Glasses perched on his nose, he’s reading William Dalrymple’s Return of a King and tucking into muri. On Saturday, Saif Ali Khan was at Lahabari on Bidhan Sarani shooting for Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullet Raja co-starring Sonakshi Sinha. t2 caught up with Saif between shots on his Calcutta connect and the films he now wants to do.
Waiting for your shot must be very boring!
Not anymore. I used to get impatient even five years ago. Now I read or watch a movie. I don’t mind the waiting too much actually. It’s a time when you can catch up with your thoughts. It’s quite relaxing.
How’s the shoot been so far?
It’s going quite well… we just started shooting, actually. I wish we could have done it all in one schedule, but I am enjoying the shoot a lot… and my role, of course.
You have shot for Parineeta and Love Aaj Kal in Calcutta earlier…
I have always felt a certain connection with Calcutta and I feel it even now even though all my relatives here have passed away. It’s the city of my grandparents. It has a great historical significance and a strong family connect for me. Both the films that I have shot here — Parineeta and Love Aaj Kal — have been significant in my career… you can even call them turning points.
What did you like about Bullet Raja?
The script and my character. It’s a genuine character and requires a different body language from what comes to me naturally.
It seems to be somewhat in the Omkara space…
No, not really. Omkara was very different… kind of Shakespearean… the character (Langda Tyagi) was dark. This is a much more fun and entertaining character. He does his romance… he has his lighter moments. He’s got a certain attitude and style. The clothes that he wears are quite tacky but put together in a stylish way.
What kind of sensibility does a filmmaker like Tigmanshu Dhulia bring in?
So much in films is about the right thing happening at the right time. He’s been around for ages, but I think this is his time. I have been around for ages also and I think this is my time too (smiles). Like our country, our cinema is also very diverse. It’s very difficult to make people agree on what’s a good film. With Bullet Raja and Tigmanshu, I think we have got a good chance here of people appreciating the film as well as of it doing well commercially.
The Saif-Sonakshi casting is pretty novel…
That’s true. She appears to be very sincere… and very nice too (smiles). Even though she is relatively new in films, the fact that she has been brought up in the industry means that she understands how things are and what she’s supposed to be doing. I feel very comfortable working with her.
You’ve started the year on a good note with Race 2 making it to the Rs 100-crore club…
Box office is important. I am happy that there is a growth in my work from Love Aaj Kal to Agent Vinod — even though it didn’t do well — and then Cocktail that did well. Now Race 2 has done very well. I believe that you have to live your life well balanced… you have to do good work… you have to work with different people. Some things will work and some won’t, but you take that in your stride, right?
As an actor, I now feel that I should work in entertaining films that are also designed to make money. It’s just the way I am feeling now. If someone tells me to do a film that has no songs, I might not be interested in doing it today… unless it’s a great role.
So you won’t do a Being Cyrus today?
I don’t think I’ll act in it, but I would definitely like to produce it. Right now I am in that mindspace where I feel that appreciation by a niche audience is not enough. But then again, I am tempted to do such films when they are offered to me. Like, I was offered this UTV film called Ghanchakkar (starring Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan) and I was really tempted but I didn’t take it up because I want to do bigger films like Race and Cocktail as an actor.
See, anyway we can do only two or three films a year, so why do something that will not make so much money? Maybe what I am thinking isn’t right, but that’s what I feel right now. My choices at this time will be purely commercial. I have already done multiplex films… now I want to tap into my single-screen audience.
Like Sajid Khan’s Judwaa 2 that you have signed?
No… not Judwaa. I am not doing Judwaa because I feel it’s Salman Khan’s territory and nobody can do it better than him. But if I am offered a fun film with a double role in the commercial space with songs, dance, action and entertainment, I will do it.
Would you be able to pull off a Rowdy Rathore?
I would love to. In Rowdy Rathore, Akshay Kumar’s really funny and entertaining and I really enjoyed the film. I can pull off something like that, even if it isn’t exactly that. I want to really tap into my entertainer side. But then again, there are some Rs 100-crore films that I wouldn’t like to do… I don’t want to do stupid films. All said and done, there will always be a standard in my choices.
But your zombie film Go Goa Gone is again a multiplex film…
Totally! Half of it is in English. I thought it was a very funny script when (Kunal) Khemu brought it to me. I am quite excited I made that film and acted in it also, though it’s not a very long role. But it’s a film I am proud to associate with.
Tigmanshu Dhulia and Saif at Lahabari on Saturday. Picture: Bhubaneswarananda Halder
How much did the failure of Agent Vinod affect you?
As a producer if your film doesn’t do well then people can lose financial and creative faith in you. I take the blame for it, but I feel Agent Vinod could have been a really fun and entertaining character. I would like to attempt something like Agent Vinod again, but with the right director. I feel some films limit themselves by not being as entertaining as they can be and Agent Vinod was that kind of a film.
But as producer, you had a say in it…
I had a lot of say in it. But ultimately, the director takes the call. But I feel it’s important to keep your failures aside and keep rolling. We live in a competitive world and it’s just not important to be good… you have to be consistently good.
So do you feel the pressure of trying to be consistently good?
Not really. The pressure is in other things like being disciplined… not drinking alcohol during shoots so that you don’t bloat up. Those kind of things.
Are you disciplined enough?
I am much more than I was earlier. I am learning.
Finally, will Kareena join you in Calcutta like she did for the Bullet Raja schedule in Lucknow?
No, she won’t. I think it’s time for us to do some work on our own for a while.