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Birthday special: Unraveling Saif Ali Khan

Last updated on: August 16, 2012 15:12 IST

Birthday special: Unraveling Saif Ali Khan

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Sukanya Verma in Mumbai
Sometimes, you choose the best of what is offered to you. That is life. I have chosen the best of what I have been offered, so you can imagine what the worst must have been.'

The industry almost wrote him off. His career nearly didn't start after filmmaker Rahul Rawail dropped cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and actress Sharmila Tagore's son from his supposed debut opposite Kajol in Bekhudi and cast Kamal Sadanah in his place. Even after he signed films, his scruffy hair, wobbly accent, androgynous looks and wishy-washy performances ensured he wasn't taken seriously. 

And yet Saif Ali Khan not only survived, he's done rather well for himself.

From establishing himself as an actor with a knack for spontaneous humour in urban comedies to startling viewers with his starkness in roles you'd never associate with him with (till then anyway) to finding his pulse in slow-cooked dramas, the path to recovery is nothing short of remarkable.

The Cocktail star (and producer) turns 42 today. Here's celebrating one of Bollywood's most articulate stars and his topsy-turvy ride in films through the years.

1993

After the Bekhudi debacle, Yash Chopra came to Saif's rescue and cast him as a direct opponent to Aamir Khan in the old school multistarrer, Parampara along with Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna, Raveena Tandon, Neelam and Anupam Kher. Although he displayed a flair for light scenes even then, Parampara was thumbed down by viewers since J P Dutta's Kshatriya with a similar theme, appeal had released only a few months before it.

Luckily for Saif, the soundtrack and 1990s hottie Mamta Kulkarni's presence in Umesh Mehra's standard potboiler Aashiq Awara did its bit to garner a modest response and our man a Best Newcomer trophy from Filmfare. That same year he also co-starred with Suniel Shetty in Pehchaan as brothers of an estranged sister (played by Madhoo) caught in the business of prostitution.  

1994

1994 was a turning point for Saif Ali Khan. Of the four releases, two were instantly forgettable (Yaar Gaddar, Aao Pyaar Karen) but the other two -- both teaming him up Akshay Kumar -- Yeh Dillagi and Main Khiladi Tu Anari were box office success and branded them as a winning two-hero jodi with contrasting albeit complimenting characteristics. Personal front looked good too as he turned daddy with the birth to his daughter, Sara with then wife Amrita Singh.

Image: Rajeshwari and Saif Ali Khan in Parampara


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1995

A
ho-hum year, this. Harry Baweja's Imtihan with its loosely borrowed plot from 1967's Hamraaz is best remembered for Anu Malik's lilting score and Raveena Tandon's Manish Malhotra helmed wardrobe. His other film Surakshaa is the one where he romanced the still-not-controversial Monica Bedi.

1996

Professionally, things couldn't look any more worse with Bambai Ka Babu, Dil Tera Deewana, Ek Tha Raja and Tu Chor Main Sipahi, not hard to understand why, crashing like a pack of cards at the box office.

Image: Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan in Tu Chor Main Sipahi


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1997

While the stylish visuals and catchy score of Sanjay Gupta's Hamesha in addition to reigning queen Kajol's presence hinted promise, the reincarnation drama failed to find any takers at the box office.

1998

Much like Tu Chor Main Sipahi, the collective Saif-Akshay charm failed to sustain Keemat, a lacklustre rehash of Sholay despite the inclusion of Raveena 'Mast Mast' Tandon and Sonali 'Leggy' Bendre. And let's not even get started on Humse Badhkar Kaun with Suniel Shetty.

Image: Kajol and Saif Ali Khan in Hamesha


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1999

With the underrated but engaging Milan Luthria's action drama, Kachche Dhaage, things looked somewhat bright for the star. Although he was clearly outshined by co-star Ajay Devgn's intense act, the twain shared cool chemistry, which worked well overall.
 
More hits followed for the now shorter-haired Saif with a role in Sooraj R Barjatya's Hum Saath Saath Hain co-starring Salman Khan, Tabu and Karisma Kapoor and a brief cameo as Sushmita Sen's photographer boyfriend in David Dhawan's Biwi No 1.
 
Meanwhile the Akshay-Saif equation continued to fizzle even with Madhuri Dixit for company in the bland and boring Arzoo.

2000

For all his chocolate-face fervor, Saif passed off for a convincing jerk as the rich, spoilt, spineless brat impregnating a teenage girl in the hit Preity Zinta vehicle, Kya Kehna.

