‘Phantom’ directed by Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Ek Tha Tiger director Kabir Khan hits screens today (August 28) and on the eve of the film’s release Saif Ali Khan was busy giving interviews. In an exclusive interview with Indian Express.com, Saif talked about the complex Indo-Pak relation, importance of box-office success and being versatile.
Here are the excerpts from the exclusive conversation with Saif Ali Khan:
Ques: Phantom operates on the principle of tit for tat. As a citizen, do you think our government too should adopt a similar approach?
Saif: Tit for tat sounds more gentle. I would say this is more like ‘eye for an eye’ thing. It is not in our Indian ethos to react like that but in some of the interesting conversations that I have had with people during the making of this movie, I have been told that proposals like these have been placed in front of our Prime Ministers in the past and have been rejected for various reasons. It’s probably a little far-fetched. Eye for an eye ends up with the whole world being blind which makes everyone take a pacifist approach. But at the same time it would be nice to be backed by a government. For example, if something were to happen to me or my family, I would really like to feel that steps should be taken and that it shouldn’t be ignored.
Ques: Are your relatives in Pakistan upset at not being able to watch the film because of the ban?
Saif: No they aren’t because only one of them is a serious film buff and he lives in Oman now. As far as my family goes, we are not really in touch. I have a cousin who I went to school with in London and he doesn’t watch Hindi films. The other second cousins are those whom I don’t usually meet. Unfortunately, they will end up watching the pirated version of our movies when it gets banned. They also don’t like the idea of Pak-bashing at all. I don’t think we do either. It’s quite a complex relationship that I share with my Pakistani family too. I am also pretty clear that nothing comes before my country.
Ques: What do you think will make Phantom a success – the story which is already the subject of a best-seller or Kabir Khan, the director with the Midas touch?
Saif: Kabir Khan is responsible for actually getting that book written in many ways. So, when him and Zaidi discussed this idea, both the film and the book developed organically. It’s not so much about the bestseller than both these people liking the same idea and making the film happen. And what’s great about Kabir is that he is good at putting his touch into commercial ideas while also making it sensitively. Kabir has also infused integrity to his characters. And that is something people have come to respect.
Ques: You seem to be doing quite a few action oriented movies lately. Is there a reinvention of image on cards much like Hollywood actor Liam Nesson who has now turned himself into an ace action hero?
Saif: It would be nice to be versatile. I love the idea of doing films like these. If one finds acceptance with the audience or pulls off a role which I think I might have this time, then it is something that gives me a lot of happiness because apart from age appropriate, it is a cinema that I really enjoy and versatility is something that gives me a lot of personal pride and satisfaction. And to make headway into this kind of a genre would be something that would be personally very gratifying to me.
Ques: Commercial success has unfortunately eluded you for a short while now. How crucial would you say is it for Phantom to hit the bull’s eye as far as box-office collections go?
Saif: It depends on the kind and level of film you want to work at. If you want to make a slightly exciting larger budget movie, you need a certain amount of box-office success to back you because everybody wants a star who is capable of taking an opening or somebody who is bankable at box-office. When you hit a bit of a bad patch, you put all that in jeopardy but ultimately it is like the stock market. It keeps on going up and down. The lesson I have learnt is to work with good directors and do good movies. And you can’t ask for anyone better than Sajid Nadiadwala (producer of Phantom) and Kabir Khan.