"I am a normal father; I like my daughter's boyfriend. I have seen many fathers who are ridiculously obsessive about their daughters" - Saif Ali Khan
Saif Ali Khan does not need to dress up for interviews. He can just walk into his office wearing what he was at home—bright orange shorts and a tee—and look like a million dollars. Not to mention the chivalrous charm and aristocracy that he bowls over women with.
He, however, wants to give an explanation here. “When we say aristocratic, it means being polite and kind to people,” he says. “Because sometimes it does mean oppressing the poor and I don't want to be known for that. But when you say aristocratic I can only think about my father. I am a mix of that and an artist. And my traits do oscillate from good to very good to good. I do get angry on a bad day. And then I feel ungrateful and unsatisfied, so I go to the gym and my chemical imbalance gets settled! Diet, sleep and exercise are important for a balanced life. Your brain should work properly. If you are not healthy in your lifestyle, then that affects your lifestyle.”
Though Khan hates to admit it, a lot depends on his new movie, Phantom, starring Katrina Kaif and directed by Kabir Khan. His last two releases, Happy Ending and Bullet Raja, were not big grossers at the box office. “The story, script and working with Katrina Kaif again were the factors that I was looking for,” he says.
What was so special about Kaif? “The way she has progressed in her career is incredible,” says Khan. “During Race [their first movie together] she was quite new and it was more about the songs. But Phantom is an action thriller, where she has done lots of stuff. Katrina is extremely hardworking and even today she sits for hours to work on her language.”
Khan plays an undercover agent in Phantom, and has done a lot of stunt scenes without dupes. Is it necessary at this stage of his career? “I wanted to do some stunts which I did,” he says. “But, I must also admit that doing action scenes is very exhausting and tiring. I used to constantly get hurt on the sets.”
Khan and his wife, Kareena Kapoor, are among the most discussed celebrities in India. The Nawab of Pataudi still blushes while talking about her. “We are just a normal couple leading a normal life with friends around,” he says. “Once in a while, when we go to a film party, we get to know so many things and that is nice. Especially about the new generation actors who are so hardworking. They are all so health conscious and everyone wants to do good work.” His advice to them: “Acting is just a job; it should not be an obsession. It is important to keep the distance.”
So, how does he spend his “normal” time? “Kareena plans our time very nicely and we utilise our free time in a constructive way. One thing she has changed in me is the fact that I feel I am more close to Hindi films. Earlier, I would not watch my mother's movies as I could not see her crying.”
His illustrious parents, Sharmila Tagore and the late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, continue to inspire him. “I inherited rich values from my parents,” he says. “They are like Bharat Ratnas and I wish to be like them. Though it is their blood running in my veins, it is very difficult to achieve their standards.”
And his children, Sara and Ibrahim? Khan says he has instilled the same values in them. “I am lucky to have them in my life,” he says. “They are making it easier for me. I am a normal father; I like my daughter's boyfriend. I have seen many fathers who are ridiculously obsessive about their daughters. I am not crazy in an unrealistic way.”
So, will the gorgeous Sara take to films? “Let her finish her studies first,” he says. “After that if she wants to join films, then why shouldn't I encourage her?”
A recent opinion poll said many people wanted to see Khan pairing with Kareena on screen. “I wish we could do a film together but someone needs to offer us one,” he says. “There were offers and one, I remember, had a negative shade where I am beating up Kareena. We need to be careful which film we are doing.” They have done two films together—Kurbaan and Agent Vinod—and both failed to make an impression.
In his 23rd year in the film industry, what Khan is looking forward to are some memorable roles. “I wish I get the variety of roles like my mother used to get,” he says. “Having said that, I am happy with whatever I could do in recent times. I hope for better roles and I have a production house which can create good roles and we are working towards it.” His production house, Illuminati, which has produced movies like Love Aaj Kal and Badlapur, is now looking at small budget artistic films.
Khan says he has received offers from Salman Khan Films and Vipul Shah but nothing has been finalised. “I am working next in Vishal Bhardwaj's Rangoon,” he says. “He was the one who gave me Omkara, and the character of Langda Tyagi changed a lot of my image in the industry.”