7th October 2020

Saif Ali Khan Opens Up On Nepotism, Rigged Awards and of course his son the social-media superstar Taimur Ali Khan

Saif, how is  the  lockdown treating and your  wife (actress) Kareena  Kapoor Khan?

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.

Do you think things will ever be the same  again?

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  we can all  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  ten times  before  doing it….than  a crowded song-and-dance  sequence with 500 chorus dancers. Right now, things are scary. But we’ve to keep pushing along in the  given scenario.

The   first  Bunty Aur Babli  that came  15 years  ago   was fun. Will the sequel  be  equally entertaining?

I don’t know. The entire cast and crew barring the heroine(Rani Mukherjee) is different  now.  I wanted  to do  a smalltown normal workingclass 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  his homework on  his characters?

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 1. Working with Rani Mukherjee 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 h raised quite  a few eyebrows?

(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.

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?

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.’

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What  did they mean  by, ‘You know how it is’?

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 thankyou 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.

 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?

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 5 wins an award and the  other 4 actors  clap. 

Why doesn’t that happen?

Why we haven’t created that environment  of camaraderie  is a debate for some  student of sociology to figure out. As  I  see them, awards  functions are an excuse to make some money by performing on stage. If you have the  intelligence then you spend   the money well. That’s what awards are worth as far as I can see. It’s not about  pretending to be  a  part of a community.

Given the  vitiated environment  would you say  Bollywood is  a good job place for your three children Sara, Ebrahim and Taimur?

It is the best  place to  work in. I remember at 17-18 I  was a mess. Acting saved me from  selfdestruction. Having  the job ,  the sense of identity  it has given me and  the  job satisfaction   and the  enjoyment  it has given me are  more than I could ask for. The  other day I saw myself in an episode  of the  new webseries Taandav that  I’ve done. I had earlier seen  it  on my phone. Now I made myself a Martini, 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.

How  much  of your work have  you been able to  catch up during the lockdown?

I  have been  doing that a lot . So has my  mother(the legendary  actress Sharmila  Tagore) and she has been  evaluating her work . She  is  very self-critical. I have been watching my work in my old films. In some  I feel I was not so good. Then in  others  I feel,  okay I wasn’t bad but the  film was  not so good . I’ve understood that sometimes you work  really hard . But then the tone of  the  film is all wrong. It’s  more important to be in the  right  film than to  give  a good performance  in  a project that lets you down.

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Which of your  performances  seem  effective  to you  at this point?

I’m trying to  think…Something  like Hum Tum where everything seems  in place. There  was  a nice story  to it.  I gave  a fluid easy performance. I remember how stressed out I was while doing Hum Tum because there was no drama in  the plot. It was  all conversation. You have to be a good conversationalist to engage the audience in  something like this.

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?

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 Jaan-e-Man which was a really nice breezy film. I enjoyed  doing that. 

In Tanhaji the only  successful Bollywood film of  the  year, you  played the villain. Do you enjoy  the dark space on screen?

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 thw 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  .

But  Hindi cinema hates silences?

It’s changing. There’s always a silence and  if  the editor  keeps it ….When  you do a scene where  your co-star  is  the  centre of attention, your reaction to his  or  her presence  can make  so much  of  a  difference. 

You remind me  of Shashi Kapoor?

That’s good. That’s  a big compliment.

Your elder Ebrahim is   getting ready for  a film.

Yes, he seems  prepared.  But I think he  should wait  a little  longer.

Why, he’s looking great!  You never looked like that when you started out?

(laughs)  I know. He’s looking good. And he’s a  very gentle  soul . He’s secure in his space  and  a has a sense of  humour.

Does  it  make you feel  guilty that  you give so much time to your youngest son  Taimur and  not for your two eldest Sara and Ebrahim?

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 my elder son Ebrahim and  my daughter 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 thephone  or have dinner with Sara or Ebrahim which I can’t do with Taimur.

Also Read:  Mercy Killing ,Yes…But “Guzaarish” Was Not A Sad Film

How has little  Taimur taken to  the  lockdown?

It’s heartbreaking how  easy he has  taken to it.He  keeps saying Coronavirus all  the time and  is constantly wearing that mask and is living in an adventure. Children are  massively  accommodating.The other day my wife Kareena and  Taimur had gone to my mother-in-law’s for  lunch and  I was all alone in the house. It made me  think about how  lucky I was to have them with me during   this time of  crisis.To be living alone at this time   must be awful.

What about  you and Kareena? Spending so  much time together  during the lockdown  has created  a   havoc  in  many  marriages?

Luckily we’ve  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 then be on different planets. 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 has a nap and watch a tv show and not to be bothered… 

You  are moving into a bigger  home?

Yes , slightly bigger with  a bit  more space . There  is more terrace space for  Taimur. This house  is to cluttered. It’s  lucky that Taimur has  not bumped into anything . We didn’t remove any  of  the furniture, as we were advised to, when he came.

Taimur  is  more popular than both of you .

(laughs)  I know.I hope he finds a nice  job when he  grows up.

What do you mean? He’s a matinee idol at 2?

Well I hope he keeps it up on the Friday of his  first release .I’d like him to be an actor.

(At this  point  Taimur barges into the interview asking for his  bow  and arrow to  complete his Lord Rama ensemble).

I can hear Taimur?

Yes,  he  has  come in . It’s  a small apartment.Taimur,I am doing an  interview.

Taimur: Arrey! 

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