In April this year, Soha Ali Khan and husband Kunal Kemmu put their creative forces together to write a book titled Inni & Bobo Find Each Other. The children’s book, with their five-year-old daughter Inaaya as the central figure, is now available as an audio book on Audible. The Telegraph caught up with Soha for a chat on the book, collaborating with Kunal and why she isn’t writing more.
Before its Audible release, Inni & Bobo Find Each Other, of course, came out as a book in April. What was the predominant feedback to the book?
People have liked it. I only go by the reactions of five people, honestly (laughs). That’s how it’s always been. One is my co-author Kunal (Kemmu), who, of course, lost all perspective because this is our baby (smiles). My mother (Sharmila Tagore) is one of my biggest critics and supporters and she actually liked the book right when it was in its initial manuscript stage. I also value the opinion of a couple of my friends, who are very close to me. They have been kind, but they are not always kind! (Laughs) But they have liked it, both as a physical book and as an audio book. It’s been good.
What was your first reaction when you were told that this title had the potential to be turned into an audio book? Did you think that would increase the scope of the book or take away from the joy of reading it?
When Inaaya was younger, I didn’t really engage with audio books. And that’s because I am someone who is very late to adapt as a species (laughs). When anything new comes into the market, I am very resistant to letting go of the old. It was the same with books. I have always wanted Inaaya to pick up a physical book and read it... I have always liked reading to her. I have wanted to surround her with books, have that experience of holding paper, and all of that.
And I held on that idea for a while... until I actually became the parent who really got exhausted by the amount of reading you have to do to your child! (Laughs) My throat simply gave up.
Inaaya loves stories, she really enjoys stories. Kunal has always been one to invent stories... he always makes up something on the go. I can’t really do that. And sometimes, one may be on a plane or in a car and it becomes difficult to read out a story.
The first time I turned to an audio book with her was actually when I had a sore throat. I told her that I couldn’t read to her physically, but I gave her the option of an audiobook. When it came to Inni & Bobo Find Each Other, I was quite excited that this would be on Audible because I am such a control freak and I knew that with this, I would have control till the very end. I could narrate the story the way I wanted it to be read. We have all read WhatsApp messages and been confused because we don’t know what tone the sender of the message is using. So much of it is in the expression. And so to be able to have this experience of recording — again with Kunal — was one that I enjoyed. And now, it’s so exciting that Inaaya is able to access Audible on my phone and can read a book in my voice. She doesn’t need me to be physically present.
Soha with Kunal, brother Saif Ali Khan and sister-in-law Kareena Kapoor Khan at the launch of Inni & Bobo Find Each Other
How did you and Kunal think of writing this book in the first place?
It was actually Kunal’s invention during one of the times Inaaya wanted to hear a story, and he came up with this story. Children like to hear the same story again and again and again. And I had to learn the story because sometimes he wasn’t around. And then we were like: ‘Why don’t we write it down so that we can have a physical copy and we can give it to her on her birthday?’ And since I have a relationship with publishers because I have written a book before, I thought why don’t we publish it and make a children’s book out of it? That’s how the book came about. And now even the second book (Inni & Bobo Go to the Park) is out, and I have a deadline on the third one! (Laughs)
Pun intended, are Kunal and you always on the same page regarding this?
We are often not on the same page in life! And that’s because most of it is personal. But when it’s professional, then you have to keep it professional. I don’t know how other writer duos work it out, but I can say that we are learning a lot about each other.
I really appreciate the fact that without much effort, he comes up with great ideas and great emotional beats. He’s also written a film, he’s written dialogues in the past... and this is something that a lot of people don’t know about him. People normally have that impression of me... of being well-read and well spoken (smiles). A lot of people don’t know how creatively blessed Kunal is. I am someone who works hard at it, I sit and try and think about something and flesh it out and write... and I have a particular writing style. But to write a book for children is not so much about style... it’s about getting those emotional beats right, where you get the child’s attention and you want them to feel a certain way. Kunal is very good with that. I don’t know why I am giving him so much credit... hopefully when he speaks to you, he will give me more credit! (Laughs) But honestly, I feel we make a very good team because we tend to fill each other’s blanks.
Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Kemmu with daughter Inaaya
Inaaya is only five, but is she aware that her parents have actually written a book on her and for her?
She adores us, no matter what (smiles). Regarding this, she doesn’t really register what a big deal it is. And we can’t really tell her, ‘You know how special you are! You know how special you are!’ (Laughs) She does, of course, read lots of books, and she understand that the girl on the cover of this book is her. She was thrilled. We took her to the book launch, she got all dressed up... and she asked me why I was getting dressed up because she is the character in the book and not me! And I was like: ‘Yes, yes, I am only the author!’ (Laughs) She was really thrilled with all the attention.
You have, of course, written The Perils of Being Moderately Famous before. Is there a second book happening anytime soon? And given that you have a knack for telling stories, will we see you turn director some day?
I feel like my mother called you and asked you to ask me this question! (Laughs) She tells me all the time: ‘You are such a good writer. Why aren’t you writing?!’ She doesn’t even know what a blog is, but she will be like: ‘You can blog... whatever that is!’
Honestly, writing, as you know, is all about discipline and practice and getting pen to paper. I am so glad I wrote The Perils of Being Moderately Famous. I was pregnant and had the time. And now, the days just go by. I don’t know where time is going... running a house, looking after a child, doing the little bit of work that I do, looking after my health and spending time with friends... it takes a lot of time.
I thought a children’s book would be easier to do first since it has a maximum length of 1,500 words. So I am happy to say that I have written three books after The Perils of Being Moderately Famous. But I do want to write... I am just being very, very lazy about it!