'I don't take being a Nawab very seriously.'
IMAGE: Saif Ali Khan in Kaalakaandi.
Remember Boris from Go Goa Gone?
Somehow, Kaalakaandi, despite being nothing like the zombie comedy, brings back images of an unapologetic Saif Ali Khan.
Leaving behind his Nawabi posh for 'Dilli se hoon beh*****d' is an unusual onscreen transformation for Saif.
A day before Kaalakaandi hits the screens, Saif talks to Urvi Parikh for Rediff.com
It's only once in a while you try black humour. This is your second time since Go Goa Gone.
I think Kaalakaandi is an international, sensible, funny, engaging movie. It doesn't fit in the typical Bollywood kind of potboiler, but it is a very satisfying film.
Like when you see it, you feel it has got something for everyone.
It makes you laugh, makes you cry a little bit... it is a film that comes out of a very relatable India.
I am proud that (director) Akshat Verma said that he wants to be the only guy who wants to make different films in India.
It is not necessary that we only have to make a certain kind of movie, there are lots of different kinds of movies being made.
What I like about this is that it has got drama and action. It's a crazy film.
IMAGE: Saif in Kaalakaandi.
There was a lot of back and forth on the title. How did you zero on Kaalakaandi?
The title was first Kaalagandi, but somebody asked what it meant.
People felt it means 'problem', but we said it doesn't mean that. It means black bum! (Laughs).
So they said we have to change it. They said Kaalakaandi kar do! That's how it changed.
Are you consciously trying to be experimental and pushing the envelope with this one?
No, I just liked the story. I liked the way all the stories connected, all the crazy things that happened in one night.
People will enjoy this film.
In one interview you said you wouldn't mind if Kaalakaandi clashed with Padmavat. Don't you feel box office clashes are harmful for business?
There are so many films being made, so I think finding dates has become a big thing.
Only one film in my career released on a holiday. I wish I had more holiday releases, but they are usually taken over by other films.
Race 2 released on a holiday and it had an opening of Rs 12, 13 crore. So, it helps... release dates are very important.
You took your time in coming around for this film. Were you unsure of it?
I don't know. I think at that time, it wasn't something I was looking at. And then nobody picked it up, it's been around for two years.
Vishal Bhardwaj said I should read it; I would like it. So I read it and I did like it.
What did you find challenging about the role?
It's about a guy who really is boring and has never done anything wrong in his life. That was quite challenging!
Then it was about how he takes this drug and then goes a little crazy. So, to do that properly and not stupidly was quite challenging.
IMAGE: Saif in Omkara.
While you are the Nawab of Pataudi, it looks like the Jat from Pataudi has awakened in the trailers...
As long as it is the Jat with the lighter J. As long as it is pronounced right (laughs).
I played a Jat in Omkara as well.
This is a similar sounding character, you know.
I think part of growing up in Pataudi and Bhopal is being in touch with people.
People are very different in different cities.
Bombay is like a potboiler. People come here from everywhere.
This country is quite different, in the farms, in the villages. I am quite aware of that.
I don't take being a Nawab very seriously, apart from looking after my family home and other things.
I would rather be an actor than a Nawab any day.
You have been considered one of the most bankable actors for the longest period of time. Do you echo that?
By whom? I don't think I am. Films have to run at a certain level at the box office.
Are you working on it?
Yes, I think so. The biggest trick is not to take it personally.
Like the first thought would be that maybe people don't like you, but I don't think so.
You have to do a film that they want to see.
They have to like the world of the movie and that's always challenging for me because I have slightly niche taste.
The things that excite me and the things excite the film-makers I like might not be the most popular choices sometimes.
IMAGE: Saif in Rangoon.
Most actors claim reviews do not matter to them. Do you feel the same?
No, reviews matter.
I like to read reviews and if there is something negative.
But in most times, if I have worked slightly hard, reviewers like me.
I got really good reviews for Rangoon. So I think my acting changed last year.
People say that after Omkara, I have done good work in Chef. So, I have had good reviews.
The bad reviews, you try and understand what they mean. Like, I got bad reviews for Phantom. People said it was very wooden. Maybe because I was trying to play that character so seriously that I forgot to give it any life.
So, these things happen. I learn from reviews.
How intrinsically do you think marketing is linked with the fate of the film?
Marketing is the main thing, and it costs a lot of money to market films.
But people think that if an actor runs around or goes on TV shows, you can save money on publicity.
But people are not interested in my opinion. They want to see the trailer, the posters... they want to sample the merchandise and decide for themselves.
Have you watched most of the film releases last year?
Baahubali 2 and Dangal are the last two films I have seen.
I should watch more.
I keep thinking I should watch first day first shows, I really want to. But honestly, I have done a lot of work in 2017: Sacred Games, Baazaar, Kaalakaandi and parts of Chef.
How did you take the lack of commercial success of your last few releases?
It is upsetting, but it doesn't add pressure. That is not the right way to think.
IMAGE: Saif takes Taimur for a ride in Pataudi as Kareena looks on. Photograph: Kind courtesy Karisma Kapoor/Instagram
Will you continue to stay away from social media?
I don't know. I like the real world, I am wary of the digital world because people can get lost in it.
People are losing the art of conversation.
Also, I find things like Instagram would be me showing off! What would I do? It's showing off, I will say 'this is my house, this is my horse in Pataudi, this is my son... he is quite famous! He is a superstar baby!'
The love you have given the baby is kind so far, let's see what happens later! (Laughs)
When will we get to see Kareena and you coming together?
Come home sometime (laughs). I don't know about it.
Kaalakaandi was stuck because of the 73 cuts for a while. What was going through in your head when there's such a categorical lack of freedom of expression?
The film has some bad language. It's got a little risky stuff going on because it's an honest proper film.
So I am happy that even if the censor board has asked for 73 cuts, there is a body, FCAT, (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal) who can see that the film is honest.
They understand that it's a proper movie, so they passed it.
There's a process to everything. I am not bothered because it's not going to hurt me in any way.
IMAGE: The Baazaar poster.
What are your upcoming projects?
There's Baazaar, a commercial potboiler on the stock market.
There is Scared Games.
The film I am excited about is Navdeep Singh and Aanand Rai's next with R Madhavan.