An open letter to Saif Ali Khan
Following is a letter to the much loved Saif Ali Khan who was hospitalised this week for chest pain:
My favourite and most emblematic question defining your personality is, 'Are you indecisive?'
I can never forget your answer. 'No! Well... maybe yes...'
Get the picture, Saif? I've never come across anyone who's as muddled and yet uniquely clear-headed as you. Not too long ago you poured your heart out about your break up with Amrita (Singh).
I cleaned out as much of your outpourings as I could, making sure no one gets hurt. But it didn't look too nice.
Later you told a mutual friend you shouldn't have spoken out.
It isn't as if you don't stand by your convictions. It's just that your convictions are multi-dimensional and prone to several interpretations at the same time. This is what makes you so endearing and exasperating.
A day before you went into the hospital, you sent me an SMS from South Africa saying, 'Adaab, returning home today. We must speak soon.'
And then you signed off with those three trademark Xs, which I've asked you about. But you've never given me a satisfactory explanation.
You never do. If there's a punctuation mark to define every life, yours will have to be a question mark.
Indecisiveness isn't just an option for you. It's a way of life. Ask all those directors who've bitten their nails while you've gone through your inevitable thought process of yes-no-maybe and finally... no!
I remember Aparna Sen even brought your mom into the picture to make you say yes to her first Hindi film. Poor Aparna hasn't been able to make a Hindi film yet.
Revathy wanted to sign you for an elder woman-young man love story. When I asked you to speak to her, you readily agreed. Revathy hasn't been able to get through to you.
Like it or not, today you're in an irreplaceable position in the industry. Roles are being written specially for you. And if not written for you, then tailored to suit your personality. This is something we've laughed together about on several occasions.
Just three years ago, 'Dil Chahta Hai' had happened and 'Kal Ho Naa Ho' had also come along. You were determined to fight out the 'Best Supporting Actor' tag. I remember how apprehensive you were when you did your first major solo act in 'Ek Hasina Thi'. But it was an antagonist's role and you wondered if that would take you where you really wanted to go.
'What's wrong with being Shashi Kapoor and not Amitabh Bachchan? Wasn't Shashi your mom's favourite co-star?' I had rationalised your fringe prominence.
I've to somehow bring your mom into all our conversations. Once when we were talking about you settling down, you even joked that I sound like your amma.
That's fine by me because it's time to give you some paternal advice. You really need to bring down your stress level. Stop pushing down on the pedal. It sounds strange saying this because I've always found you enormously laidback, to the point of seeming indifferent to social niceties.
If you didn't call back Revathy or Aparna, it doesn't mean you've an aversion to female directors. It's just one of those many things that you never got down to doing... like our most recent interview, postponed over and over again. I'd have taken grave offence if it were someone else.
Not you. Saif, you can never be offensive, even when you go into a deep sulk for weeks for the strangest of reasons.
I am not even perturbed by your now-legendary indecisiveness. What really bothers me is how frantic you've become about filling up your bank account for your children's sake. Everything that you do now is for Sarah and Ebrahim. You've a number of times told me you'd like to make loads of money; hence the profusion of ads and live performances.
Evidently, you're overdoing it. For a guy whose Nawabi antecedents sit naturally on his aristocratic shoulders, the working-class anxiety is a bit too much to bear.
You need to stop and look closely at your work pace. As far as your children are concerned, I think a career is already cut out for your daughter.
A year ago she came up to Sanjay Bhansali and me at an awards function and did a graceful adaab. Then and there I knew Sarah is going to be a major screen attraction. There's nothing you can do to stop it. Why fight the inevitable? Just take a deep breath and stop stressing about your responsibilities as a householder.
You broke away from all the sniggering comments that you looked like your mom. Today a lot of people in the industry secretly and openly feel you're the best Khan.
Go, sock it to them, Saif.
Get well soon.
Subhash K. Jha.