I am aiming for mature roles that suit my age
Suave and sexy Saif Ali Khan will be seen as an army officer in Kabir Khan’s Phantom. In a candid chat the talented actor talks about the upcoming thriller and what his fans should expect from him in the future.
What was it that made you take up this film?
Honestly, the film has nothing to do with politics or Hafeez Saeed. This is the kind of film I would love to watch and like to act in. Sajid Nadiadwala wanted to work with Sylvester Stallone and he did it. He is very passionate about films and likes to make big and exciting movies. He gave Phantom the mounting presentation as the story demanded. Phantom is a page-turner and a fast-moving story.
Lastly, I have been meaning to work with Kabir for a really long time. I was offered Kabul Express but it didn’t work out. I was offered New York but I chose to do Kurbaan instead, both had similar plots. Then, I did Agent Vinod and he made Ek Tha Tiger. We like the same kinds of movies. So, this film is a dream combination for me in many ways. It is the combination of the director, the star and the producer. Then there is Katrina, one of the most beautiful ladies in Bollywood with a strong screen presence. So, there are lot of reasons why I did the film.
Your romantic films did very well but the action films haven’t worked yet. Are you really hoping to find success in this genre with Phantom?
I just think the kind of romantic roles I have done have been of young and confused boys. It’s not right to play such roles all the time. I have to aim for something mature that suits my age. I started working in films when I was 19 and I am 44, now. People can change. After the success of Ek Tha Tiger, Kabir Khan could do anything and he chose to make Phantom. It is his dream idea, like Agent Vinod was mine.
When the director feels that I am right for the role it gives me confidence. I also think I suit the part, but obviously it is up to the audience to decide. I know what you mean, it would be a new thing for me and I hope so it does well.
You started shooting for Phantom soon after the light and breezy Happy Ending. As an actor was it comfortable to switch between such diverse zones?
Every role has its own difficulties. The challenge in a film like Happy Ending is the casual conversation tone, you need to be familiar with your lines and speak them like they are your own lines. In a role like Phantom the difficulty is to keep it real. My character is of an ex-army guy who has been disgraced and thrown out of the army. His father doesn’t talk to him and he is an outcast of Kashmir. Naturally, there is some angst, he can’t be a happy person. He gets a second chance to redeem himself. That is what the film is for me. He has to look a bit desperate and a disturbed killer without losing his cool. He can’t look happy or fresh or relaxed because it is not a regular hero’s role. I constantly kept reminding myself that.
What kind of research and homework did you do for the role?
Some films require more and some require less research. There is a combination of things – how the character dresses, how he looks, feels, laughs etc. But it is not fixed. That’s the fun to choose the characteristics of the role. I think the main thing is to make the character your own rather than become it. If you notice a lot of stars have similar mannerisms and approaches because it is difficult to become somebody else. So, you try to make the character you and find the humanity and sense of humor in it.
In the initial phase of your career you did a lot of comical action films with Akshay Kumar. Do you miss such movies?
I think it would be good fun to do an action comedy. But the kind of scripts, offers and directors I get are slightly limited in quality. Most of them have had some flaws either in the screenplay or story. There are a lot of people who work on a movie. I wish something exciting and safe (very well-written) comes my way. When I see American TV shows, sometimes I wonder how every episode is amazingly well-written. I keep hoping that one or two such scripts come my way, but it is tough to find.
While you are good in romantic and actions films, as an audience we miss the Saif of Omkara. Are there any such films in the pipeline?
It was such a genuine and intense role that even to try and do something so different is tough. Personally, I would like to concentrate working with good directors in the future, who are going to create something different to watch and an interesting atmosphere. At the end of the day I like to watch a DVD that creates a world which I am happy to be part of. Recently, I realized that maybe I haven’t followed my idea. So, I want to concentrate on that.
Can you elaborate on what kind of films and characters do you want to do?
What I mean is that last year, me and other people were telling myself that it is boring to be stuck in a zone. So films like Bullet Rajas, Humshakals and Happy Endings were an attempt on my part to find some other space. Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK (directors of Happy Ending) are slightly new directors, so I thought they would present a new romantic comedy. I like their sense of humour. I was hoping Sajid (Khan) will make a film like Housefull, I was hoping Tigmanshu (Dhulia) will make a film like Paan Singh Tomar. Sometimes, doing something new and being brave can go wrong also. I guess it did go wrong. But it is part of the feeling of wanting something more than just romantic comedies. I will find, at least I am looking.
I am more comfortable with what is real for me. I’d do something that I believe in rather than doing something that people are telling me to try. I am understanding what my strengths are and not being afraid to do something that maybe more niche – as long as the money is okay. I guess, that’s what is important for me.
What are the other films you are working on?
Right now the only thing confirmed is Vishal (Bharadwaj)’s film, Rangoon. Then, something will fall in place. But it has to be something really nice.