MUMBAI Known for his dashing good looks and the yuppie characters he plays, Saif Ali Khan has established himself as one of Bollywood’s most reliable actors.
The 38-year-old turned producer this year with “Love Aaj Kal”, a film that is pulling in audiences and has tasted box-office success this month.
Khan spoke to Reuters about his stint as a producer, his career and how “Love Aaj Kal” was supposed to end differently.
Q: Congrats on the success of ‘Love Aaj Kal’. Has it sunk in yet?
A: “Thank You. It hasn’t really sunk in yet. The relief has sunk in. It’s quite a challenge to produce and enter into an arena that is new. But it’s great that our partners are going to make money. That is a hugely satisfying feeling.”
Q: Box-office wise, it has done well, but critics have been mixed in their reactions.
A: “I am glad you are asking me this question after week one, because initially, especially with me, being the kind of person I am, I get a little touchy.
“In the early days, you are not allowed to have your opinion, you have to love it. And once you feel that it is a huge hit, you get a little calmer and see that there is some merit in what the critics are saying.
“No film is perfect; some films are, but a lot of people are going to find a lot of things wrong with the films we make. They are all entitled to their opinion. Today, if someone told me ‘listen, it’s rubbish’, I would be okay with that.”
(For video of interview, click here)
Q: Is that something you are learning as a producer?
A: “No, just as a human being. It’s just that art should be open to criticism. We are all similar on all levels, that is why a film becomes a hit. But someone having an opinion that you don’t want to hear is part of the game as a producer.
“Once in a while you might make a film that everybody likes and once in a while you might make a film that nobody likes. The idea is to maintain equilibrium.”
Q: Now that you can see the film a little more clearly, what are the points made against it that you agree with?
A: “At my age, to be directionless. You have to be careful if you can get away with that. The zone of the character which is the confused character, maybe I should have played it differently. Maybe I should play stronger characters, with an age in mind.
“Otherwise it is a great film, maybe slightly more mature. People compare it to ‘Jab We Met’, which has a lot of young energy; and that’s not a bad thing. ‘Jab We Met’ is like ice cream but this film is more like a rich wine. At first you may not like it, but with time you will appreciate it. This film is dialogue heavy and films with talking tend to be harder on the actor than films with action.
“Imtiaz really taxed Kareena for example in ‘Jab We Met’. It is a very dodgy role and it is very difficult not to go overboard with that kind of madness and still be endearing. Similarly, in this film, with my confused character, it was very essential that I not look like a fool.”
Q: Do you feel it is unfair to compare with it ‘Jab We Met’?
A: “Fair enough, but I am happy that ‘Love Aaj Kal’ has opened big. It is a good way of saying, that one is like an aged wine and the other is fun film, one that I would personally enjoy. But this was much bigger. But apart from being biased to Kareena, I definitely think that ‘Jab We Met’ was a more fun film.”
Q: You’ve played the confused lover a lot, haven’t you? Did you do something differently this time?
A: “Yeah, because this is not the same character. He is a confused guy who thinks and talks at the same time. He is a very modern thinking guy, very irreverent, doesn’t believe in marriage or God. A lot of Imtiaz’s guys are like him and his girls are the ideal girls.
“A lot of stars do the same thing and they are successful doing the same thing. I am not comparing myself to Mr Bachchan, but I quite like the fact that he was able to do the same thing. You expect to see something when you go in to watch a movie of a certain star. It cannot be repetitive, it has to be subtle enough to be different.”
Q: Vishal Bhardwaj feels you aren’t discovering yourself in the roles you are doing right now. Is that a valid thought?
A: “Yeah, every thought is valid. Vishal’s got a great mind and I really did discover myself as an actor with ‘Omkara’. In comparison to that, there isn’t much work that I have done since then which is as different. At the same time, I think it is important to establish yourself at the box-office.”
Q: How much have you sunk your teeth into production?
A: “There are certain ideas that don’t interest me at all. Like rates, the financial aspects, the logistical angle are things that I don’t like. But the creative angle appeals to me greatly. I am interested in promos and poster, the look of the film and the way it’s done.”
Q: Do you see yourself directing?
A: “No, I think it is too time consuming. As a producer you can make decisions on the phone and if you have a great team it isn’t as time consuming. But as a director, first you are writing and then shooting, so you need to be there. I like having a personal life, I like my space and I think being an actor-producer is just right.”
Q: How did Imtiaz come on board for ‘Love Aaj Kal’?
A: We just wanted to make a great film and Kareena had recommended him. I had seen ‘Jab We Met’ and the way he spoke to me and the kind of script he narrated, it sounded like the kind of film we wanted to make.
“Actually, ‘Love Aaj Kal’ had a sad ending earlier. When Jai comes from San Francisco, he finds Meera pregnant with Rahul Khanna’s baby and he just doesn’t speak to her. He goes back. It was a bittersweet ending. I kept saying to Imtiaz that he should make it a happy ending.”
“It would have been a little offbeat and niche. Maybe very cool but not the kind of ending that was meant to make so much money. It’s not just about money, it’s about happiness also.”
Q: Now that you’ve worked on a home production, would you be okay doing other people’s films?
A: “Yeah, of course. It is like a dinner party. You have dinner parties at your home but then you also go to other people’s places for dinner, but that doesn’t mean you start telling them how to serve their silver. But the difference is that if they go wrong, you know.
“Once in a while some people will serve better dinners than you and you say, wow, this silverware is really impressive.”
Q: What are you working on next?
A: “I am working on ‘Agent Vinod’, then ‘Race 2’ and a script that Imtiaz has written.”