They can talk for hours but prefer hard-core debates to sweet nothings. She loves him but loves Scrabble a little more. He accepts he can’t beat her at it but puts up a fight just to agonise her. He loves mindless action films which put her to sleep. She loves salads and soups which he considers ghaas-phoos. She cringes every time she sees him indulge in fats and carbs. She is true blue royalty and he is a Kashmiri migrant in Mumbai. They are opposite ends of the spectrum and yet Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Khemu can’t get enough of each other.
The couple have been together for over two years now. In an exclusive interview and photo shoot over lunch at Bandra’s swish restaurant, Bungalow 9, they opened up about their love story.
How did you guys meet?
Kunal: We actually met on the sets of Dhoondte Reh Jaoge but we didn’t connect at that time. I didn’t even have her number after we finished shooting the film. I thought she was too intelligent for me.
Soha: I didn’t really feel like we had much in common. I asked him how he liked to spend his free time, and he said he preferred staying in and watching movies. And I thought to myself, what a bore!
So how did that perception change?
Kunal: When we worked on 99, we spent more time together. I had heard of the Soha Ali Khan but I didn’t think she would be this quick-witted person. I knew of her blood line, that she studied at Oxford and was a banker. I felt she would only be interested in people with a high IQ (I’m not saying I don’t have one). But she’s a very humble person.
Soha: I was very attracted to Kunal – his eyes and smile. I knew he was someone I would want to spend a few evenings with. He is very complex while I am more on the surface. I was very intrigued. Some days he was extremely introverted, other days he would chat you up. He kept me on my toes all the time and I like that in a man.
What attracted you to each other?
Kunal: Had we had the same stories to share, we wouldn’t have much to talk about. Soha still finds my stories extremely funny, especially the one where my friends and I barged into a wedding just so we could eat.
Soha: For me, he is someone who has lived life on his own terms and is a self-made man. It’s not just the stories. He’s an interesting person who is sensitive towards other people and has the ability to deal with different and tough circumstances. I draw comfort from the fact that no matter what happens tomorrow, good or bad, he will be grounded because he has seen it all. That gives me a sense of security.
What was your first date like?
Kunal: We actually don’t remember our first date and neither do we believe in remembering dates. We just started hanging out and one thing led to another and soon we were seeing each other.
Soha: The first time Kunal and I went out together was for The Dark Knight. And he arrived 20 minutes late. So I don’t think that qualifies as a date. Another time, he took me out for dinner but we chose a restaurant with super swift service and the meal got over in 15 minutes flat. And even during that joke of a dinner date, he didn’t talk to me much. I was upset because I thought he wasn’t interested in me but after more dinner dates, I realised it’s impossible to talk to Kunal over a meal because he loves his food more than his woman.
You are surrounded by good looking people all the time. How do you deal with attraction?
Soha: You will always find men and women attractive but there’s a difference between thinking and acting. It’s impossible to control what you think but it is possible to control your action and that’s the important thing.
Kunal: I have generally never committed to things in my life but I am very committed to this relationship. Soha is one of my best friends and sometimes I treat her like a friend more than a girlfriend. Sometimes I even talk about other women to her. Even though I appreciate other beautiful women, what gives me more happiness is to have Soha in my life and the thought that she is the woman I will go back home to.
Where does your relationship stand today?
Soha: We communicate very well. On days when we’re feeling insecure, vulnerable or possessive, we manage to talk things through. And even when we fight, we talk it out immediately. People ask us when we’re planning to take it to the next level but we don’t need to take this relationship anywhere. We’re already committed to each other. I don’t think more is required.
Kunal: It’s in a beautiful place. We communicate well and trust each other. I think we’re also very used to each other by now. Is infidelity a deal breaker?
Soha: I’d like to believe that I am someone who can forgive a random fling. If Kunal was to fall in love with someone else and cheat on me then of course it’s a deal breaker. But I feel I could forgive a temporary fling.
How do you deal with insecurities?
Soha: It’s natural to have insecurities but I can’t make his life miserable just because I am feeling insecure about a scene he is doing with another actress. I have to deal with it myself and my only expectation from him would be that he is kind to me.
What makes you jealous?
Soha: If I am in an insecure place, I will be jealous as well. So if Kunal finds a woman attractive and I don’t, I wouldn’t be jealous of him having dinner with her. But if I find a woman attractive and so does Kunal, then him even commenting on her hair drives me up the wall.
Kunal: I am a Gemini so I deal with situations differently. Sometimes even if a common friend holds Soha’s hand, I get jealous. But other days, she can go out for dinner and dancing with someone and I wouldn’t think much about it. So I don’t know actually. I am cool and painful at the same time.
Soha: Over the years, we have slowly understood our relationship’s threshold. I have seen that for some people, it is fine if their partner goes for vacations or parties with another person. We are not that couple. Neither are we the your-ex-can-crash-on-your-couch sort. And it took me a while to adhere to these limits because I used to do things without caring for how he’d feel. But now I understand him.
Are you die-hard romantics?
Kunal: Well, we are definitely not the I-can-do-anything-for-you type romantics. We are a lot more practical than that. And we’re not the let’s-buy-fancy-gifts kind either. Just because I don’t buy her the best diamond doesn’t mean I don’t love her and she knows that.
Soha: All I know is that I wouldn’t give this up for anything in the world. True love is about finding someone who accepts you with your flaws and doesn’t try to change you.
Kunal: We’re in a happy place and don’t want that to change as of now.
Soha: I don’t believe in planning. I live in the moment and when I feel the time is right, Kunal and I will take a step ahead. But right now, I like where the relationship is and don’t want things to change at all.
Know thy partner
Soha and Kunal guess each other’s likes and dislikes
Soha: He likes Rogan Josh. (Correct)
Kunal: Salads and cereal bar for lunch. Dinner is grilled chicken, vegetables and dal. But if she is out, she has a salad with no
carrots or babycorn. Maybe fillet fish and diet Coke. (Correct)
Kunal: She hardly wears perfume. (Correct)
Soha: D&G. (Wrong)
Mountains or beaches
Kunal: Beaches. (Wrong)
Soha: Beaches. (Correct)
We asked Soha and Kunal to rate each other on a scale of 1 to 10. Here’s what they said…
Kunal: I’ll give Soha 7.5
Soha: Definitely an 8
Who takes longer to get dressed?
Kunal: Soha, obviously.
Soha: Kunal takes longer to decide what he wants to wear.
Who has more shoes?
Kunal: I am not far behind.
Who hogs the bathroom more?
Kunal: She hardly ever uses it!
Soha: (Blushes) I bathe on a regular basis, thank you very much.
Who turns off the lights?
Make-up tactic after a fight...
Kunal: Be funny and make her laugh.
Soha: I haven’t learnt it. Maybe, go and hold the person and hope he doesn’t hit you back.
From HT Brunch, February 12
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