Rajeev Masand

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Would have kissed SRK if we were in Dostana: Saif

 
Rajeev Masand Reviews
 

  CNN-IBN Entertainment Editor Rajeev Masand talks to Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan on everything from his maiden production Love Aaj Kal, to his relationship with Kareena Kapoor and his upcoming flick Agent Vinod.

Rajeev Masand: I think it’s fair to say that over the years, you have come to represent the urban, cool generation. You try and challenge that every now and then with films like Omkara and Race. Have you enjoyed these massy outings?

Saif Ali Khan: Yes I have actually. I remember Adi Chopra telling me that there has been a multiplex boom and you are this new kind of multiplex-ish hero. I also never quite imagined myself doing a raunchy sort of item number with Yash Raj. At least not like Race. So I think it was really a brave step out of a comfort zone of doing films like Salaam Namaste, Ta Ra Rum Pum and Hum Tum, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which I am very grateful for but the films that I did for fun – Race, Omkara and Ek Haseena Thi are offset against those other roles. I wanted to do an item song, play a guy who mouths filmy lines and be like a genuine hero.

Rajeev Masand: To break away from that PG 13 image?

Saif Ali Khan: Yes. This metrosexual word has been sort of over-used on me.

Rajeev Masand: You’ve said that love stories bore you and yet the first film that you chose to produce is a love story.

Saif Ali Khan: Ya. I think what I meant by that was that I basically watch English movies and I’d rather watch Aviator or Gladiator or Clint Eastwood movies or some dirty Harry thriller, rather than watch How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Confessions of a Shopaholic unless someone makes me, but I guess…

Rajeev Masand: Does she make you?

Saif Ali Khan: No, no not really. She may mildly suggest it. But here the idea was to reach as many people as possible and do a film not selfishly. I think when I was younger and a bit more naive, I’d be happy to get lines in English and be happy with the tag of this niche of this cool English-speaking hero, but I think today it is more about an as wider reach as possible. So, it’s a love story but it also pushes the envelope and I am very proud to have produced it. It’s not regular and it’s not like the love stories that I have done before. I think from format to content, there is something very unique about this film. That is, I think it is quite advanced.

Rajeev Masand: Why did you decide to produce? So you could have greater control over the movies that you make or so you could have a larger slice of the profits that your movies make.

Saif Ali Khan: No not really. I think after you have been working in movies for a long time, it’s a nice idea to work for yourself and to be a little creatively responsible for your own career as well as the product which you make. Actors in any case get all the flak so you might as well take your own decisions. If you do that on someone else’s time and money it’s called interference. But I think this all started when Eros came into Bombay with a lot of money for various people – I mean as far as I am concerned, they were willing to back and make a deal on any project. They said why don’t you make a film that you really want to make and we’ll back you. So they financed the film and we produced it. So I thought that maybe it’s time now to learn about the business, be a little creatively more responsible and end up owning 50 per cent of the negative right off the bat.

Rajeev Masand: Saif, Deepika Padukone and you seem like such an unlikely pair. She barely says anything and you are like this talkative, opinionated guy. As the producer, was the onus on you to break the ice?

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Saif Ali Khan: I have never really believed in that. It depends on how you want to play it. You can either be a guy who really wants to welcome someone, go into their van, take them flowers, spend some time chatting and hanging out or showing them pictures on your laptop or call them or whatever it is that people do. I don’t believe in that. There is like a professional distance which we have kept. Also, I think we have been personally involved with other people and I think when actors are personally involved, there are certain rules in my mind that I would like adhered to. And I think part of that is not going out of my way as a producer to welcome someone. I think Imtiaz and Dinesh did that but on the set, I went out of my way as an actor to make sure that the young lady was extremely comfortable. And whenever possible, made her feel that she is doing much more that I do.

Rajeev Masand: Your production company is called Illuminati films. Are you a fan of the Da Vinci Code or is it just a cool-sounding name?

Saif Ali Khan: I have been a fan of secret societies and pirates and secret agents and locks and codes all my life and it is a coincidence that Dan Brown wrote about it. The Illuminati is actually a secret society, but for me basically it is a boyish thing – like the Freemasons kind of vibe. But I also like the fact that they give us some light, which is actually what a projector does – give light. So there is nothing deeper beyond it. We didn’t want to call it Saif Ali Khan productions or Saif and Dinesh Combines. It sounds pompous. So we thought on an English approach and make it seem like a foreign company and let people wonder who are the Illuminati.

Rajeev Masand: Have your kids seen Love Aaj Kal?