Image: Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan in Kachche Dhaage


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2001

Besides turning father second time with son Ibrahim, Saif began to display some growth in his performances even though his market appeal was limited to playing second fiddle or multi-actors projects only.

After doing well as the bungling kidnapper in Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega, Saif made EVERYONE sit up and take notice of his hilarious Sameer in Farhan Akhtar's breakthrough debut as director, Dil Chahta Hai. He was always good with humour but the one in DCH, with all its urban, easygoing and goofy sensibilities was right up Saif's alley.

Though he played a secondary role in the R Madhavan-oriented Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, he made the most of the popular Dil ko to flaunt his newly developed physique. 

2002

In Na Tum Jaano Na Hum, starring hottest rage Hrithik Roshan, Saif served pretty much the same purpose as RHTDM. Neither film worked, so it was a no-loss, no-profit situation.

Image: Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna in Dil Chahta Ha


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2003

And while Ram Gopal Varma's horror portmanteau, Darna Mana Hai was an interesting experiment that never quite took off, it featured Saif playing creepy with memorable relish.

But it was his camaraderie with Shah Rukh Khan over a certain Kantaben in Dharma Productions' blockbuster Kal Ho Naa Ho that became stuff award-show anchors are made of. More than anything, it sure made him hot property.
 
2003 also marks the year he romanced Kareena Kapoor (for the first time) in J P Dutta's crowded war drama, LOC: Kargil oblivious to the possibility that he'd be dating her four years later.

2004

Things looks stressful on the personal front after his 13-year old marriage to Amrita Singh ends in divorce.

Career wise, of course, he delivers a solo hit in the Kunal Kohli rom-com, Hum Tum suggesting he could extend the dominating Khan trio into a quartet. He also wins a much-contested National Award for the same. Artistically, it's his nuanced, intense and astonishing turn as a vile exploiter in Sriram Raghavan's Ek Hasina Thi, which confirms he's truly arrived.

Image: Saif Ali Khan in Darna Mana Hai


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2005

The good run continues what with Saif demonstrating his all-star game in a frothy romance, classic adaptation and black comedy in Salaam Namaste, Parineeta and Being Cyrus.

While the Salaam Namaste genre is tried and tested, Saif proves his chops with a poignant turn as the possessive, hot-headed yet well-meaning Shekhar in Parineeta but particularly shines as the deranged Cyrus Mistry in Homi Adjani's bizarre thriller.  

2006

Although he has only one release, it sure takes the cake in being his most talked-about performances. And most deservingly too.
 
His tremendous transformation from a groovy hipster to a crude, earthy, rural outlaw in Langda Tyagi, Vishal Bharwaj's interpretation of Iago from William Shakespeare's Othello is not merely superficial. Saif succeeds in bringing out the complexities of Langda's shady character in Omkara with a never-before-seen conviction and grit.

Image: Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan in Parineeta


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2007

The actor falls in love with his co-star Kareena Kapoor on the sets of Tashan and their high-profile romance following Bebo's split with Shahid Kapoor becomes a hot subject for all glossies.
 
Movie wise, there's not much to be excited about barring Vidhu Vinod Chopra's exquisite yet underperforming Eklavya considering both his other releases, Ta Ra Rum Pum and the long-delayed Nehle Pe Dehla bomb badly at the box office.

2008

The disappointment of big banner bloopers -- Roadside Romeo, Tashan and Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic is quickly wiped off with the generous response from audience towards his too-many-twists action thriller, Race, resulting in a quick nod to be on board for its sequel.

Image: Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan in Tashan


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2009

Despite a compelling performance as a mastermind terrorist and some scorching intimate scenes with beau and co-star Kareena, Kurbaan fails to work. But his turn in the never-fails rom-com genre works in his favour with Imtiaz Ali's Love Aaj Kal, with which he turns producer, co-starring Rishi Kapoor and Deepika Padukone.
 
Audience love his chemistry with the Om Shanti Om star.

2010

Apart from being honoured with a Padmashri, Saif lies low in 2010 with not a single release.

Image: Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan in Kurbaan


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2011

While Prakash Jha's Aarakshan made its money, the Amitabh-Saif-Deepika starrer dealing with reservations system opens to mixed responses, Not many are entirely convinced about Saif's portrayal of a Dalit.

2012

The year opened with rumours of an impending marriage to girlfriend Kareena Kapoor with whom he stars and produces the long-anticipated but ultimately underwhelming Agent Vinod.

His other production, Cocktail, with Deepika Padukone, newcomer Diana Penty and himself -- a gorgeous but middling romance hits box office jackpot.

Image: Saif Ali Khan in Agent Vinod


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