Rajeev Masand

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I am no superstar: Saif Ali Khan

 
Rajeev Masand Reviews
 

  A talented actor who after years of being saddled with thankless roles decided to break away and show, what he is really made of. In the last two-years Saif Ali Khan has delivered not only a string of hits but also a bunch of credible performances that put him at the top of his league.

CNN-IBN Entertainment Editor Rajeev Masand speaks to the star about his journey to the top.

Rajeev Masand: Let me start with an offensive question first. You spend very little time in India these days. You are either travelling or shooting abroad. And when in India, you are seen mostly shooting for ad films, doing lots of endorsements for big brands. It seems you are on an endorsement spree to just grab some money and run. Is that true?

Saif Ali Khan: Not really. I would rather make money doing some prestigious top-level brand endorsements. I do not make too much money from movies. And my focus is not just to make money. I do films because I love them. I do a script and work with a production house simply because I love being an actor. I am not just looking at the financial gains but its got more to do with doing something substantial by way of films or even endorsements for that matter.

I feel lucky to have got the opportunity of doing big endorsements. I know that it will not last forever and that all these projects might not always come my way. But I just hope it lasts for a few more years. Perhaps I won’t take the money and run but would rather gracefully accept the money and walk away.

Rajeev Masand: You have been on a roll work-wise. Your solo films Parineeta,Salaam Namaste, Being Cyrus and most recently Omkara have done quite well at the box office. Tell me, does success tastes any different now?

Saif Ali Khan: I think you get things only when you are ready for them. When I wasn’t successful, I had many fantasies about how things would be like when I become successful. I think one of the best things about being successful is the lack of pressure in terms of competition from other actors.
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I have done solo films, and the most wonderful aspect was that I was free to do my own bit. In my past films, I often felt inferior to the people I was working with. That feeling of inferiority somehow played on my mind and affected me slightly. I only hoped to get out of that slot and do better things on my own.

Some two-three years ago, I got a clear idea in my mind that I wanted to play a character that would be urban and new. I wanted to play someone who can is more of a character than a hero. I wanted to play this guy who is not western but is just a normal guy living in Melbourne or Amsterdam. And then I played exactly similar characters in Salaam Namaste and Hum Tum.

Rajeev Masand: You also played such character in Being Cyrus.

Saif Ali Khan: Being Cyrus is slightly different. I think it was more of an artistic sort of whim. Though it was an amazing production. There is another world out there of alternate cinema, which works on low budget but is great cinema with really well organized crews and teams. That was also something that I enjoyed doing.

Rajeev Masand: Is that the reason why people were so pleasantly surprised with Omkara where they see an actor that they have perceived largely as this ‘hip urban guy’ suddenly take a u-turn with a film set in the Indian heartland.

Saif Ali Khan: Yes, that was the plan and I think it worked. Its nice to balance things out by doing films like Omkara. That is how people are in a large part of our country. These kinds of films are not surreal but they have got more to do with a different kind of reality. Though it has got little to do with absolute real life and emotions.

Hum Tum made me look like a new hero. It did not look like someone I had played before. There was something about the character that looked right and fitted all the parameters of Hindi cinema. But at the same time had newness to it because it had me playing it.

We have taken the same thing forward with Salaam Namaste and to a lesser extent with my latest film Tara Rum Pum as well.

Rajeev Masand: What are the benefits that success allows you today? Something that you did not have some 5-7 years ago?

Saif Ali Khan: I think, confidence and freedom of choice are a few things that I have now. The freedom to take a couple of months off and to be able to say that ‘I won’t do this project because I choose to spend the time with my family’ is something that is possible now. Actually I am just beginning to be successful and it has got to do more with luck and guidance. I think I still have a long way to go.
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Rajeev Masand: You play guitar, don’t you?

Saif Ali Khan: Yes I do. In High school it was compulsory for each one of us to take up a music instrument. And I took up guitar. I loved guitar-oriented music whether it was classical or rock. I thought it would be a fun to learn and then I started thoroughly enjoying it. I recently performed with Parikrama, which is a fantastic group. We are planning more of such concerts in late December in about four cities. I think that should be exciting.

Rajeev Masand: Do you feel powerful with your guitar? Like when you performed on stage was it a big thrill?

Saif Ali Khan: When you are actually playing live, it is a different ball game all together. It is a tremendous experience. If you are just pretending to play, you can feel like a rock star. But if you are actually playing, it’s a special feeling. Its not like when you are acting, but rather a very humbling experience. You feel like you have created an artistic field around yourself. Similarly I feel that doing theatre would really be expanding horizons.

Rajeev Masand: So do you plan to take up theatre?

