Monday, August 31, 2015

Saif Ali Khan

“Everyone has pretty much the same level of talent, but it’s our choices that define us”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

(From the August 29, 2015 issue of Super Cinema)

If one had to take a look at his career spanning more than twenty years, one could concur that he’s one actor who has only gotten better with time – in terms of the choices, performance and popularity. Of course, with a few glitches thrown in between. What’s nice though, is the fact that he knows his reality and mistakes. Talk to him and it won’t come as a surprise that women find him charming. One of the most easy-going, articulate actors you’d come across; in an in-depth conversation, Saif Ali Khan shares details about his latest release ‘Phantom’, his journey and himself…

The tagline of ‘Phantom’ says ‘A story you wish were true’…but what did you think of the film at the script level?
I thought it was a fairly straight-forward kind of mission movie. You cannot rely on patriotism, nationalism or jingoism to make a film run. I don’t think people will spend money on the movie because it’s their duty. I saw it as a mission movie, a fairly simple genre piece, about a guy who gets a chance to get his honour back. So, it’s a story of salvation at one level, and I thought it’s a gritty kind of action adventure on the other hand where a person goes into the enemy territory to pull off something he’s not going to get the credit for. I believed there was tremendous amount of romance in the story for me.

You already like reading, so did you read Hussain Zaidi’s book that has inspired the film as a part of your prep work?
I’m trying to read classics. I don’t read contemporary kind of fiction, and actually I didn’t feel the need to read it. I kind of understood how to make it my own character. I think ‘Phantom’ was more about the mental preparation and maintaining the fitness. The role required a certain amount of look. It was not an army role I had to look more regular because I play an undercover agent. Just listening to Kabir Khan helped and most of the work was done when we went to these parts like Kashmir and Beirut.

From films like ‘Phantom’, ‘Being Cyrus’, ‘Omkara’ to ‘Cocktail’ or ‘Love Aaj Kal’…has this variety been a conscious attempt?
I choose the best of what I’m offered. It depends on your mindset and what kind of attitude you have actually. You attract what you like, and things you see yourself in. You reject roles you don’t connect to. But if you change or develop as a person then you are attracted to different roles. That’s the whole other side of being an actor. It’s the kind of films you choose that makes you. Everyone has pretty much the same level of talent, but it’s the choices that define us.

And what comes more organically to you?
Something like ‘Phantom’ comes naturally to me also. I do enjoy a comedy or a romantic comedy but I think that requires me to be spiritually in the best mood possible, to be kind and give that much positive energy. ‘Phantom’ is a bad mood kind of job. It’s actually easier. It requires focus. Yes, when you play a character who has been in the army and is used to killing people, it can take a toll on you. But most actors know that it’s actually easier to have a restrained, controlled performance than something energetic and bubbly which is genuine acting really.

It’s been a while since you’re around, almost 23 years…how do you look at your growth? You are one of those actors who’s gone notches higher over the years as compared to when you started out. 
I think the process has just gotten a bit better, as the films have gotten better. I do have a better understanding of the craft. I’m 45 right now, and I feel like I’m on the top of my game in every way. But there are so many people who’ve been here longer than me, so I cannot take 23 years of being here seriously. Look at the other Khans, or Akshay Kumar. I think we started around the same time. In fact, they started a bit earlier, and they’re still going strong. This is a sign of our times. If we look good for our age, and represent our age well, then I think sky is the limit. Having said that, I don’t even know if I’m in a certain position. I had a terrible year last year. You’re from Super Cinema, so I don’t have to tell you that. It’s like the stock market and it’s important that I’m honest. I think the idea is to choose carefully and have a connect with the audience. Some films do good and some don’t.

But you’ve never really been bothered by the number game, have you?
No, but budgeting is important because someone has invested their money in it. I’m not bothered about the number game, but it’s just that people shouldn’t lose their money. Even if my films make a little bit of money it’s fine, but one shouldn’t lose money.

Is this the part where you’re talking as a producer?
I think it’s all connected, so one has to understand all aspects of a film. One cannot exist without the other. We’ve made mistakes in the budgeting of our films too, that’s why I’m saying one should realise the importance of budgeting.

Which means you are someone who analyses the mistakes or criticism in order to improve?
I know what’s good and bad. When people say that a particular film was annoying, I know what they mean. I’m also very self-critical, I think everyone is. Sometimes when people say things like ‘Katrina and I are as boring as Phantom is’, it’s just one person saying that out of many. But everyone is entitled to have an opinion. You need to see what’s good for you.

Can you pinpoint on your most difficult role so far?
On paper, ‘Omkara’ was difficult. But I did all the homework and was really prepared. When you rehearse, it becomes easy. I think for some reason ‘Love Aaj Kal’ was really difficult because Imtiaz Ali has a very conversational style of writing so it took a lot of time for me to learn the dialogues and make it look natural. I think it was also slightly difficult because of the state I was in at that point.

What is it about your profession that makes you the most happy?
There are so many different aspects of being an actor – doing a movie and watching it with the audience, or just watching it by yourself makes you happy for being a part of something. We’re a big industry so to pull your weight down and do something special feels great. Then your family and the lifestyle that this job gives you, comes into picture. It matters what you do with your money or how you live your life. I think we are quite lucky that way for having a lot of options.

Talking about things that come with being an actor, for instance, stardom…you’ve been quite detached from it if I may say so.

I don’t know what stardom means. If it means that your film will guarantee an opening, then sometimes I don’t even think I’m a star. Sometimes I think I am. One cannot guarantee anything. It changes from Friday to Friday. But also, one cannot take oneself too seriously. I hate to be a pain to the people I live with or be tensed about movies because as long as you’re having a stable career, you’re working hard, doing reasonably well, and just living an interesting life off-screen in terms of your family or friends, that’s important. You cannot get caught in the frills. I mean, I’ve been doing it for almost 25 years, so sitting and going on about it can be repetitive also. I love being an actor, it gives us so much freedom to do other things and look after so many other aspects of life like see the world, travel, but one gets a little tired also in the sense that I don’t have the energy to party so much. I just want to do my work and come home. When I’m not working, I like relaxing. It’s a good life. I just like to choose my projects carefully, work with good directors, so that nobody is losing any money and some quality work is happening. 

No comments:

Post a Comment