'I would've been the first butt of Bollywood onscreen.'
Saif Ali Khan bares his heart out to Neha Dhupia in the fifth season of her chat show, No Filter With Neha.
Excerpts from the fascinating interview:
On how he keeps up with the film industry
Well, it's been a few years. It will be almost 30 and I think that we are lucky.
When I was a kid and shooting for Umesh Mehra, I remember he said, 'Oh well, you know, you'll probably be done in about 10, 15 years, meaning in your mid-thirties or when you are 40, it's time to kind of retire for a Hindi film actor.'
I think it's our generation that's kind of changed that.
Of course, there's has been people like Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan and Anil Kapoor and all, who have pushed the age limit as it were.
There's lot of extracurricular requirement sometimes, you know, go here and be seen there which is good and lucky for young people who have to do it, I mean good luck.
When you are 30 and you are drinking with the crew or with the guys, you are somewhere imitating the heroes you have seen that are senior to you like Sanjay Dutt, Jackie Shroff and you are doing the talk and giving the gyaan.
It is great, you have got the lingo and the haircut, and the tight t-shirt and after a point though, you are like... this is going to give me a hangover. I need to wake up early.
So I guess it's age and priorities where you are like, there is nothing that is going to be said after a party at 1 am, there is nothing going to be said that is really going to change your life or is even important beyond a point. It is a question of how much energy you have.
If you have excess energy, then you need to burn it off and that's what weekend is about or the off day, but if you don't have that excess energy than you are burning the candle at both ends, which is not worth it.
On his ideal 50th birthday
I think my ideal 50th is like a lot probably like my 49th.
When you start making lists, you get into a lot of trouble, like some people.
I had a friend in Delhi who had an incredible 50th costume masquerade party and invited all his friends from college abroad, Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, the works... and everyone he knew. It was a massive affair and it was lovely.
One guy came on a camel and it was great, you know.
But to me, I would really like to have a nice dinner.
Like last year, we were in the English countryside. We had rented a little house and about four-five of my very close friends, obviously Kareena and Taimur, had this dinner, and we cooked and had some nice wine and sat around the table.
As I looked around the table, except perhaps missing my mother mildly and Sara and Ibrahim weren't there, but apart from that, I said that I couldn't ask for anything more.
A couple of close friends where you can focus is more my scene than a rager.
And zoom parties and house parties, I mean they are great to see everyone, but it's better to talk to somebody one on one.
Unfortunately, in lockdown, even though I don't think there is going to be lockdown much longer, we are all going to get it.
A nice little dinner with some great food and a good, good bottle of wine or something.
I can't think of any other way to celebrate it except with my children and my family.
I think if you start getting into friends, then the list gets long and you will start offending people, so I am happy with just that.
On his idea of the perfect gift
Something from mum's cupboard, an old tablecloth, or maybe one of her paintings, I don't know.
There are many things, maybe a little model of a ship, I got some little quirky tastes which she knows, like a nice first edition, maybe a book bound by a local Bombay book dealer but in a slightly nicer leather with a little engraving on it, a paperback I like just polished up a little bit to last.
There's many things like that.
On the lockdown
There's various people, I don't know if it's a batch, but all my friends, we are all the same. None of us have really changed much.
We are equipped for this, mentally because we've lived inside our heads anyway, you just have to adjust slightly and say 'Okay, what is this? It's like a one year prison sentence, but in a very luxurious prison and in your own flat.'
You've got the Internet and can do things like this, you can cook, you can eat, you've got a young lovely child, who's so entertaining and pure.
So what are you grumbling about?
And there's many things like gardening, so nobody's really stressed.
A part of me wishes I was in Pataudi because we could go on runs and walks outside.
I miss a bit of fresh air because I haven't left the apartment. Hardly.
That would have been nice for Taimur more also.
But apart from that, we have been like this.
We know what's important to us in life and we are quite happy with this routine.
So, it's not like a thing. Some people get really edgy because it's very important to kind of experience things outside and get validation from doing various things. So I guess it's a benefit of, again, maybe being the bit older.
But it does get a bit dull sometimes in the morning, so I end up sleeping a bit later than usual. But in the evenings, it's great where I start cooking, putting on some music. And I can do this.
We've introspected before and said okay, what's important?
Happiness is where it's always been and joy, culture and fun, greatness in great books and good music, these are the things that make you happy anyway so there's so much to do.
You can read the classics, you can learn an instrument, practice a language...
