Saif Ali Khan has had an interesting career graph. From doing typical 1990s dramas to playing the man that has commitment issues, Khan has tried to adjust with changing times. In fact, this is even more reflective in the period he began taking risks in terms of the roles he chose to portray on screen. Kya Kehna, Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega, Dil Chahta Hai, Darna Mana Hai, Ek Hasina Thi, Parineeta, Salaam Namaste, Being Cyrus, Omkara, Eklavya: The Royal Guard and Aarakshan: the evolution of Saif the actor is there for all to see.
The actor’s last release, Chef, was an Indian remake of the American movie of the same name. Chef was a slice-of-life film directed by Raja Krishna Menon about a failing chef and father trying to get his life in order, professionally as well as personally. Granted, it was not as good as the original, but was definitely worth a watch.
Saif will next be seen in debutant director Akshat Verma’s dark comedy Kaalakaandi. In an interview, Akshat, who has also written the movie, had asked people not to compare it with another dark comedy that he had penned–Delhi Belly. Kaalakaandi’s trailer is every bit as edgy and quirky as Delhi Belly, so it is hard not to draw a comparison, especially since we know that the writer is the same.
Following the nepotism debate in the industry, which Saif was infamously involved in (the actor had penned an open letter on the subject, which had made him look like that he had little knowledge of what he was writing about). Saif has since then tried to stay away from any subject that might create controversy or show him in a bad light. “It (the open letter on nepotism) was probably the silliest and the most tone-deaf thing I had done,” the actor himself had told film critic Anupama Chopra.
But Saif is on the road to recovery, as far as his career is concerned, because Kaalakaandi looks like the kind of feature that would exactly be right up the actor’s alley. In fact, Saif has played eccentric and dark characters before. Being Cyrus’ Cyrus was a seemingly ordinary person who became a killer after he met and made ‘friends’ with a deranged Katy (played by Dimple Kapadia). Saif seems a natural at portraying troubled, lonely and slightly off-the-rails metrosexual men. This is not to say that he didn’t make the critics sit up and take notice of his rustic raw, and ambitious Langda Tyagi in Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, Omkara.
In fact, his Go Goa Gone’s Boris proved that the actor can play around with the given character just the right amount to deliver something worthwhile on screen. Saif also had high hopes from Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon, but unfortunately that didn’t create any magic at the box office. The critics were also not exactly impressed with the film despite commendable performances by Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut and Saif himself. Saif was especially brilliant in the scene where his character realises that Kangana’s character had been lying to him, and was involved in a passionate affair with Shahid’s character. His eyes were full of rage and pain as he silently observed Kangana’s character’s obvious discomfort at having been caught.
Kaalakaandi is about “who people are when no one is looking,” according to writer-director Akshat Verma’s earlier interview with Scroll. In fact, the writer had also said that the movie deals with the people who are at the fringes of the underworld and are trying their best to make a sense of their lives within that said bubble.
In Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi, Saif’s character was also not what he had seemed in the initial bits of the movie, a man who had connections in the underworld. This is not to say that the actor will be repeating himself in Kaalakaandi, at least let’s hope not. But if there were to be similarities between both the characters, that would not be such a bad thing. Because Saif had been more than convincing in his portrayal of the mysterious but manipulative Karan Singh Rathod.
There is perhaps a pattern here as well. Saif, it seems, tends to get into the skin of his character better when he is in able hands. When the director and writer are clear about the kind of performance they want from their actors, that is when Saif shines the most. Take, for instance, his performances in Dil Chahta Hai, Ek Hasina Thi, Being Cyrus, Parineeta and Omkara.
One can only hope that the actor is able to deliver all the madness, darkness and laughs that the two-minute-and-twenty-two-second-long trailer promises.