Chote Nawab, Saif Ali Khan, has always played urbane roles except for ‘Langda Tyagi’ in ‘Omkara’. Hence it was a pleasant surprise to see him essaying a Dalit student leader’s role in Prakash Jha’s ‘Aarakshan’. He even learnt Sanskrit for this role which sees him take on his college principal, played by Amitabh Bachchan. Sandeep Hattangadi talks to him about his newest film and his take on reservations.
What is your take on the reservation policy?
I have changed my perception. Initially, I was not in favor of having somebody who has become a doctor under the quota system to operate on my brain in a possible accident scenario, but after working in this film, I’ve realized that there are large numbers of Indians who just don’t get any opportunity and need a helping hand and it’s not that they become doctors straight away; they also have to give an exam like everybody else. Also there are large scale malpractices by the open category students as well, there is corruption on both sides. So I now favor reservations but how much quantum and how it to be implemented is something that needs a serious debate.
Can we see you entering politics?
I can’t stand politics and politicians. I think it’s quite difficult to govern a big and complex country like ours and keep everybody happy. Some kind of extreme measures are needed for which I don’t have the skills for that I am quite happy where I am, where we don’t need dirty games.
Do you follow political developments?
Not as seriously as I would before.
This role is so different from your suave conventional avatar?
Yes, that’ what an actor’s job is – to essay roles which are completely different from his/her personality. Having said that I still regard this is as my most challenging role for you. I didn’t have to just mouth the dialogues but actually internalize the character and emote with my eyes. The costumes and the moustache also creates the right ambience for me to get my point through.
How was Prakash Jha’s direction?
Having someone like Prakash Ji really helped. I had detailed discussions with him before shooting on all the aspects of the issue (history of reservation, classless society), so I could get into the skin of the character and the underlying issue i.e. commercialization of education. Being an old school actor, a method actor,I want to be fully ready when I get on sets. I also respect Prakash ji for he makes film on issues which target the heartland of Indian society. Most film makers including myself (‘Agent Vinod’ and ‘Race 2) work in projects which have more of a western touch. It is refreshing to play a totally small town Indian character. By also shooting in a place like Bhopal we also get the pulse of the real India.
How was Prakashji on the sets?
He was a real task master (smiles), he lovingly called anyone who would goof on the sets ‘Gadha’.
What have you to say about your on-screen chemistry with Deepika Padukone?
Sometimes even real life equation doesn’t work on screen. It is the story which matters. Deepika and I will be working on 2 more films after Aarakshan, first is Race 2 then is my untitled home production. So when we work together in some many projects at the same time the challenge is how to look different in each outing. But here it was quite easy as the role was not your run of the mill stuff to begin with.
What’s next on the anvil?
I have started pre-production for the first zany zombie comedy ‘Going Goa Gone’ under my Illuminati Films Production banner directed by Raj D.K. and Krishna Nidimoru of ‘99’ and ‘Shor-In the City’ fame which will introduce a new girl and will entirely be shot in exotic foreign locales and Goa with a foreign technical unit.
The ‘chote nawab’ is a ‘tiger’ like his father and doesn’t think twice before following his heart.