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Talking fitness and family with Soha Ali Khan and Sharmila Tagore

The mother-daughter duo, who lives by example, shows how to get the best out of your life

brunch Updated: Jan 27, 2018 22:47 IST
Samreen Tungekar
As parents, Sharmila Tagore and her late husband, cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, were liberal ,  and now Soha intends to follow in their footsteps  (Make-up by Arjun Bundela. Hair by Bharti Chavan. Soha styled by Neha Bijlaney)
As parents, Sharmila Tagore and her late husband, cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, were liberal , and now Soha intends to follow in their footsteps (Make-up by Arjun Bundela. Hair by Bharti Chavan. Soha styled by Neha Bijlaney)(Naina Redhu)

Dressed in black track pants and a T-shirt, hair in a messy bun, new mom Soha Ali Khan Pataudi looks fresh and upbeat as she gives interviews about her new book at her quiet Delhi residence. Her mother, Sharmila Tagore, legendary actor, mother to three ‘adult’ kids and grandmother to probably the most popular star kids of the present, gracefully enters the room in a rose pink sari, instructing the help to close the door. “It’s cold,” she says, and smiles at me.

While Soha changes into something fancier, I tell Sharmila ji, who shows no signs of exhaustion, that she is glowing. She laughs, and credits it to her Bengali genes. “Bengalis have good skin!” she says.

No pregnant pause

Soha wears an outfit by Vedika M and earrings by Priya Chandra (available at Minerali Store) (Naina Redhu)

An active child at school, Soha was always sporty and took tennis lessons as well. So it wasn’t a surprise that she actively worked out during her pregnancy. Her #Fitnessgoals were all over social media, and her pregnant, glowing and fit pictures challenged all stereotypes about fitness and pregnancy.

“If you’ve been doing some kind of a workout, you don’t have to stop because you’re just need a good trainer” –Soha

“Pregnancy is not the time to start some new kind of workout, but if you have been doing something, you don’t have to stop just because you’re pregnant,” she says. “If you have been very athletic, it’s okay to continue being so. I did yoga up to the day I went to the hospital. But you need a good trainer as it is a critical time and the postures need to be right. Find a form of exercise that works for you and get your doctor to sign off on it.”

Sharmila adds, “People like labourers or those who work in fields, they continue to work even when they’re pregnant because their body is used to it. But if you and I start stressing our bodies in a way it is not used to, we’ll be in trouble.”

The gym freak

Soha wears a top by Kyna, skirt by Sameer Madan, jewellery from Evara and shoes by Christian Louboutin (Naina Redhu)

Active at 73, Sharmila is an inspiration to people her age and younger. “My mom corrects other people at the gym,” laughs Soha. “If someone is not doing something correctly, or the posture isn’t right, she walks up to them and corrects them.”

“Of course,” shrugs Sharmila. “Every exercise has a technique and you will injure yourself if you do it wrong.”

Soha admires the fact that her mother still goes to the gym. “I was going to say I admire her going to the gym at this age, but I stopped in time,” she giggles.

“I remember when she started taking an interest in being fit. When Amma was in the films back in the ’60s and ’70s, actresses didn’t really work on their bodies so much. We started going to this gym in Vasant Vihar and ever since, she has become very conscientious about looking after herself.”

“Everyone has a different shape. be aware of your body and love it... wellness is the key, not size” –Sharmila

Sharmila chimes in, “It’s also about looking good and fit in what you wear. At this age, flexibility and balance are important. Now I am slowly moving away from the gym and doing yoga. If you look at all the dancers, like Vyjayanthimala, they have remained fit because they have taken care of their bodies. Dance is a great form of exercise and similarly, yoga also enhances your spine, improves your memory, stability, everything.”

Being such a fit person herself, Sharmila is aware of the diet fads that flash in and out. “You just have to keep an eye open and see what works for you,” she says. “Be wise and decide what suits you. Unless you have a medical reason, don’t deprive yourself of things, eat sensibly and keep working out. Sleeping is also very important,” she advises.

Bringing up baby

Soha wears a top from Madglam and earrings from Chic Therapy (available at Minerali Store), Sharmila wears a sari from her own collection (Naina Redhu)

Soha will be raising a daughter at a time when body shaming and fat shaming are being called out. How does she plan to prepare her child for uncalled comments? “My mother always says you don’t have to be your child’s best friend, you want to be a mother. So you have to know if they are being made fun of at school, if they are uncomfortable with the way they look, as a lot of these things happen because of peer pressure. Be alert and notice the signs, be it anorexia or bulimia, or any other body image issues,” she says. “The idea is to lead by example, showing the child that it’s okay to love the body you have, and talk about being fit, not just fitting into clothes.”

Adds Sharmila, “Everyone has a different shape. Be aware of your body and love it, look after it and don’t try to be like someone else. Wellness is the key, not size. If you like how you look, you will enjoy yourself, and people will like you.”

As parents, Sharmila Tagore and her husband, the late cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, were more liberal than most parents, says Soha. “They were liberal but strict. We had rules, we had curfews, and were allowed to spend the night at only certain friends’ houses,” she says.

“Soha’s room looked like she stood in one spot and threw her clothes all around,” smiles Sharmila. “She wasn’t tidy and she still isn’t tidy. But she was always a disciplined child; she loved her teachers and she always finished her work.”

Sharmila made no difference in the way she brought up her girls and her son, Saif Ali Khan. “It’s not about gender at all. The only rule I had was that if they were out at night, they would come home with my driver. I’ve always been very cautious of road rage, and accidents,” she says.

Mommy the great

Sharmila made no difference in the way she brought up her girls, Soha and Saba, and her son, Saif Ali Khan (Naina Redhu)

It’s natural to understand your mother’s concerns better once you become one yourself, but Soha is taking it one step at a time with Inaaya. “She’s all of three months old but when I make plans, she already unmakes them. I may decide it’s time for her to sleep, but she decides otherwise. So I have to understand that she is already her person. I have to already respect her choices,” she says.

She goes on, “But what I would like to do is bring that balance the way my mother did, of being strict but letting her be herself. And, of course, leading by example, such as not raising our voices when we talk to each other, not swearing etc. Children pick up these things,” she says.

“Yes, you have to respect a child’s boundaries,” says Sharmila. “You can show them how to behave, but you can’t dictate. If you respect the child, you’ll be respected.”

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From HT Brunch, January 28, 2018

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