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Saif, the unsafe way

Never the top star but he has always been a safe bet at the box office. Now a hero's friend, now exuding humour, Saif Ali Khan has done all this and much more. With "Ek Hasina Thi", he turns a mean leaf. RANA SIDDIQUI finds out.



Saif Ali Khan... The handsome anti-hero of "Ek Hasina Thi". Photo: Anu Pushkarna.

YOU CAN see glimpses of royal lineage in Saif Ali Khan. He will not tolerate any disturbance, when he is being interviewed, not even flipping of pages, or traces of conversation that flow with the air from a far end of his own home at Kautilya Marg in New Delhi.

"Sir, do you mind sitting on that chair. You are disturbing me," he reproaches, politely, an elderly photographer who seems to distract while he is being interviewed by a television channel for "Ek Hasina Thi", his latest film. "No, I cannot utter this word Bollywood. I belong to Hindi film industry, and I will not encourage such a terminology," he passes his verdict vehemently!

"Give me one minute," he excuses himself as he overhears his wife Amrita talking to her children inside. In flat one minute he is back. The voice no longer disturbs throughout the long interview.

The first impression of him is that of a snooty Narcissus. It is comfortably replaced by just the opposite as you observe him speaking nothing but sense and substance supported with marvellous diction. "Out of 50 films I have done, only seven have been hits," he confesses. But the films he chooses brand him with a suspect reputation, commercially speaking. "Not all films that Amitabh Bachchan has done are hits and some hit films are also bad," he tries to justify.

Yet there is no dearth of offers for him but many of these irritate him. "Industry is so big that offers keep coming. But the way I am told about the script is, for instance, `this film is like `Dewaar', you role is that of Shashi Kapoor'. This is stupid." Today every one wants to become a director in the film industry, not a star, he adds.

There is no less stupidity that he keeps on observing while doing a film too. "Films on war are a constant test of patriotism for Muslims. Why do we think of only India as the only great, patriotic nation and brand others as unpatriotic? What Pakistan is doing in the name of Jehad is patriotism for them. I have met many Kashmiris who told me that they neither want to be with India nor Pakistan, they want their independent status. So who are we to decide for them? During the shooting of films like `LOC - Kargil', you realise that you were never told about Nehru's plebiscite and that Pakistan is actually an acronym for Punjab, Kashmir, Indus, Sindh and more such words! For me `LOC' is just a film, a reality take on war," Saif gets various creases on his forehead, for one more reason though - we are 50 years away from the West when it comes to glorifying war in our films, see `Saving Private Ryan'," he cites examples.

For his choice of films, he holds himself responsible, though he takes help from wife Amrita and mother Sharmila. "If there is any complex script, I send for consideration to Amma. I discuss my films with my wife but I take the final decision so that I don't end up blaming them if the film does not go well," says Saif who thinks there are 10 ways to act one role and none of them is wrong. Otherwise, only one way would have been perfect and followed!

Saif "never liked his mother's films in his childhood because they were all serious in which she would keep crying," and he would cry too, seeing her!

Though not a dream role but "Ek Hasina Thi" is "so far" his "favourite role, much like myself", he reveals. "I am what I am, why should I give excuses for being what I am," he counters. Karan, his character in the film too, is bad guy because he is like that only.

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