Saif Ali Khan: They have seen rushes and bits and the older one has some expert comments to make about what she likes and doesn’t like and I don’t think Ibrahim is really interested in unfinished films. He’s seen the songs. But no opinion as such – none that I take very seriously right now in any case.

Rajeev Masand: You were originally offered a role in Dostana. Now don’t say you didn’t have the dates to do because I know that is not true. Are you going to be honest enough to admit you were chicken?

Saif Ali Khan: No I didn’t really chicken out. I think there was Abhishek (Bachchan) and Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan) at the time that I was being offered the movie and I was just wondering whether I needed to do that or how I fit in and I pretty much told Karan (Johar) that.

Rajeev Masand: The gay thing didn’t scare you off?

Saif Ali Khan: No, no, no. The gay thing didn’t scare you off. In fact I don’t think they actually kissed.

Rajeev Masand: No they didn’t.

Saif Ali Khan: Oh they should have. I would have.

Rajeev Masand: Shah Rukh said that as well.

Saif Ali Khan: And I would have kissed him.

Rajeev Masand: You would have?

Saif Ali Khan: Yeah yeah, because I think we think like that. That would have given everyone something to talk about.

Rajeev Masand: Did you see the film? Did you enjoy it?

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Saif Ali Khan: Yes I did and it was enjoyable.

Rajeev Masand: The next film you are going to produce is called Agent Vinod. Is it a sort of international spy thriller?

Saif Ali Khan: I don’t think we are silly. There is an element of tack to Agent Vinod, like there is an element of tack to Mission Impossible. But once you see the poster and all, everything will gel together. It’s Sriram Raghavan at his best. I want him to make a contemporary RAW agent, saving the world and specifically saving India or Delhi. It’s going to be very contemporary. There is going to be a cross between something larger than life and some thing extremely gritty, sexy but at the same time there will be no vodka martinis or black ties or an Indian guy trying to be a western James Bond-style character. James Bond is a capitalist paragon that lost his relevance really the minute the Iron Curtain collapsed. This is not James Bond. This is an imaginary RAW agent who is just very cool and will make a fun movie – a thrill-a-minute kind of vibe.

Rajeev Masand: You see this as a franchise? Hrithik Roshan has his Krrish, Shah Rukh Khan has his Don. Will this be your franchise?

Saif Ali Khan: Or Akshay Kumar’s Khiladi series. Yes, yes that is the most enduring, he has done so many of those. Hopefully yes, that is the idea, but I get scared when people start talking about the sequels or the third part. The idea is to get the first part right and then we’ll see. But definitely, in the script something happens in the climax which Sriram has written and from then on we see his (Agent Vinod’s) face in a different way because he loses something dear to him. So I imagine that he (Sriram Raghavan) is thinking in terms of a sequel also.

Rajeev Masand: Your breakout performance was Omkara and yet you turned down Kaminey?

Saif Ali Khan: I don’t think it is fair to say that I turned down Kaminey. I think there was a time when Vishal Bhardwaj was just talking about it and we did meet. He has a lot of great ideas and he said to me that he was thinking of making this film about twins and – I don’t even know if I am supposed to say it because I don’t want to give out what I know about the story – but it was in a very nascent stage. I think it boiled down to a choice between working with Imtiaz Ali on Love Aaj Kal or working with Vishal. It’s just that I had done Omkara and I got the feeling that I wanted to work with Imtiaz Ali. I want to clear this up. I have a lot of respect for Vishal and I think that he is a great director. I wish him and Shahid all the very best for Kaminey. But a lot has been said in the press about Kaminey and my not getting involved with it. I think it looks like a very cool movie and I am sure any actor would like to have been a part of it. So good luck to them, but we can all do only one thing at a time and I am happy with the choice that I have stuck with.

Rajeev Masand: When you are in a relationship with someone, you tend to inherit your partner’s friends and enemies. Kareena has had some famous spats and fallouts with the Bachchans, with Bipasha Basu. These are people you have known and been friends with. Was it awkward for you to be around these people since Kareena and you became a couple?

Saif Ali Khan: I don’t think so. I think we are quite mature about that. I think it is up to us to know that we are in a very public profession and a certain code of conduct is required and we all adhere to that. But in my mind, it is quite clear that if I was to be on anyone’s side, it would be hers. And I don’t think she is unreasonable and would expect me to support her just on some diva-like whim. It would probably have some base and if it does have a base, then no question of it.

Rajeev Masand: Was it weird for you to continue being friends with Preity Zinta and Bipasha Basu?

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Saif Ali Khan: No not at all. I mean have all been to the same parties and hung around and chatted and it’s not been weird at all. It’s just that I think when you are a single person, it’s easier for you to be friendly with other people and when you are not single, it’s just not done to a certain extent. I don’t think it’s right or normal to be hanging around or having coffee. I mean nobody does that.

