Celebrating Saif Ali Khan's top notch performances
Isn't it intriguing how some of Hindi film industry's better actors are simply insufferable in their first few movies?
Take pre-Maachis Tabu in monstrosities like Pehla Pehla Pyaar, Prem and Vijaypath or a clueless Sanjay Dutt walking in and out of films like Rocky, Jeeva and Vidhaata till Naam came along.
Saif Ali Khan, too, didn't have a memorable beginning. While his inaptitude at this profession became all the more noticeable when pitied against the likes of Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna and Aamir Khan in Parampara, his dangling efforts at comedy in Yeh Dillagi and Main Khiladi Tu Anari were just about passable.
Just when everyone was happy to dismiss him as just another star kid, the man struck and how. Suddenly his versatility became a big deal as he juggled in urban humour, rustic insolence, glossy action and old school grandeur.
Today, Saif turns a fabulous 40. Here's wishing him a super duper birthday with a list of my five favourite Saif Ali Khan scenes.
What can be said about a movie that opens with such a killer sequence? Vishal Bhardwaj's awe-inducing adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello features Saif Ali Khan as Langda Tyagi, the deceptive and desi alter ego of Iago. It's his career best performance. Here's why:
The sly, whimsical temperament of his character reveals itself right in the beginning as he, at first, crudely spells out the distinction between a fool and a loser.
Once you get past the initial shock of seeing the notably refined Saif breathing profanities, it's amazing how he exhibits a never-before-seen chameleon presence that comes in its own as he good-naturedly warns his lumbering pal to whisk off in advance (Woh moped utha aur teer banke nikal) before he ruins his wedding plans for good while discreetly reproaching his superior's moves.
Just when you and Deepak Dobriyal suppose he's up to no harm, he smokes another expletive, loads his rifle in all seriousness and takes that all-threatening shot. Then he turns to Dobriyal, as if nothing happened and with manic glee breaks it to him, 'raat aage nahi jayegi'.
Image: A scene from Omkara
Dil Chahta Hai
This one's a droll reaffirming Saif's prowess at spontaneous comedy.
As the always-ready-to-jump-in-a-relationship Sameer, he gets fleeced by a hot foreigner in Goa while holidaying with his best pals Aamir Khan and Akshaye Khanna.
Meanwhile, they take off for Mumbai while he, stays on, quite certain of his affections only to be mugged by the lady and her desi accomplice.
Needless to say, the hilarity of it all makes him a merciless target of friends' jokes as they ROTFL at his misery in Sameer's bedroom leading him to groan, 'arre tumse acha toh woh truck driver tha jisne mujhe Bombay tak lift di.'
Hearing this, a still-cackling Akshaye taunts, 'kya seedhe truck mein wapas aaya hai? To which Saif ruefully retorts, 'tujhe kya lagta hai main roz is takiye pe baithta hoon? Arre barah ghanta truck mein baith kar haalat kharab ho gayi hai, yaar.'
Yes Aamir, that's pretty much how I reacted.
Image: A scene from Dil Chahta Hai
Ek Hasina Thi
In Sriram Raghavan's edgy thriller about a wronged woman's revenge on a suave, scheming criminal, Saif successfully tears down his chocolate boy appeal to play a convincing bad guy.
There are quite a few tense sequences in Ek Hasina Thi but the one that stayed with me the most involves a distressed Saif on-the-run from the underworld henchmen after he's believed to have murdered someone from their tribe, as intentionally orchestrated by the vindictive Urmila Matondkar.
In this nail-biter, he nervously collects money from an ATM even as the chase gets uncomfortably up, close and personal in a run-to-save-your-life scenario followed by a game of hide and seek in the mall before he bumps into none other than Urmila.
Raghavan keeps it restrained and real allowing his leading man's anxious body language to do all the talking.
Image: A scene from Ek Hasina Thi
Kal Ho Naa Ho
No, I am not going to add to the Kantaben overkill. But I got to admit, I felt thoroughly entertained by Kal Ho Naa Ho's wholesome package. Plus, Saif Ali Khan's willingness to go all out being silly without losing an inch of his suaveness made it so much more fun.
Which scene? The one in the discotheque involving a slightly buzzed Saif and Preity Zinta divulge details of their non-existent romance to a detail-obsessed Shah Rukh Khan.
So how did you guys meet, SRK wishes to know. After some confusion over who was walking whose doggie, a perplexed Saif blurts out, 'mere paas do doggies hain. Actually mere ghar mein bahut saare doggies hain. Kabhi kabhi main bhi ek doggie ki tarah feel karta hoon.'
Even when the scene ceases to be about him, he contributes to the gag by creating an amusing backdrop doing his bit, bringing in details.
Image: A scene from Kal Ho Naa Ho
If only Pradeep Sarkar had done away with the over-the-top wall-breaking climax, his adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Parineeta would rate as a flawless experience.
Even so, it ranks among Saif's finest for bringing out the intricate textures of Shekhar's complex persona.
He's not an easy guy to figure out. On one hand he's generous, passionate and loving. At the same time, he's also got a prominently arrogant, defiant and possessive side. All these personality traits are beautifully bundled up in one brief scene towards the end.
Tormented by the presumption that Lolita, his childhood sweetheart has betrayed him for another man, Saif agrees to marry the girl of his father's choice but cannot get Lolita out of his head.
Crestfallen, his fingers impulsively begin to play their beloved tune on the piano. The illusion of a young Lolita appears before him to ask a familiar query, 'yeh dhun tumne banayi?' And he promptly replies, just like the olden days, 'nahi, Tagore ki hai, stupid' Only to break into a heartbreaking sob. Aw.
Image: A scene from Parineeta