‘Success is about being happy with what you have’

Amrita Prasad
Sunday, 21 October 2018

Saif Ali Khan has never shied away from playing negative roles. His character Shakun Kothari in his upcoming release Baazaar is grey but is heroic too. Here’s chatting him up.

He is not your usual ‘Khan.’ He is extremely private, loves books and enjoys life outside social media. Although his films don’t always rule the box office like the other Khans,  he as immortalised some of the characters he’s played on screen. Whether it is the cool and goofy Sameer in Dil Chahta Hai, the villainous Langda Tyagi in Omkara, the dependable and amicable Rohit in Kal Ho Naa Ho, the freeloader and flirtatious Gautam in Cocktail or the player Ranvir Singh in Race and Race 2, some of the characters that Saif Ali Khan has portrayed have touched our hearts. And while talking about his most commendable work, how can we miss out on Sartaj Singh, the misfit and troubled police inspector in Netflix’s Sacred Games, which earned him a lot of appreciation?   

Recently, the actor was in Pune to promote his upcoming film Baazaar which is scheduled to hit theatres on October 26. Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, and wearing black shades, with his long hair tied in a half pony tail, Saif looked cool and regal. He gave us a peek into his character and what the film is all about.    

Baazaar is set in the business world, which is something new for him and for the audience too. Directed by Gauravv K Chawla, the film is based on Mumbai’s city life and the dangerous world of stock trading against the backdrop of money, power and business. Many who have seen the trailer are comparing Saif to Leonardo DiCaprio and the film with The Wolf of Wall Street. 

Saif, who plays Shakun Kothari in the film, says, “When we are trying out something new in films here, a lot of time, America has already done it. We are very much influenced by the West. Having said that while it is okay to take inspiration, it is slightly a cheap thing to copy a movie because you’ll end up making mistakes. You have to respect the feelings of a nation while making a film, so if you copy, it is going to be culturally very different. The Wolf of Wall Street has everything in excess, too much capitalism and a comic way of telling what money can do to you.” 

So what is the plot of Baazaar? “It is about a man who loves money but at the same time loves his family too. The film is about the old Gujarati community and an old Mumbai business family,” he quips. 
The film also features Chitrangda Singh, Radhika Apte, debutant Rohan Mehra (son of the late actor Vinod Mehra), among others. “It is a bit of a different world, like David and Goliath in many ways. In some ways, it also the same old story of a little guy and the big guy and how the big guy tries to ruin the little guy and how the little guy survives in the end,” says Saif.   

Shakun Kothari isn’t the usual good guy we see in our films. He is greedy, hungry for power with shades of both good and bad. “He is more of a bad guy and not really a hero, but he has got something that you and I will like. Everyone has a different motivation behind making money — what does money mean to him, why is he like this, or why is he a shark — and it turns out that he probably loves his family and kids,” says the 48-year-old actor. 

Saif has played many dark characters in the past, and choosing a negative role never really bothers him. “I don’t think about it too much anymore. I think if it is a good character, you should just dive in. Some characters are just heroic despite being grey. Shakespeare has great heroic characters with tragic flaws. So this guy (Shakun) is a villain with heroic streaks,” he quips. 

The film’s trailer shows hunger for money, success and power. However, he says that money isn’t the actual evil, it is the love and lust for it. Defining success, he says, “To me, success is about being happy with what you have. There is an instinctive sense of contentment that tells you that everything is great. Success is not just money. Of course, money gives you security, helps you get your loved ones cured when they fall ill or are hospitalised and so on. But is money everything — is what we need to find out.” 

Saif feels that everything today has been monetised, including the breath you take. “Water has been monetised and that is such a ridiculous thing. Anything you enjoy, you have to pay for it on this planet. We are constantly trading energies. So money is the ability to buy somebody’s time, labour or skill,” he says. 

But money isn’t everything. “Love, security and bonds are more important. The old cliché that money can’t buy everything, is true. I know so many businessmen in India who have tonnes of money. I don’t want to be like them because it seems like they don’t know how to enjoy life the same way I do. I like my life and that’s happiness for me,” confesses Saif.  

His Sacred Games became the first ever Indian series to air on Netflix. While Saif chose not to divulge anything about the next season of Sacred Games, he says that the web is an exciting space to work in. 
“It is really an exciting space because it is very creative, you have the topmost talented people in the country creating shows like Sacred Games. Because of Sacred Games, you are compared with the rest of the world. Many who do not watch Hindi films/shows and only review international films, start looking at your show on the web. Shows like these have put India on the global map in terms of creativity and people now know that there is more to India than just Bollywood, which is a really good thing,” says an excited Saif. 

Of late, we have seen the Kaalakaandi actor voicing his opinion on sexual harassment against women and the need to ensure that there is no abuse of power. He says, “We have to look after our women at the workplace, and life, in general, has to be secure for them. We have a scenario where people in power bully a pretty girl and that’s disgusting and cannot be allowed. But more than that the attitude has to change. We have to have respect for each other. We have started to tackle the issue with harassment, but we have to also look at solving other issues such as paying people on time, giving minimum wages... there’s a long way to go. It is just the tip of the iceberg but it is an important issue, because, as they say, safety first. Women simply cannot be treated this way.”  

While both Kareena and Saif are not on social media, their son Taimur is already an internet sensation. When asked if all this attention ever bothers him as a parent, Saif says that it happens when one grows up as a star kid. 

“People are interested in him and he has to grow up in this kind of environment. We have to bring him up to deal with all this. I am not at all worried about him. People are quite down-to-earth in India — the press is nice, paparazzi are recent. I would have had the same kind of childhood if I were born in this era, so would Sara. It is such a changing time. People like to take photos, it makes them happy and they make money out of it. People are interested in knowing what Saif and Kareena’s son is doing. He is special, but he has to grow up as a well-behaved boy,” says Saif.

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