After British production, Life Goes On, co-starring mother Sharmila Tagore, Soha Ali Khan has just wrapped up her second international project, Winds Of Change, Deepa Mehta adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Soha, who read the Booker prize-winning novel when she was in college, admits she never imagined playing a part in a film adapted by her favourite book.
A contract prevents her from unveiling her screen identity, but prod her on her favourite character from the novel and she immediately zeroes in on Emerald and Mumtaz, but is quick to add that this doesn’t mean she’s playing either.
Midnight’s Children is the story of Saleem Sinai, a 30-year-old pickle factory worker. The book starts with his grandfather’s story, and then a generation later cuts to the lives of five children in Agra in 1942 — three girls and two boys. Emerald is one of the sisters who is dating Nadir Khan, a young nationalist who after the death of his leader, Mian Abdullah code-named the Hummingbird, spends three years hiding out in the basement of Aziz’s house.
During his confinement, he falls in love and marries the middle sister, Mumtaz, who is Saleem’s mother. A jealous Emerald leaks his whereabouts to an army officer, Major Zulfikar. Khan manages to elude capture, Zulfikar marries Emerald, Mumtaz sets up home with leather merchant Ahmed Sinai, changes her name to Amina and moves to Delhi.
“Emerald is a fascinating character — young, dutiful, proud and yet insecure in so many ways. I love her for her complexities, but my personal favourite is Mumtaz/Amina. She is Saleem’s mother and a lot of what happens is viewed through her eyes,” points out Soha who as a student of history was fascinated by Rushdie’s fictionalised account of India through the 20th century.
While her brother, Saif Ali Khan, had thumbed down an offer to be part of the film because he felt he was too young to play the character offered, Soha says she would have taken up the role of a 50-year-old as a challenge. “Certain films are not so much about footage or remuneration. I had to be a part of Winds Of Change in any capacity not because it’s a big international movie, but because it’s like being part of our country’s history.”