Actor Soha Ali Khan is upbeat about her forthcoming film, Soundtrack, in which she plays a girl who is hearing impaired but still talks a lot, signing eloquently with her hands. The actor learnt sign language to carry off the role convincingly. “The best part about acting is that you get to learn new skills. I’ve always been interested in learning sign language and I was delighted when the producer set up some classes at the Helen Keller Institute,” she says.
Some of the students Soha met at the institute were deaf, while others both deaf and blind. “Some were shy, some friendly and one really naughty,” reminisces Soha, adding, “I was assigned two teachers, both of whom were called Devyani, who taught me how to carry on a dialogue using sign language. It’s a bit like choreography.”
The real challenge was when she had to sign a song, “I had to lip sync to it and simultaneously sign with my fingers. I still don’t know how I got it right. I even sat in on the edit with Devyani to ensure that all was well.”
Her co-star in the film is Rajeev Khandelwal who comes to Mumbai with a guitar, a pair of headphones and a dream. He lands a job in a nightclub, becomes a happening DJ and is racing down life’s fast lanes when suddenly he brakes to a stop. Tinnitus coupled with overexposure to loud noise takes away his hearing and his dreams.
Then he meets Soha, a free-spirited speech therapist, who like him, can’t hear a thing but hasn’t lost hope. However, Rajeev still dreams of composing for a film, when he happens to watch a Kathak recital that sets off vibrations in his body. Later he realises that though he can’t hear the music, he can feel it. And there’s still a chance of him coming up with a soundtrack for an Anurag Kashyap movie.
The film has been inspired by a true story and both actors are upbeat about it. “For Rajeev, it is a follow-up to Aamir (2008) and he has worked really hard, not just on his performance but in styling his look too,” says Soha.
Her character, she points out, is the backbone of the story despite being on the other end of the scale to Rajeev’s. She reasons, “While he struggles with his disability, rages against it, my character having always been deaf, has accepted the loss and made her peace with it. It’s a beautiful, inspiring film.”