“I remember at 17-18, I was a mess. Acting saved me from self-destruction,” Saif Ali Khan tells Subhash K Jha, as he looks back at his long career, the awards culture in Bollywood and his children, Sara, Ibrahim and Taimur.Saif also discusses his relationship with wife Kareena Kapoor, saying, “We can be in the same room and be on different planets.”
How is the lockdown treating you and Kareena?
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, he has a sibling on the way.
Do you think things will ever be the same again?
They are not the same 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 that would be.
I have to admit there’s still a fear to go out to work. I am just hopeful that soon a lot of us will be asymptomatic so that we can work in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Would you be comfortable doing an intimate scene?
Well, yes, sure. Relatively, a one-to-one is safer -- of course, you think 10 times before doing it -- than a crowded song-and-dance sequence with 500 chorus dancers. That’s what I have to go back to.
That’s what I’ve got pending in Yash Raj Films’s Bunty Aur Babli and what the four of us (Saif, Rani Mukerji, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh) have to go back to.
It’s a crowded dance number with chorus dancers, etc.
Can’t they drop it?
No. 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 the number more cautiously -- they may separate the four actors, let’s see.
They are 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.
Also, your heroine Rani Mukerji is the producer’s wife.
I was coming to that. Right now, things are scary, but we have to keep pushing along in the given scenario. The first Bunty Aur Babli that came out 15 years ago was fun.
Will the sequel be equally entertaining?
I don’t know. The entire cast and crew, barring the heroine, 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.
You are one of those rare contemporary Indian actors who does homework on his characters?
I don’t know what other actors do or don’t do. But for me, doing the homework is a 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 1.
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.
You had received the National Award for Hum Tum, which had raised eyebrows.
I was seen to be undeserving of the few awards that I received earlier in my career, including the National QAQward for Hum Tum. But I think, over the years, I’ve proven myself to be more worthy of recognition.
At that time, I thought you deserved it more for Omkara. But over the years, though you’ve given many award-worthy performances, you haven’t really got many awards.
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 organisation 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.’
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