Saif Ali Khan: Not really. I don’t see myself doing Hindi theatre and with all due respect to the English theatre, I don’t see much relevance of it in India. The audience is limited and even if you are great you perhaps won’t be noticed that much. You have a limited amount of time to spare, and you would certainly want to spend that doing films. You need to manage time between work and family and have a bit of a private life. Doing a play would perhaps be too time consuming.

Rajeev Masand: When you go for holidays do you prefer big cities or the country?

Saif Ali Khan: I like both and I’m very fortunate that either I adapt very quickly or my work suits what I happen to want. We were in New York for about a month and half. Just as it was getting crazy, we were shifted to Bedford, which is just an hour away from the New York City. It is full of lakes and trees.

I didn’t go back to the city even on day offs. It was really nice. I am slowly becoming a country person with good company around or even alone. But, yes there have been a lot of big cities in my life recently.

Rajeev Masand: Do you crave for anonymity sometimes? I asked Preity Zinta this question and she said that she really wants to be left alone and not be recognized all the time. I asked Shah Rukh Khan the same question and he said he would be clueless if people didn’t recognize him. Would you also like to be left alone sometimes?

Saif Ali Khan: I think I have that amount of anonymity to a certain extent. We are not world famous in any possible sense. It also depends where you go. Usually only Bangladeshis, Indians or Pakistani people recognize you.

I probably take it more seriously when there are other stars around. When you are at a premier or a public place signing autographs, I want my share of stardom at that time. But generally if I’m with my daughter in a mall, and some kind of a scene gets created, I have to alter my thinking to not loose my temper and say ‘leave me alone’ kind of things.
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I am a very private person and I do get a little intrusive because of that. Unfortunately you have to get rude when things are getting out of hand. At times at a press conference or somewhere else, things do get out of hands. It’s a stampede sometimes with people literally jumping on to you. Sloppiness does get me a little tense when it gets rowdy and noisy.

At times it’s not even worth answering a question because people can hardly hear you. But of course you have to remember that all that would be seen would be your face. You wish if only people could see what is happening behind the camera they would perhaps understand. To incessantly answer your question, I love my job and I love doing it.

And of course I appreciate that stardom has opened so many doors. We all are so privileged. I am very grateful to everyone for it, but do I crave anonymity? Perhaps I’m not famous enough to crave for something like that.

Rajeev Masand: Do you think of yourself as a role model for your kids?

Saif Ali Khan: Yes. I am a role model for them whether I think of myself as one or not. Everything that I do, somewhere down the line both of them will base what they want and what they don’t want on what I’m like. Whatever you do, you are going to make a deep impression as a parent. Whether you give helpful guidance to them or not, it remains a fact that they will look up to you.

Rajeev Masand: So do you have mind your Ps and Qs for that?

Saif Ali Khan: I think I am quite well mannered in that sense. But sometimes kids see you in situation when you are getting a bit too much of attention. I do scowl at times.

My father is a role model for me. He never looses his cool. He is a true gentleman in a very dignified sense. My sister and my mother always tell me to look up to my father in tense situation. They tell me that when in doubt I should look at my father how he would react in a situation like this. I would like to set similar example for my kids.

Rajeev Masand: Of the two of your kids, who is the more spoilt one?

Saif Ali Khan: I spoil both of them equally. Its weird because both my kids Sara (daughter) and Ibrahim (son) have such distinct natures. Sara came first by a couple of years. She is six years elder to my son. She is already a young lady now. Right now Ibrahim is obsessed with Count Dracula.

He plays cricket and many other games. His mum has enrolled him in Karate classes so I have been going there to catch some of his action. His favourite sport is cricket. I read out stories to them and its fun to expose them to my childhood heroes. I tell them about things like Treasure Island and the stories that I have read as a kid.
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Rajeev Masand: So do you think your son is going to pick up (cricket) what you didn’t ?

Saif Ali Khan: I wasn’t so bad really. He plays pretty well now. I think it will take some time before he knows for sure that is he is going to take up cricket seriously. By the time he turns ten, we will know whether it’s a gift like it was with my grandfather and father.

Rajeev Masand: Do they have any favourite film of yours?

Saif Ali Khan: I don’t know and I never really ask them. I think only recently have they found me acceptable. Like most people I don’t think either of them were Saif fans till about five-six years ago.

Rajeev Masand: So who were they fans of?

Saif Ali Khan: Shah Rukh, Salman who else? Sara used to kiss the TV whenever Shah Rukh would to come. Ibrahim does looks up to me. He copies more or less everything including my hair-cut, clothes and other stuff. There is great amount of responsibility there as well.

Rajeev Masand: Well all the best you. We hope you continue to be a great actor and an even better dad.

Saif Ali Khan: Thank you Rajeev. It was a pleasure talking top you.

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