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Interview : Saif Ali Khan

'Saif Ali Khan: Shahrukh, Salman, & Aamir have been my seniors always'

The fourth deadly Khan of Bollywood, Saif Ali Khan broke his hackneyed image after doing series of commercial rom-coms like HUM TUM, KAL HO NA HO, SALAAM NAMASTE, etc. with subversive characters in BEING CYRUS and OMKARA and emerged as the most versatile actor of Bollywood. Subsequently, the actor par-excellence, unlike other artists, who would usually prefer traversing on single path, juggled with miscellaneous genres at the same time, thereby substantiating his versatility. And now the talented actor, Saif is once again at it with his upcoming film BULLETT RAJA, where he plays a good-hearted robust gangster for the first time. caught up with Saif Ali Khan recently, who feels he is at a much better position now. Here are the excerpts:

You have a very western demeanour and most of your films have been on those lines, yet you did films like OMKARA & BULLETT RAJA and pulled off unconventional characters?

OMKARA was something I really worked hard on. Vishal gave me a great role and it helped me a lot. I have grown as an actor, understood my job well and have little more control over what I do. I'm enjoying the feeling of being versatile. But there was a time when I was not doing too much work. I used to look for stuff that excited me, and was trying to be selective. But then I realized that attitude of mine was wrong. I felt that even if I make a mistake I should work more and try different things. If I like a film and director I don't need to really read the whole script to convince myself. In that way, I felt BULLETT RAJA was really interesting, felt something new and different. Moreover, if you keep doing what is comfortable & what comes to you easily, it somewhere tends to be boring and not what cinema should be. I am lucky I could do a role like BULLETT RAJA. Further, you need to have slightly tough demeanour, rough attitude to carry this part (BULLETT RAJA) and there was a time when I felt I was too young to do it or too boyish to this pull off. It is really exciting that times have changed now.

view BULLETT RAJA stills

Films like HUM TUM seem to come naturally to you, so was it comfortable getting into that rustic mode with the peculiar dialect and body language in BULLETT RAJA?
When I was doing HUM TUM, I thought it would be charming and fun being a love story, however I realized, on the sets, I had to learn three pages of dialogues and make it sound like natural conversation, whereas when I was shooting for BULLETT RAJA, which involves lot of rough action, I had to really work hard as I haven't done something like this before and truly wanted to do it from long in that way everything is tough. Nothing is comfortable but it is difficult in different ways. Having said that, the relaxing part about rom-coms like HUM TUM and HAPPY ENDING is that here your body language doesn't need to be correct or be in a particular order. You can be yourself where you are sitting, scratching your head; everything would look natural, whereas in the case of films like BULLET RAJA the body language would be much more rural and it is difficult to control sometimes. Because body language keeps differing.

'I am sure there is something special about my gangster role'

Your body language can never lie but dialogues can.

Since a lot of films are being made and popularized for its fling punch, gun-toting , & super dancing, etc, did it ever deter you, considering there is lot of competition in this genre?
I don't think about other people when I am doing a movie. Luckily, I am not that kind. There's lot of talent around, amazing looking people and great actors but I think most of us are successful and have something unique in each of us and we should try and extract that out. I don't think about others because I would hate to be influenced by others who think in that zone. I am sure there is something special about my gangster role. I am quite confident about Raja, my character, who has certain edge in terms of style; but it's not just the role for your fun only!

Did your producer instinct come forth while opting for a movie like BULLETT RAJA, as it seems to be a sure shot success formula?
I don't think it's a sure shot success or anything like that. Also, actors and producers should think in the same way that we just want to make an interesting movie at least I think so when I am producing a movie. I mean they both are creative though they have different roles. Actors might think a little micro but producers have to think from wider perspective. I don't think we would have produced such kind of film somehow because BULLETT RAJA is not the kind of film we would usually think of. For that we need a director like Tigmanshu Dhulia to do it. We can easily get attracted to love stories but not a gangster flick....(pauses and ponders) But I think I do recollect of discussing with Dinesh of making a movie on gangster sometime. However, coincidently BULLETT RAJA happened.

