How Saif Ali Khan has evolved over the years


How Saif Ali Khan has evolved over the years

Published: Fri 9 Aug 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Aug 2019, 10:48 AM

Come August 16, and he turns 49, just a whisper away from half a century. Once the prime go-to choice for roles of the urban, romantic hero, today, he's sensible enough to act his age, both on and off the screen. Those days of breaking into brawls at high-end restaurants and even threatening journalists with dire consequences for printing offensive remarks are over.

Quite clearly, Saif Ali Khan has mellowed, and is a doting father to the paparazzi's delight, to two-year-old Taimur, as well as to the 23-year-old Sara Ali Khan and 18-year-old Ibrahim Ali, the children from his first marriage to Amrita Singh. Sara is already a sparky heroine on the ascent, while Ibrahim Ali is reportedly being groomed for an acting career.

Although Amrita had taken a sabbatical from movies when their children were growing up, Saif's second wife Kareena Kapoor Khan has continued to pursue her career as a frontline Bollywood heroine without any let-up.
Spending quality time with his extended family has come quite naturally to Saif, even as he jet-hops between continents either to answer his professional commitments or snatch a couple of weeks for a vacation. His occasional interviews indicate that he's careful with his statements. Moreover, he's one of the very few stars who wasn't seen or heard speaking in favour of any political party during the general elections earlier this year.
Last year, he featured in Kaalakaandi, a whimsical take on a man who's diagnosed as being terminally ill, and Baazaar, a far too déjà vu account 'inspired' by Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987). Neither clicked. Hopefully, his upcoming projects - the revenge drama Laal Kaptaan, the horror comedy Bhoot Police, the period biopic Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior and the London-located laugh-raiser Jawaani Jaaneman, which is being produced by him - will see him return to form. In addition, the Netflix series Sacred Games, in which he enacted an upright cop under severe pressure to nab a goon, will be back with a second season.

To offer a glimpse into his heart and mind, here are excerpts from my conversations with him over the decades:
What motivates your selection of roles?
I don't have a ready answer for that. Primarily, it's the script, the graph of my character, the director's calibre and, of course, my fee - which can vary. I wouldn't charge the money I usually do, if the project is a purposeful one. Professionally, this may sound arrogant, but I don't follow market dictates. As far as I can help it, I've kept my head on my shoulders, never interfered with the director and have always striven for quality rather than quantity.
The intention has been to do an honest day's work and lead my life to the brim. I haven't made any friends in the industry. I didn't come here to make friends. Neither has anyone gone out of his way to become a friend of mine. Perhaps, like the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.

Surely co-actors can be friends?
Of course. As a co-actor, Ajay Devgn gives you space. Salman Khan has that big brother-type of protective personality, he's all heart. As for Shah Rukh Khan, we've done some really terrific work together. After Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), my first solo hit Hum Tum (2004) happened. I used to be a bit flighty, he inspired me to become a responsible, and saleable actor. For Kal Ho Naa Ho, a shot had to be completed before we were thrown out of a railway station in the US. Shah Rukh suggested doing the last shot there in another way... and we completed the shoot, saving the production team stacks of cash.
When I entered the industry, Kamal Sadanah was one of my closest buddies. But you know how it is... with time, we drifted apart. Ironically, he was first thrown out of Bekhudi (1992) by Rahul Rawail, then I was dropped and he was back. Your 4 am friends are the ones you've made in school... like Salim Siddiqui, who's in London. My friends need to be part-psychiatrists, who understand the working of my mind like I need to understand theirs.
You've acted in half-a-dozen films with Akshay Kumar, notably Main Khiladi Tu Anari (1994), Yeh Dillagi (1994) and Tashan (2008).
Ha! I don't know whether I ever enjoyed acting with him. He's a one-man show now. I believe, at times, he even writes his own dialogue.
Not many know that when you entered Bollywood, you stayed at Gulzar's residence at the insistence of your mother Sharmila Tagore.
Right... and he was one responsible parent. I would come back home at 7 am, find him playing the sitar... and feel awfully guilty. And look at me now, Bebo (Kareena Kapoor Khan) says I've become an old fogey, cleaning up, rearranging the DVDs. I guess I've become quite like Amrita (Singh) used to be.

How do you look back on your 13-year-long marriage with Amrita and then the separation?
It's simply this, our marriage didn't work out. Still, I look at the past with respect. I talk to Sara on the phone constantly. Ibrahim is an entirely different personality. I'd like to manage time better, be with them much more. I hope they understand. It doesn't make sense to be with them on outdoor shoots... it can be a nightmare... like years ago, Sara and Ibrahim were in London during the shoot of Love Aaj Kal (2009) and then the maid ran away!

Do you feel all grown up now?
The last 10 years have taught me a lot. No more late nights, no more clubbing, I'd rather be at home, nursing a cup of coffee. I must have been a terrific guy in my previous life. This boy at Winchester, who was to go to Oxford to study law, maybe work for a bank, became a movie actor.
It's been my mother's 'pull' finally. I must have inherited her acting genes. Instead of hiding behind grey suits, I'd rather be dancing in Hawaii! And to think, there was a time when we weren't even allowed to watch television. The domestic help in our Delhi house got a TV and VCR years before we did. No kidding!

Has Kareena mended your ways?
She keeps me occupied for sure. She's been a shot in the arm, a good influence. Being in love has never been like this before. I tend to fall in love as if I was hit by a ton of bricks and then I'm cautious. What Bebo and I have together is very, very special, she has reinvented me. From a hysterical guy, I've become a housemaker.

Which kind of roles would you like to play now?
I'd like to do a gritty action movie... or maybe a ghost story like Madhumati (1958) or a supernatural thriller like What Lies Beneath (2000). Maybe even a comedy like Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega (2001) as long as it has me charged about being at the shoot every morning.

Which of your films do you remember with the highest regard?
I was happy with Hum Tum, Ek Haseena Thi (2004), Omkara (2005) and Parineeta (2005).
Whose opinion matters most to you?
Quite often mom's. Occasionally, she's generous and says that I'm a better actor than her.


Khalid Mohamed

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