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Unlearning to learn

Soha Ali Khan plays a traumatised victim in Rituparno Ghosh's "Antarmahal", releasing shortly



SIMPLE FOR A CHANGE Soha Ali had to unlearn so many things to act subservient in "Antarmahal" Photo: S. Subramanium

If you remember Soha as a confident girl who wants to live life on her own terms and conditions in Ye Dil Maange More and an understanding daughter of Dimple Kapadia in Pyaar Mein Twist, then be ready for a shock. You will see her as a coy, subservient, under-confident, broken-hearted girl who marries a much older man (played by Jackie Shroff) in Rituparno Ghosh's Antarmahal. Then she comes across a young Bengali boy played by Abhishek Bachchan whom she starts feeling for.

For a girl who actually sets her own goals in life and has lived and studied abroad, the role is diagonally opposite to her actual personality.

A challenge

Says Soha, "The role was a challenge for me because I am a very confident and city-bred girl. I had to forget what I am before I started shooting. I had to completely unlearn my modern mannerisms, gesticulations and even how I walk and eat. It wasn't easy. My character, a Bengali girl of the early 1970s, is an underdog at home. She is violated at home so she is very meek, doesn't make eye contact while speaking, walks fearfully and is always full of anxiety. I had to condition myself to look like one. In this my physical appearance mattered most."

And she corrects you, "No I don't fall in love with Abhishek, but there is certainly an internal conflict as I see him."

Though Soha knows Bengali, for this film she had to use that `70s West Bengal accent coupled with certain dialects not part of the language she uses in her day-to-day life. "I had to memorise my lines for smooth delivery of dialogues," she admits.

Where on the one hand, lots of "emotional scenes including crying and action-packed drama" would leave her "completely exhausted," on the other, she had to take care to show no sign of her own personality in the film while immediately come I and out of this character to shoot for Shaadi No. 1 and Rang De Basanti which have completely different roles. "It used to take its own toll. I had to undergo a lot of personal overhauling to get into the characters of my next films," says she. This makeover was not needed in her earlier screen outings though. Despite a comfort level in those earlier films, in which she was "very natural," they did not do well at the box office.

"I particularly chose those roles to explore the range I could give as an actress. They were like my building blocks. If the films couldn't do well, I can't be blamed for that."

Whatever Soha's credentials as an actor so far, no one can beat that she greatly impresses you with her diction, spontaneity with answers and confidence; qualities needed to be successful in any profession.

RANA SIDDIQUI

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