For anyone meeting him after a few years, the calmer demeanour of actor Saif Ali Khan is apparent. “I don’t remember what I used to be like but it’s a process that I think started many years ago. It must be to do with satisfaction and peace at home and my life,” says Khan at the very onset of the interview. He adds that creative satisfaction also has a big role to play.
“Even while doing films under big production banners, that gave me name and fame, I didn’t enjoy acting as much as I’m enjoying now. I don’t know if the films have changed or I have changed. Maybe, everything is happening at the same time,” he says.
He is looking forward to the response that he will receive for his film Baazaar, that releases today. Set against the backdrop of the stock market, it has Khan playing the lead character of Shakun Kothari.
“My role in the film is that of a ruthless Gujarati businessman who trades without any respect for long-standing companies. Wherever he sees a weakness, he tries to exploit it. The character is very talkative, which challenged the boundaries of running dialogues. It’s a story of good versus evil, but that also depends which side you’re on,” he says.
Given his own personality, the suave and soft-spoken actor admits that the character is far removed from the person he is in real life. “The soul of him has to come from you, but I was completely removed. He’s quite flashy and loud and thinks money is everything. But it’s on the page, written a certain way, so it’s fun to try and get into it. It took a bit of preparation and understanding and drawing on some ideas from people that you know in the business world,” adds Khan.
For someone who has been in the industry for over two decades, he has seen the changes very closely. When he started out, he says, all the top talent was in advertising and they looked down upon films. Now, he feels, a film set offers a higher creative environment. “There has been an enormous change in art direction. All the good cameramen and production designers are now in films,” he says.
The actor also feels that the industry is inching towards more gender parity. “As society and economy improve, films will reflect that. There has been a huge change in the roles available and more parity,” says Khan.
Twelve years after Omkara, the actor will be seen playing the anti-hero in the upcoming period film, Tanaji: The Unsung Hero, which is set to release later this year. “It’s nice to surprise people. I don’t really like to be the bad guy, I like to be the good guy. But I don’t mind being the grey guy, like in Race. I’d love to do another Race, I think I’ll act much better. I also hope to get tougher roles,” he says.
Recently seen in the web series Sacred Games on Netflix, the actor feels new platforms also allow you to reach a wider audience. “The medium enables you to tell longer stories. The approach is also more international,” he says. With numerous movies lined up, including Tanaji and Hunter, Khan feels recent months have been rather hectic and a break is long-pending. “It’s very tiring if you put your heart and soul into it. I would like to take two-three months off — I think next year,” says Saif Ali Khan.