"My career has done an about-turn after Hum Tum. And now, the National Award. I don't believe it! As my sister Soha rightly said, it's not that I wasn't being taken seriously as an actor -- I was, after Dil Chahta Hai and Ek Hasina Thi -- but such light-toned films are never taken seriously. I always thought it was the so-called serious roles that were taken seriously."
In the same breath, Saif says doing Hum Tum wasn't easy. "The role was a series of dialogues exchanged in a bantering cascade. It was like Rani (Mukerji) would throw a barb at me, and I'd throw it right back at her, and it went on like that. At times, I'd wonder what the heck Yash Raj Films were up to! I should've known better. They always know what they are doing. But how was anyone to know Hum Tum would turn out the way it did? I must thank Rani for being such a wonderful co-star. I must say it feels strange to have her get all the popular awards while I get the National Award!"
Saif is also surprised. "Isn't commercial cinema generally regarded as a no-no for National awards? Hum Tum is as commercial as it gets!"
He admits to feeling a lot of discomfort about the way the popular awards went this year. "Filmfare's Best Actor in a comic role didn't make me happy. I was far more okay with the other popular awards where I was nominated in the Best Actor category. So what if I didn't win? At least I got nominated in the right category."
The actor finds the National Award so early in his career very "cool."
"It's quite something though it hasn't really sunk in yet. I really like what jury head Sudhir Mishra said about my performance -- light and yet full of surprises. One doesn't really know whether one is going right with the performance until a recognition like this comes along. Am I going to get more serious about my career? Who says I wasn't serious otherwise?"
Then as an afterthought, he adds, "Hey, has Mr Bachchan won the National Award? He has? Good. Next time I run into him, I can wink at him."
"Now, I have Yash Raj Films' Salaam Namaste, which again is very light in tone. You think the National Awards would try to prove a point again next year or am I pushing it?" Saif chuckles.