After Shahrukh, Salman and Aamir, you are looked upon as the fourth most deadly Khan of Bollywood. Despite their presence, you have your own aura and league?
I don't know, I think every person has its own personality. Everyone comes with their own destiny and every person gets what he desires for. The names which you have taken have been my seniors ever since I have been in the film industry and I truly respect each of them. I share a great bond with all three and have learnt a lot from them. All three come with altogether different approach and thinking. As for me, I believe I am more comfortable and better today than three or five years ago. I am better today than I was during HUM TUM. I think HAPPY ENDING and BULLETT RAJA are better than HUM TUM and RACE.

'I believe I am more comfortable and better today than three or five years ago.'

While the troika (SRK, Salman & Aamir) is sitting pretty on the top establishing the 100 crore club, so being an A-list actor does that pressurize you, as a solo 100 cr outing is eagerly awaited from you? Also do you think BULLETT RAJA will achieve that feat?

Well, I don't think it's going to cross 100 crore because not every film is meant to do it. It's a Tigmasnhu Dhulia film after all...

....But Tigmasnhu, the director of the film, at a recent event seemed quite upbeat about his first ever commercial film BULLETT RAJA. He was quoted saying that he is set to change the face of commercial cinema and all?
Wow! I love his (Tigmanshu's) attitude. He says amazing things. It's really nice and I wish him luck. What all he is saying I don't think we change cinema overnight. We have to try and change whatever we can functioning under the umbrella of cinema. But I think what he also means is definition of commercial is changing. For e.g. films like BARFI made 100 crore but that's not usually what you think is commercial cinema. A package of good comedy, action, drama, and few songs is what is perceived to be 'commercial'. While Tigmanshu's films are bit artistic and have their own niche.

I agree that this is his most commercial film that he's made but what I want say is not every film can make 100 crore. There's a certain film that will make you expect it should. For instance, my film RACE should have done it; my upcoming film HAPPY ENDING can do it.
view BULLETT RAJA videos

...But BULLETT RAJA has all the elements of a commercial potboiler?
I don't know it has all the elements. It's a Tigmanshu Dhulia film. He's not known to make 200 crore films. That hopefully a Sajid Khan will make or with Prabhudheva you can hope it to make. As they make masala type films. Whereas films like BULLETT RAJA are more sensible, as they are little arty in nature. If you see Tigmanshu's last outing PAAN SINGH TOMAR, it can't be close to making 100 crores. However, it won a National Award. So, see all I am talking about is quality films.

Moreover, it's hard to say what is commercial today but it's not a potboiler. It's a smaller film and I'll be very happy with less than a 100 also. But more than that it should be a hit.

'Sonakshi very easygoing and I feel I have known her from long time, which I haven't.'

Having said that, when you were stepping in this zone were you consciously aware that you would be pitted against the kind of movies that are minting monies at the Box-office currently?

But I think we all are! It's obvious not every film makes that kind of monies and you should know that as producer/ director or as an actor. When people will come to see a Tigmanshu Dhulia film they are obviously not going expect it to be a Rohit Shetty comedy. Both are of different league and thinking. Every film has its expectations. You can't compare them with each other.

People fondly remember your 'LangdaTyaagi' character from OMKARA, what do you think about BULLETT RAJA?
I think Ravi Kishan's character will be definitely remembered as he is playing a woman and he is very nice in that (chuckles).

Is BULLETT RAJA carrying forward 'Langda Tyaagi'? Can BULLETT RAJA be pitched on the lines of DABANGG and SINGHAM?
No it's not carrying forward. It's Raja Missra, a UP gangster. Yes he is bit dabangii. Would be happy if BULLETT RAJA came anywhere close to these films. As they both were amazing movies.

What do you have to say about your co-star Sonakshi Sinha, who has been all around and shining high these days?
Yes literally! How can she promote two films at the same time? (chortles) I feel so tired. It's amazing how she does it. No seriously, she is very nice and down-to-earth and I really enjoy working with her she's got a grounded personality that makes BULLETT RAJA too grounded. She is easygoing and I feel I have known her from long time, which I haven't.

Do you think filmmakers should start taking a stand on the way bloodshed and gangster films are glamourized?
Films are universally meant to be thought-provoking, disturbing, mirror to the society, they are not supposed to be moral guides. The law is supposed to keep you under control but having said that, the violence in video game for kids is gorier and more disturbing, that will mess your mind more than a movie. Punching, fighting, and celebrating heroes, guns all have been historically part of our culture. Don't ban everything otherwise what will do then? But you can't be stupid also.

- By Rachana Sheth, Glamsham Editorial

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