Chit Chat

Saif: Acting can give you a lot more than what share-market and telecom business can

Saif Ali Khan, the 42-year-old Nawab of Pataudi, says his calling card even today is that he is a Bollywood actor. Post the success of Cocktail and his marriage to Kareena Kapoor, he’s in a super-happy place in his career. Here are excerpts from a chat with the actor, who also happens to be a royal….

It’s most uncharacteristic that you are doing films back-to-back. Are you making up for lost time?
There are no rules in showbiz. Even if you don’t work for a year, it’s fine as long as you know your job. Earlier, we used to feel that if you didn’t do a certain amount of work within a stipulated time frame, it’s wrong. But then, you realise there need not be any fixed pattern. I took almost a 10-month sabbatical of sorts, because I had to sort things out in my personal life. I was more interested in that side of my life then. Now, I will do at least three movies a year.

You admit that you are in a happy space personally and professionally…
Yes, I have managed to compartmentalise my life. When I’m working, I’m working. When I need to go out and meet people, I do that. I enjoy coming home after work and collecting art to do up my home. I find it all coming together quite well. And I can see my parents’ genes in me. I have a sense of who I am and unless something terrible happens, I see a good future. It is all great, touch wood.

Is Kareena responsible for this change?
No and yes. Personally, she gives me that sense of well-being. And as far as career goes, I found that I was thinking and talking too much and not really doing enough. I spent three years making Agent Vinod, which didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. Being a producer is good, but I am primarily an actor and I do not want to lose sight of that. One gets paid for what one is good at.

You’ve started reaching out to more people professionally…
Again, not entirely true. But yes, I have come to respect and trust the people I work with. It is great to go out and meet various people and work with them. This year, I intend to leave myself in the hands of filmmakers I trust. If I like the script, I don’t want to ask any further questions. This process is peaceful for me and for those who are making the film. My secretary Zahid has great commercial sense. If he sees something in a script that is good, I value it. There are filmmakers who understand the masses of India. I am not a writer, so perhaps, I’m unable to connect instantly. I must recognise my strengths and weaknesses and trust someone. And not question too much. When actors ask too many questions, it can be very annoying.

You are also looking better than you did a few months ago. Is Kareena monitoring your diet?
I’m the Nawab with a Spartan diet. A few years ago, I could put away a few rotis and knock down a couple of drinks without being too conscious. Now, I enjoy the one piece of bread that I eat. I eat it very slowly and have learnt to relish it. I’ve practically quit smoking and drinking.

Is being 42 making you conscious?
Age is a relative thing. If you don’t smoke or drink and respect your body, you can look great at 42. On the other hand, if you smoke and take drugs, you must realise that you are not in your 20s and you’re not going to get away with it.

Keeping fit is a lifestyle, right?
It has to be a lifestyle now. Even drinking and smoking have becoming boring and repetitive like all other negative things. It feels great to wake up feeling healthy, awake and alert. I love waking up in the morning, taking a deep breath, reading the newspaper and going to the gym — as opposed to carrying a hangover right until lunch. That’s horrible. It is nice to let off steam once in a while, but I find myself less involved with people in that sense. I like staying at home, reading a book, having a chat with my wife, a quiet dinner and going to bed early. I don’t want to drink half a bottle of whisky and look 50 the next day. I have become an anti-drinking, anti-smoking agent.

So, you are a Nawab who isn’t debauched?
If I may say so, the Nawab of Pataudi is very different from the other Nawabs. My grandfather, father and others before me, have been very austere and careful with money. They have been very good sportsmen; flamboyant, but disciplined. Their tastes are not flashy. They were good-looking and understated.
We are not debauched, fat, unhealthy people who watch mujra. There have been nawabs who probably didn’t do anything for anyone as much as they did for themselves, which is perhaps why so many royal families are defunct or extinct. They didn’t have the staying power. You cannot live in a poor country and be unrealistic. The royalty must be a celebration like it is in England.

We hear your price as an actor has shot up.
It has almost doubled. And I don’t mean to say this in a vulgar kind of way. In a country where everything is so uncertain, my career is the best investment I have made. I must be careful with my diet, because it is related to my career. Acting can give you a lot more than what share-market and telecom business can. This hundred per cent jump in showbiz is absent even in realty business. The cinema halls are growing. We are making more hits than we have in years. For once, our writers and directors are more in sync with the audience. Since we have delivered hit after hit, everyone’s prices have doubled. It is a wonderful time to be working in films. It is making me feel that I should respect my profession more.

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