Rajeev Masand: Do you have that kind of comfortable relationship where you can be honest about each other’s work?

Saif Ali Khan: I’ve been asked that before and yes. I think there is a difference though. As artistes, we are very sensitive. I think we are honest to a certain degree and there is a difference between hurting somebody – I think we are our own best judges really. We know when we have done something write and when we have done something wrong and we don’t really need to be told.

Rajeev Masand: What did you think of Kambakkht Ishq?

Saif Ali Khan: I thought Kambakkht Ishq delivered exactly what it promised to deliver. I think an artiste does films for several reasons and I think Kareena signed Kambakkht Ishq two years ago. With Sajid Nadiadwala and Askshay Kumar, it’s a film designed for a massive opening and make a lot of money and be a light and easy going movie. A lot of people and especially kids have come up to her in front of her and said to her things like ‘loved you in Kambakkht Ishq, you looked so hot in Kambakkht Ishq‘ – you know her dresses and her clothes and the way she is. And that’s it. What else do you want? It’s not rocket science. The same girl has also done Dev, Omkara and Chameli. So you do a spread of things. On the other hand, the money generated by Dev, Omkara and Chameli is not a drop compared to what has been made by Kambakkht Ishq. So I think you have to balance it out.

Rajeev Masand: I heard you cringed watching Kambakkht Ishq

Saif Ali Khan: No, I think it is exactly what it sets out to be and it delivers on that level. I have done Race. I thought Omkara is a great film, but the Race shows were running full and it made a lot more money. And I don’t mean to put Omkara down. I would stand by Omkara any day as a movie. I think it is a fantastic film. I’ve put myself into a lot of trouble by getting into comparisons now, but what I am trying to say is that you can get something artistic yet critically satisfying at the same time. And I hope Love Aaj Kal is all of that.

Rajeev Masand: You’ve done your fair share of intimate scenes – with Preity Zinta in Salaam Namaste, with Bipasha Basu in Race with Kareena in Qurbaan. Are those scenes hard to film?

Saif Ali Khan: I think that’s a good question. See if there is a kiss – there is nothing much to do. I think it is much more dramatic when you don’t kiss. I don’t think there is a kiss in Race. It’s like almost a kiss. So you can touch here and there or kiss in different places and you are pretending. I don’t think it is like in America where you have proper full on kissing and tongues and bodies touching – and I don’t even like saying tongues on TV. It sounds so…I think we watch films with our parents and children and somewhere as Indians we cringe a little. That cringe factor needs to be avoided. Like for example in Ek Haseena Thi, working with Sriram Raghavan was good because it was a scene where the girl gets up from the bed wrapped in a sheet and you see her legs and the guy looks ripped and sits up in bed and lights a smoke – in the good days when you were allowed to smoke – it’s great and suggestive and beautiful. But your question is what?

Rajeev Masand: Are these scenes awkward to film?

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Saif Ali Khan: I don’t think so. It depends. In Love Aaj Kal there are like a few kisses which are completely comfortable. I mean the censor watched it and said its cute, so I think we have got good censorship too. If there is major stuff going on they will cut it or give it an adult certificate. I have never done an awkward kiss or love-making scene. I suppose the most passionate kiss I would have done would have to be Qurbaan, but that doesn’t count. That was easy.

Rajeev Masand: You are refreshingly comfortable and accepting of the fact that your relationship with Kareena has and will continue to draw so muc attention because both of you are famous celebrities. Is she equally comfortable with it or is she more irritable?

Saif Ali Khan: Irritable no. And I think both of us expect it to a large extent. Sometimes she gets conscious and she says maybe we should have a security guy. And sometimes it’s a little bit annoying. And we joke about it actually – that day we were walking out of the Marriot and there was a camera guy and she said now they’ll say ‘Kareena is looking a little stressed, I wonder what they were talking about and what’s happening inside’ and that kind of rubbish. So we laugh about it.

Rajeev Masand: I know that you know there is a B-grade movie being made about Kareena and your life and your relationship. The movie also threatens to dig out your old relationships. Is that something which amuses you or does it annoy you?

Saif Ali Khan: I made a remark where I said that I thought it was amusing but I regret making that remark. I mean of course it is annoying. I read a little bit about the kind of things that it intends to say and it is disgusting. I am half-disgusted, half-amused. I hope nobody acts in it.

Rajeev Masand: Best of luck, thank you so much and hope you continue to surprise us with your choices and continuously entertain us.

Saif Ali Khan: I hope so. Thanks so much.

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