “I would not want to comment on that,” she says. “The book that was banned here is different. There is nothing in the film or the book that should be objectionable. However, in this country people get offended as and when they feel like. I don’t think attention should be given to things like that.”