Saif Ali Khan is by far one of the most sought-after actors in Bollywood. Be it his professional or personal life, fans are always interested in knowing about it, especially about aspects related to his relationship with star wifey Kareena Kapoor Khan and his three children. Talking to The Brown Identity, the Nawab of Pataudi weighed in on his future projects, nepotism, rigged awards and the impending arrival of his fourth and the power couple’s second baby together. Here is what he had to say!
Q. Saif, how is the lockdown treating you and your wife?
Saif: Well, so far so good. We are all learning to cope with the new normal. Our son Taimur is the sunshine that keeps our home radiant. And now Taimur has a sibling on the way.
Q. Do you think things will ever be the same again?
Saif: They are not the same right now as they used to be. But yes, I do feel they will be the same again at some point, though at the moment we don’t know when they would be. I have to admit that there’s still a fear to go out to work. I am just hopeful that soon a lot of us will be asymptomatic and we can all work in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Q. Would you be comfortable doing an intimate scene right now?
Saif: Well, yes sure. Relatively a one-to-one is safer of course (even though you think ten times before doing it) than a crowded song-and-dance sequence with 500 chorus dancers. That’s what I’ve to go back to for Yash Raj films’ Bunty Aur Babli. That’s what all four of us (Saif, Rani Mukherjee, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Sharvari Wagh) have to go back to. And it’s scary. It’s a crowded dance number with chorus dancers etc.
Q. Can’t they just drop it?
Saif: No, they can’t because it’s the main song and pretty much the number that drives the plot forward. It’s the title song. They are trying to find ways to shoot it more cautiously— they may separate the four actors. They’re doing their best. If anyone can show us the way forward in shooting after the lockdown, it’s producer Aditya Chopra. He will make sure the best possible precautions are taken.
Q. Also, your heroine Rani Mukherjee is the producer’s wife. She can put in a word?
Saif: I was coming to that. Right now, things are scary. But we’ve to keep pushing along in the given scenario.
Q. The first Bunty Aur Babli that came 15 years ago was fun. Will the sequel be equally entertaining?
Saif: I don’t know. The entire cast and crew barring the heroine (Rani Mukherjee) is different now. I wanted to do a small town normal working-class guy — you know the kind with a small paunch and moustache — for a long time. I haven’t done that before.
Q. You are one of those rare contemporary Indian actors who does his homework on his characters?
Saif: I don’t know what other actors do or don’t do. But for me, doing the homework is part of the fun in playing a character and getting excited about what it’s eventually going to turn out to be. When I start playing a character I don’t even know where it will go. So, I tend to be very quiet on the sets for the first few days. But with Bunty Aur Babli everything was okay from day one. Working with Rani again after so many years— we have done some of our best work together in Hum Tum and Ta Ra Rum Pam—everything just clicked.
Q. You had received the National award for Hum Tum which raised quite a few eyebrows?
Saif: (Laughs) Yes, I was seen to be undeserving of the few awards that I received earlier in my career, including the National award for Hum Tum. But I think over the years I’ve proven myself to be more worthy of recognition.
Q. At that time I thought you deserved it more for Omkara. But over the years, though you’ve given many awards-worthy performances you haven’t really got many awards?
Saif: No, not really. To be honest I don’t believe in them. Some years ago, I was called for an awards function. When I got there someone higher up in the organization told me, ‘We wanted to give you the Best Actor award. But you know how it is. We’ll give you the award for Best Actor in a comic role.’
Q. What did they mean by, ‘You know how it is’?
Saif: I think he implied there’s a certain amount of politics and manipulation in giving the awards. It (awards functions) is a TV show, yaar! It’s a TV show. You have to go on stage and perform. It is no longer about going on stage, taking your award and mumbling your thank you speech. Now it’s a whole big tamasha on stage. Initially, it was a good idea, then the commercial aspect was introduced and that gobbled up the entire credibility of awards.
Q. What did you think of veteran editor/journalist Shekhar Gupta’s blog on how Katrina Kaif, Karan Johar and others threw tantrums for awards when Gupta was editor of the Indian Express group which gave the screen awards?
Saif: Well, I mean it was illuminating to some people. To me it was no great revelation. I feel everyone is part of the hypocrisy of film awards including Shekhar Gupta. I mean why did he give Katrina that award if he thought she was undeserving? The truth is, we haven’t created a healthy environment for awards where one actor out of five wins and the other four actors clap.
Q. Given the vitiated environment would you say Bollywood is a good job place for your three children, Sara, Ibrahim and Taimur?
Saif: It is the best place to work in. I remember at 17 or 18, I was a mess. Acting saved me from self-destruction. Having the job, the sense of identity it has given me and the job satisfaction, and enjoyment it has given me are more than I could ask for. The other day I saw myself in an episode of the new web series Taandav that I’ve done. I had earlier seen it on my phone. Now I made myself a drink, sat with Taimur on my lap and watched it on the biggest TV screen at home. And I was really proud of what I had done. That self-satisfaction is priceless.
Q. During the making of comedies the crew is known to laugh its head off while shooting. But often the audience doesn’t find it funny?
Saif: I am totally against laughing on the sets. I hate it. I tell my colleagues, ‘Let’s laugh later. Let’s work now.’ But seriously, I like doing lighter films. The writing is clearly the key to a film’s success. Last year I did Jawaani Jaaneman which was a really nice breezy film. I enjoyed doing that.
Q. In Tanhaji, the only successful Bollywood film of the year, you played the villain. Do you enjoy the dark space on screen?
Saif: Yes, it gives me a chance to do something different. Goodness is often stuck in a rut. The darker roles are more challenging. When I play one, I try to find a core of humour in the evil character. Villains are more fun to when they are slightly humorous. The idea is to entertain people. Being an actor is a fascinating process. The finding of the truth and then the telling the truth is an endlessly interesting process. Even the act of lighting a cigarette can become a performance. There is a story to everything. After a point in my career I have discovered that the real acting is not in the dialogues but in the silences in-between.
Q. You remind me of Shashi Kapoor?
Saif: That’s good. That’s a big compliment.
Q. Your elder son Ibrahim is getting ready for a film.
Yes, he seems prepared. But I think he should wait a little longer. He’s looking good. And he’s a very gentle soul. He’s secure in his space and has a sense of humour.
Q. Does it make you feel guilty that you give so much time to your youngest son Taimur and not to your older two?
Saif: I am always there for them. I love and adore all my three children. It’s true that I spend a lot of time with Taimur. But I am constantly connected with Ibrahim and Sara. All my three children have different places in my heart. If I am hurt with Sara about something, Taimur can’t make me feel better about it. Every time you have a child you divide your heart. And they are all different in age. I feel each of my three children require a different kind of connect. I could have long chat on the phone or have dinner with Sara or ibrahim which I can’t do with Taimur.
Q. Spending so much time together during the lockdown has created a havoc in many marriages. What about you and Kareena?
A. Luckily, we have a good balance of companionship and alone time. We enjoy certain things together, a certain kind of music, lighting, hanging-out etc. There are many things we like doing together. But then we can be in the same room and be on different planets at the same time. If you know what I mean. Though we live in a small apartment we have room to be in our own space when we want. Like I know she likes her time alone during the day when she takes a nap and watches her TV show.