On how he almost did a scene naked
Vishal Bharadwaj is a lovely director. It was a really clever scene in Omkara where I had this one page of dialogue where I tell this Omkara fellow, he's not made me the bahubali, I'll bloody show him, i'll anoint myself the bahubali, I'm going to kill everyone, you see what I do kind of thing.
And he said listen, I think this scene is too talky and this is cinema, so we can do all this without any lines.
So I said, what do you mean?
He said we have the camera and you're standing there in front of the mirror in the dark and the camera is coming close to you and you're looking at the mirror and you break the mirror and the mirror shatters and in the shattered mirror, I see your schizophrenic face and because you broke the mirror, your hand is bleeding, and you anoint yourself with the blood.
So that says it all, you don't have to say any dialogues. I thought, Jesus, this man is a genius because that's cinema, right? He's taken a page of dialogue and converted into one shot.
So he said, in fact, I think you should do it naked.
I said, what!
So, he said, yeah, it'll look good. You're standing there, naked, with your back to the camera. He said, don't worry, it will be dimly lit.
So I said alright, I'll tell you what, Tassaduq (Hussain), who is a really funny and cool DOP (Director Of Photography), and you stand with me, naked, while you direct me. I don't mind, I'll do it.
He said I'm not bloody directing you naked.
I said arre, if you're not going to be naked, then why should I be naked? So I wasn't.
But in retrospect, I should've done it, it was just too new an idea.
I think after John Abraham showed his half butt, I would've been the first butt of Bollywood onscreen.
On 'Mrs Gram'
Just because I'm not on social media doesn't mean I don't know what it is, for God's sake.
I actually was on it (Instagram) and I deleted it because I was getting irritated by toxic remarks.
It's taking too much of time and making me frown and I don't want to get annoyed so literally. Ignorance is bliss.
It's like why would you want to listen to all that.
My wife, on the other hand, I think she's Miss Instagram, Mrs Gram!
On his fake account name
When I had my fake account, I called it Shakun Kothari.
On Taimur and the paps
I think he has realised that there will be cameras in certain places.
He has never enjoyed being photographed particularly, even by us at home.
But he understands, I mean, he smiles and waves and he likes camera flashes but it's just something he's always seen, so he doesn't think about it.
It's funny, like this house that we live in, is really cluttered.
It has things lying around, paintings and books and things and a lot of people said you'll have to clear this up, you know, lots of glasses on a low shelf.
My mother and a few other people said, it's all got to move when the kid's running around.
We didn't get around to moving it ever and he's just made his way around it, he's never broken a thing.
I'm just saying what you grow up with, you just become used to.
I mean, it makes me a little tense, he gets that vibe and then when they would chase him to school, you worry.
I mean, there's too much attention sometimes.
It's sad, you know, people don't let you be a normal kid in Bombay.
This star kid is a tag that just falls on you, whether you like it or not and in fact, the answer is you don't want it but what can you do?
So they are serving a purpose, someone says don't stop them, they're doing their job, they are also getting paid.
You know it's a lockdown situation, so in India, there's that complicated thing. An American would be like, hey, can you please not stalk my house?
But here, I'm like I understand you're getting paid and I don't want to stop you getting rozi-roti.
So it's like that, you don't know how to react.
I think when you resist it, it becomes a situation, when you hide from them, or run around with your hat pulled low. But if you just give them that picture, just give a smile and just move on.
So, the important thing is to tell Taimur -- you must be polite and it's no big deal and I think he's learnt that.
On not having had it easy
I don't personally think I've had it particularly easy even though some people will say oh, of course you have! But I've done a lot of crap that lot of people wouldn't have done.
I mean I have played third lead in some dodgy movie, films like Suraksha and Ek Tha Raja, which nobody has heard of.
But I never thought what the hell am I doing here? I knew what I was doing there.
I was trying to get paid and do this job.
I knew it wasn't going anywhere and I was like okay.
But it helps when you're 25. It's alright not be going anywhere if you're 25, but you don't want to be there at 50 for sure.
On the name of his autobiography
I think I'll call my autobiography, I'll be good from tomorrow.
I have said that so often, it's usually diet-based or alcohol-based.
I'd have chapter heading also, like probably 'Shouldn't have had the whiskey'.
On what Kareena's autobiography would be called
On what Sara Ali Khan's autobiography would be called
On what Akshay Kumar's autobiography would be called
Chest Hair is coming to mind. I think I'll call it Khiladi No 1.
On what Kunal Kemmu's autobiography would be called
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.