Born in a family of uber-successful people, Soha’s story remains a pleasantly humble one. Mother, Sharmila Tagore was an icon, her father needs no introduction, and despite the initial hiccups, by the late 90s and early 2000s, Saif had established himself as the fourth Khan after Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir.
It was obvious for fans of this family to anticipate a grand debut from the Pataudi daughter. However, Soha was more interested in getting a good education and trying out other fields, instead of jumping in showbiz with an incomplete degree. She decided to study modern history at Balliol College, Oxford after attending The British School in New Delhi, and then pursued a Masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Surprising a lot of people, her family included, the youngest Pataudi kid took up a 9-to-5 job with a financial giant and moved to Mumbai, where colleagues would often quiz her on her unconventional career choice; she had her eyes on a secured position in the MNC’s London-based headquarters.
But things didn’t roll out the way she had imagined, and the monotony of the profession started to get under her skin. It was during this time, ace film actor and director Amol Palekar approached her with a movie he was planning to make. Based on Rajasthani folklore, the film would feature Soha essaying the character of a rural village bale, draped in the native regalia.
The costume drama could have been the perfect debut for Soha, exhilarated about which, she put down papers in her organisation, only to gather that Amol Palekar had had a change of heart and would now approach this project in a new light. The film was released later with Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee in lead roles. You guessed it right, it was Paheli.
Soha, on the other hand, had ended up jobless and alone in Mumbai. Around this time she was offered the movie, Dil Maange More. It had three female characters contesting each other to win one man played by Shahid Kapoor. After the narration, she was asked to choose from any of the three characters and she picked the role of Neha, an aspiring air hostess who breaks up with her college-time-sweetheart to make a career in the aviation industry and pursue a better life in a city.
“I chose Neha because she is ambitious. At the young age of 21, she chooses her career over her boyfriend. It was again a wrong decision taken by me because in Hindi films, actresses keep their partner over any other thing,” shares the actress.
The thing with Bollywood is, the one who gets to keep the hero in the end, is always the lead actress. Others finish as supporting cast. That is exactly what happened with Soha. She was the second or the third lead in her debut while Ayesha Takia won all praise as the “heroine”.
But we doubt Soha would have had it any better even as the one who kept the hero at the end. Dil Maange More panned badly at the box office. Perhaps four people saw that film and all four wanted a refund. Actually, no. We are exaggerating. But you get the idea. The reviews were horrible, critics had ripped the movie asunder, and shown no mercy toward the debutant actress either.
One critic wrote that she looked like her mother but acted like her father. This turned her so upset, she buried herself in the pillow for hours with her mobile switched off, imagining the whole world must be laughing at her. Elder brother Saif came to her rescue, took her out for a nice meal that day, and broke down to her the ways of Bollywood.
Soha’s performance in Rang De Basanti, that released two years later, was widely appreciated. She then went on to essay subtle roles in serious films, and glimpses of her iconic mother flickered through her expressions often.
She could never attain a star status others in her family enjoy, now Kareena Kapoor Khan added, but with time proved herself to be a bankable actress. Barring a few selected ones, the mother of one has now distanced herself from the movies and has ventured into other mediums of self-expression. Her first film, Dil Maange More remains to be a decision she rues to date, nevertheless.