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‘I told Shah Rukh, sorry darling, now you are Shakira. Off with your clothes’
Tête à tête

For someone who is 18 weeks pregnant with triplets, Farah Khan is surprisingly slim. And quite petite. She little resembles the plump guest who lately appeared on friend Karan Johar’s television chat show with their common friend Shah Rukh Khan. Instead, the face is slimmer and the belly bump barely visible under maternity pants and a striped t-shirt. She may be throwing up most of the time but right now her skin glows.

“I was throwing up so much that luckily I did not put on weight,” laughs the director whose sense of humour is evident throughout the meeting. Khan is gearing up for the release of her second film Om Shanti Om in November. Putting her feet up is what the doctor has ordered. Consequently, much of her media interviews are being conducted in a horizontal position on a couch at home.

Between music promos, pre-launch events and pregnancy check-ups, Khan has a full schedule. Did she ever think of putting plans for a family on hold till after the film' Khan, who has been married to editor-director Shirish Kunder for three years, says the clock was ticking. “We were trying for a baby for sometime. I did IVF (in-vitro fertilization). In between shootings, I was going to Jaslok hospital in the morning and coming back. I did not want to put it off until after the movie because I am 42,” she says candidly. “I will need a senior citizen’s pass at Disney World when I go there with the babies!” she guffaws.

While she has not planned her life, Khan says she has been prepared for the opportunities that came her way. And jumped over stumbling blocks. She is fulfilling her own dreams, even old ones. “I had to let go of many things because we did not have much money growing up. Like joining the Film Institute in Pune or learning the piano. “I have bought a keyboard for my babies. When they learn, I will learn with them.”

Right now her cup is full. It wasn’t always. “Ours was a riches to rags story but we have never made a big deal about it. Dad’s humour instilled a disregard for all the trauma-makes-for-crazed-genius kind of stuff,” snorts Khan. Kamran Khan, her father, was a successful stunt film-maker. Her mother, Menaka Irani, came from the film industry too; her mother’s sisters were Honey and Daisy Irani.

Honey Irani’s son, director Farhan Akhtar, and Farah share the same birthday, separated by a few years. “We used to call ourselves Capri 9. We were born on January 9 and were Capricorns. Corny, I know,” Farha recalls. She is not really superstitious but she is happy about 9. “That’s my number, and we got a Friday that is November 9 and 2007 is 9 so I feel it is my year. And I wanted a Diwali release, which is also happening.”

When Kamran Khan’s films began to flop he went to pieces, the marriage broke up and Farha and brother Sajid Khan (who debuted as director this year with the hit Heyy Baby!) shuttled between different homes. “See, we were always the poor cousins at that time. We were really treated well. But of course you know the difference between the privileged cousin and the not privileged. But now I think it’s all equal and all fine,” Khan smiles. The tough times have made her what she is: competitive and hardworking. It also taught her to take success and failure in her stride.

“You are only part of the film industry if you are doing well, let me tell you. You will be invited to parties and flowers will reach you on your birthday. When you are not doing well, you are really an outcast. So in that sense being part of the film industry did not really help us,” Khan says bluntly.

Much before she got her chance break as a choreographer in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in 1992, the turning point for Khan came while studying sociology in St Xavier’s College and Michael Jackson’s Thriller was telecast. She hadn’t danced before that, but it became her vocation. She set up a dance group. Eventually, when reigning choreographer Saroj Khan walked out of JJWS, Farah got her break and the rest is well-documented history. During her career, she has worked on Broadway and Hollywood projects like Bombay Dreams, Vanity Fair and an MTV awards show with belly-dancing sensation Shakira.

So it’s a bit of a shock when halfway through the interview Farah Khan casually lets drop the information she won’t be choreographing any more. She is sick of doing wedding songs. The director of the eagerly anticipated Om Shanti Om who gifted Bollywood with cutting edge numbers such as Pehla Naasha, Chhaiya Chhaiya, Dil Chahta Hai and her own first film Main Hoon Na. “I have said no to Karan, no to my brother, no to my husband. SRK won’t tell me to choreograph. He has been telling me for a long time not to. People who love me have been saying I should concentrate on directing: just relax and make your movies.” She will continue to do overseas projects, however.

Khan’s world is made up of old associations. She believes in saving and is still with the same bank she had in college. “Good old Bank of India. I am their oldest customer, I think.”

And close friends. Try as one might, one cannot exclude her hero and producer, Shah Rukh Khan, from any conversation with her. He is her sounding board, her buddy. “It is true only I could have got Shah Rukh to do it. I think it would have been quite camp if a male director had made him do it. Also, it’s his film, his production (SRK’s company Red Chilli Productions has produced both Main Hoon Na and OSO), he needs to give some preference,” she rolls her eyes. The Dard-e-disco song was to have originally been done by Shakira. “It’s the last song I am doing. So I told Shah Rukh, sorry darling, now you are Shakira. Off with your clothes.”

Every week the director and the hero would count the abs. “Once he got it, he was very charged. He had become like those self-obssessed heroines. I can understand, at one time I lost about 15-16 kgs 5-6 years ago and all I could do was stare at myself,” she says.

While one friend is developing his abs for her, another, Karan Johar, is shopping for maternity bras for her in London. He travels so much and he is so good at shopping, says the expectant mother cheerfully.

Farah Khan wrote OSO while she was working on Bombay Dreams in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s house in London. “SRK of course is a given but Deepika Padukone was the second person I cast. She was meeting me for a while with Reshma Shetty, who was managing her at that time. She is a classical Indian beauty and has a poise about her that is missing in newcomers today,” Farah explains.

For her next film, she may revisit her old idea Happy New Year. She is already contemplating a 2009 release.

Khan’s husband is Mangalorean but she has not picked up any Tulu. “He refuses to teach me. I think he wants a code so that he and his mum can bitch about me,” she grins, before waxing eloquent about her husband’s calm nature. “He is like Buddha.”

“He will be the good cop and I will be the wicked witch with my children,” she says. Kunder is also the editor of both her movies. And Khan is equally unconcerned about the feckless ways of the film industry. “I have three babies coming, so at any given time one will be with him. When he is making a movie, one baby will be with him on eight-hour shifts. So at all times my three detectives will be with him,” she chuckles.

“Somewhere my dad gave up. He was really so successful at his level that after a point he could not handle failure. But if you don’t give up and believe in your talent, it’s all a matter of a Friday. One Friday will change the tide.” C’est la vie.

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