Some actors can act, some can follow directions. I don’t know if this is an adage or not, but it should be. Especially considering how these kind of artistes are few and far in between. Saif Ali Khan, who is getting ready for the release of his upcoming feature Laal Kaptaan, certainly falls into this category.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at his filmography. From doing (and mostly failing at) your typical potboilers like Pehla Nasha, Yeh Dillagi, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Tu Chor Main Sipahi in his 90s to moving on to more meatier roles in the 2000s — Kya Kehna, Dil Chahta Hai, Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Ek Hasina Thi, Hum Tum, Being Cyrus, Omkara among others; it is safe to say that Saif has come a long way.
But who should one credit his remarkable career graph to? Sure, the man can act. But he needs motivation in form of a solid screenplay and an able director. This is not to say that Saif cannot perform, but he needs a push from a crew of talented figures. In fact, Saif himself had accepted that he would not have risked opening his second innings with something as experimental as the 2001 Farhan Akhtar directorial Dil Chahta Hai.
During an interview with Film Companion, the actor had confessed that while he was impressed with Farhan’s narration of the film, he took on the role of the hilarious and confused character of Sameer after he was informed that Aamir Khan was also a part of the main cast.
“I was a bit skeptical…’Look if Aamir Khan says ‘yes,’ then I am on,'” the actor had said while recounting his initial reaction after hearing the Dil Chahta Hai narration.
Of course, the fact that Saif was brave enough to later experiment even more with fresh directors and ‘unconventional scripts’ is an attribute that is rare in an industry where people are all too willing to milk whatever has been successful and trending. It is almost this reckless streak of the actor combined with the talent of the writer and filmmaker that has made Saif who he is today — ‘A Khan apart’. He is no Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan (that kind of star power only a few can command). Neither he is the ‘perfectionist’ Aamir Khan who rarely goes off the rails in terms of delivering consistently good, entertaining cinema. Saif works best when he is in the company of those artistes who enable and empower him to be a better performer.
Farhan Akhtar directorial Dil Chahta Hai, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara, Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi, Homi Adjania’s Being Cyrus and Raj & DK’s Go Goa Gone are a few examples in case where Saif was able to push the envelope and give the viewers a taste of how good he can get when other departments of filmmaking work in harmony with his skills.
Here’s hoping the Navdeep Singh directorial Laal Kaptaan is another step in that direction.