Sara Ali Khan is clearly a glowing advertisement for entitlement and privilege. She gets to say what she wants without fear, defend ‘star children’ in public, and yet not require a Karan Johar to launch her unlike Alia Bhatt and Jahnvi Kapoor. The industry is abuzz with the first look of her forthcoming movie with Imtiaz Ali, Love Aaj Kal, but she is herself a buzz-creator, preferring to strike out on her own with a marketing and communication agency. Just look at her Instagram game and you will know.
Entitled she is, for sure, but Sara Ali Khan wears it less like a chip on the shoulder and more like the quirky cockatoo her mother Amrita Singh used to sport.
You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain, said Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. In India, if you live long enough, the hero ends up romancing the heroine’s daughter. It’s one of the accepted axioms of the Hindi film industry and even if there is something creepy about it, no one likes to talk about it.
Well, not no one. Sara Ali Khan commented on it during an interview with journalist Barkha Dutt, saying, “The audience wants older heroes to romance daughters of the heroines they used to work with. It is not fair to blame the heroes alone. When the viewers say that they don’t want to see the hero for the 96th time, maybe they won’t do such roles”.
Sara Ali Khan isn’t one to shy away from speaking her mind, no matter how controversial what she thinks is.
But that’s not the only controversial thing the third-generation actor has said or done since she appeared on our screens as Muku in Abhishek Kapoor’s interesting debut Kedarnath. She’s expressed her desire to date Kartik Aryan on a career-defining episode of Koffee With Karan and ended up dating him (before reportedly breaking up with him with equal speed). She’s talked at length about her problems with weight and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). She’s made wearing salwar-kameez a style statement. And she has defended “star children” with great determination, saying the access to powerful people within the industry comes with scrutiny from the public.
Although clearly trumped in the ‘poor little posh princess’ stakes by Ananya Pandey who whined on national television about how much her father Chunky Pandey had to struggle (so much that he has never made it to Karan Johar’s Koffee with Karan), Sara Ali Khan is still a star of legacy, not struggle. She is above and beyond the box office.
Big shoes to fill
Part of Sara Ali Khan’s entitlement and privilege comes from her lineage. Her maternal grandmother was Rukhsana Sultana, Sanjay Gandhi’s one-woman demolition squad during the Emergency, whom India Today once described as a ‘femme fatale’. Her paternal grandmother is Sharmila Tagore, one of India’s leading actors and as Begum of Pataudi, one half of Bollywood and cricket’s original power merger.
Her mother is Amrita Singh, who had a short but successful career as a lead actor, and her father, Saif Ali Khan, now in his second marriage, is still going strong, having found a new lease of life with Netflix and indie cinema. His current wife, actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, connects Sara to yet another iconic family, the Kapoors, who have been entertaining Indians since Prithviraj Kapoor first stepped on to the stage and screen.
So, not only is Sara Ali Khan comfortable with referring to herself in third person, her movie choices also make it clear that she wants to be a popular star.
So far, she has had a notable part in Kedarnath, a decorative part in Rohit Shetty’s Simmba, and is awaiting the release of a romantic movie, Imtiaz Ali’s sequel to her father’s 2009 film of the same name, Love Aaj Kal. Also coming up: a role opposite Varun Dhawan in David Dhawan’s reprise of Coolie No. I. Being part of remakes so early on in her career also opens her up to comparisons, in this case, ironically, with the chemistry between her father Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone in the original Love Aaj Kal in 2009.
However, director Imtiaz Ali is all praises for the actress. “Sara is a girl with extraordinary emotional intelligence. She is extremely talented, gifted and a very truthful actor. She is also a modern person and who can, in her career, change the mould of the conventional Indian heroine,” Ali told ThePrint.
“She is completely accessible and understands very quickly. I had the greatest time working with her and hope to work with her again and again.”
But from the looks of the trailer, the film will do her no favours.
Pilates to Central Park tour guide
Almost everything Sara Ali Khan does makes news, whether she is giving fans a throwback tour of Central Park in New York (a favourite spot from her days as a student at Columbia University), or sharing her reaction to a fan trying to kiss her hand, or performing Pilates.
Abhishek Kapoor, who directed Sara in her first film, says he needed a powerful performer for the role. “When I met her, she exuded a strong personality and a deep desire to achieve. From there it was about guiding her so she could dive deep into the part and bring it to life. She came with no experience and we went through numerous battles to help her strike the right note and learn the craft. She’s been unanimously accepted and that is our biggest victory. She’s just begun her career and has a long way to go but she has strong legs and an astute mind to go the distance,” said Kapoor.
It doesn’t hurt that she loves attention. And she’s equally carefree. She posts photos of herself in the Maldives on vacation. In fact, her Instagram game is on point, revealing just what she wants of her life, with appropriately witty or wise captions—for New Year’s greetings, for instance, she chose the multicultural city of Kochi, and posted a picture from the temple or church with various religious emoticons. For her make-up routine, she had a little ditty complete with emojis.
Unusually for a star child too, she isn’t waiting for the big co-actors and directors. Sara Ali Khan is charting her own glittery path in Bollywood.
The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.
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