Picture: Pabitra Das
Soni Razdan — the actress with films like Saaransh and Monsoon Wedding on her CV — has “reached a nice place” in life. “Theatre, yoga, pilates. I read a lot and develop scripts. I am always busy. It’s a fulfilling life,” says she, resigned to the fact that Bollywood does not have enough meaty roles for women her age (50). “It’s once in a while... I understand. That’s why we do other things,” smiles the actor-director who was recently in town to stage Where Did I Leave My Purdah, written by Mahesh Dattani and directed by Lillete Dubey.
A t2 chatů
Do you do a lot of theatre?
I hardly do theatre. I have been working on various scripts because I have been wanting to direct. That will take off towards the end of this year. Also, the last two years I have been very busy with my daughter Alia (Bhatt) because she was very young when she was offered this film (Student of the Year). I was travelling with her everywhere... making sure that she lost weight! (Laughs) I had my hands full... diet plan karna, dietician ke paas jaana, exercise kara do.... Simultaneously, I was developing this script. Now we are ready to go into pre-production. It is a period film set in 1950s Bombay.
You’ll be back in the director’s chair after Nazar in 2005...
Nazar, which I directed for my husband’s (Mahesh Bhatt) company, was a supernatural thriller. That’s not really my zone. My zone is drama... the personal space. Things that people do and why they do them!
That’s also reflected in your filmography...
Well, that’s what’s come my way. I have done quite a lot of comedy, but somehow I have always been branded as this dramatic actress, probably because I have a strong sense of drama. Hope that translates into my film.
Is Mahesh Bhatt helping you?
I always turn to him for advice. In fact, when he heard this particular idea, he immediately got excited and asked me to take it to Pooja (Bhatt). And, she just loved the idea. Pooja is producing it.
Don’t you want to cast Alia in it?
No, not in this one... there is another film I want to do with Alia. Alia might be my daughter but I am not going to tell her, ‘You have to do this film because I am your mother!’ I want her to do it because she really wants to do it. I know that sounds very idealistic (laughs), but it’s true. And right now, I don’t want Alia to do any family film at all. I want her to do films with other banners because that’s where she is going to get the best objective training. The minute it is your family, it becomes subjective and I don’t think it will be very good at this stage of her career. In a way it is almost like a conscious decision... let the family stay away from Alia and let her make her place.
You must be very happy with the way her career has taken off...
Of course I am! I am happy because this is what she wanted to do. She was in school when it came her way and she had to audition. She was a little nervous... she said, ‘Mom, I have to finish my studies.’ I think I remember Mahesh and I both telling her, if this is what she really wanted to do and for some reason, it was clashing with her studies and she is not able to finish studies, she should not worry about it... she would not get a chance like this again. Luckily and thankfully, Karan Johar being a responsible man, said, ‘I don’t want to have this thing in my head that I made Alia drop out of school... please let her finish her studies!’
What changes do you see now when your daughter is starting her career from the time you had started out?
Oh god! There is a huge change. Firstly, I did not come from any film background. I did not even know if I wanted to do Hindi films. I am half-German... south Bombay, Anglicised girl. I could not speak Hindi and I thought I was a very serious actress... stupid hang-ups! (Laughs) In those days, films were very different... the makers were different. I was so scared to go near that whole arena because I had a very different upbringing. My father is an architect and my mother’s a teacher. I knew I wanted to act. So, it was theatre, theatre, theatre. From theatre I got into films. I chose to stay and work here. I had to learn Hindi.
For Alia, it is very different. She has grown up in a film family. Bollywood has become a fashionable thing. In those days, people used to think it is not for someone who’s got a brain. The movies are also different now... there has never been a better time for Hindi movies, I feel. She has come in at the right time.
What are your dreams for Alia?
ia is on the right track. I don’t doubt that she will get good work. I just want her to remain true to herself and unspoilt. Maybe that is asking for too much, but that’s what I hope for and I hope I can help her. It’s very difficult to get success at such a young age and not be affected by it. Success is a monster. You have to manage it. I hope and pray that she does it without it affecting her as a person. She relies on me for a lot of things.
You are probably the most low-profile Bhatt! What is it like living in a family that is always in the middle of controversy?
Am I? I don’t know... I think I have just become immune to anything which is so-called controversial. The word doesn’t exist for me anymore. I live my life and I have a very good life. So, I am happy.
What is Mahesh Bhatt like as a husband?
A down-to-earth guy... very sweet and in fact very home-loving. It is nice that now he is around a lot more. For many years, I was a single mother to my kids (Alia and Shaheen). Mahesh was always there, but he was very busy. Now he works a lot less but is still very busy. Now, we are a much-married couple. So we have settled into a nice comfortable routine. We don’t have to do everything together. We have our spaces in the same house. There is no pressure in our relationship and I like that.
Do you like the films that come out from the Bhatt franchise?
I do like them but what is more important is that the audience must like them. And if this is what they have decided to make as a company right now, then fair enough. That might change two years from now.
Should Alia stay away from doing a Bhatt film right now? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org