Saif Ali Khan says it like it is. Sometimes, at the risk of sounding politically incorrect. When he visited the TOI office on Thursday, he spoke candidly on actresses he looks good with on screen, his upcoming film 'Bullett Raja', why a pairing with wife Kareena hasn't worked and more. Excerpts...
Is Bullett Raja based on a real-life character?
My character Raja Mishra is based on many real-life characters. Bullett Raja is not a biopic of this one Robin Hood-type guy. Fact is stranger than fiction in UP (where the film is based). Every second person is a Raja Mishra there.
Have you worked on your body for this film?
Kareena told me that in Bollywood it's most important to look good. Your acting ability can be secondary. It is a visual medium and certain heroic roles we get offered require you to look like you are capable of doing these massively dramatic things.
You look polished, while Sonakshi Sinha has a desi look in the film. Do you think that contrast works?
I guess contrast always works. I remember Aditya Chopra saying about Rani Mukerji and me, that is what works on screen. In this film, it is not about our chemistry. It is a film about friends, about two guys... it is a revenge story.
What do you think about Sonakshi as an actress?
It's roles like Lootera that distinguish actors and Sonakshi has surely proven herself with that. I get the feeling that I went to school with her or something, that I have known her forever; maybe because she is Shatruji's daughter. Sonakshi is very good at what she does. I'd like to see her to do something now that surprises people.
Have your looks ever been a hindrance in terms of the roles you get?
Nobody has ever asked me this! I've always wanted to be among the good looking people... doors open for them in a different way. But I never was. I have grown into some kind of an acceptable and attractive personality on screen. It has happened very recently, which is lucky because people who are good looking at 16, sometimes pack up... if not at 30, then certainly at 40.
But you were always considered good-looking...
I don't think so. I was described as this gawky guy who looked more like his mother.
But then that is a compliment, your mother (Sharmila Tagore) is so beautiful...
I think they meant, 'He looks like a girl (laughs)'.
Your pairing with Kareena hasn't really clicked. Do you feel real life couples don't make for great onscreen couples?
Yes, I do feel that... at least speaking for myself. I am not an actor down to my toe-nails. I wouldn't act with my mother either, because she knows who I am. When you work with a stranger, there is little more energy involved... you try and be charming, they don't know you, there is a bit of mystery, you smile, they weren't expecting that smile... then things happen. I feel a lack of tension working with Kareena. There is comfort, predictability, there is no surprise element. I've lost out on working with a great actor as a result.
Having said that, you haven't seen us together at our best either, which is a bit unfair. The films we have done, for instance, Agent Vinod starts off well, but then disintegrates.... Sriram (Raghavan, the director) tried to do too much. Kurbaan, on the other hand, was a little dry. So now, both of us are happier working with other people. It's funny... sometimes, you don't like a person and you still look great on screen with that person. And, sometimes you really like a person and it looks rubbish onscreen. It has happened to me very often. It would be rude to say who (smiles). Discomfort is the binding factor of film; comfort is the enemy of cinema.
Who do you think you look best with?
I liked how Miss Kaif (Katrina) and I looked in 'Race'. Otherwise, I think I have looked good with Indian looking girls like Kajol, Rani, Preity... now, maybe Ileana. I liked working with Tamannaah. We did a song in 'Humshakals' and I haven't done that kind of song in ages. She is pretty and nice. I don't know... some people look nice with some people.
Of course, Deepika! I am so happy for her recent super success. It is a continuation of the Kajol and Rani mould, except she is much taller! She is also a dusky beauty with Indian looks.
Do you and Kareena discuss work?
Yes, sometimes, until it becomes a bit annoying and then we don't.
On the personal front, do you and Kareena give each other space?
Yeah, lots of space. I don't know if it is marriage or age. After a point, you realise there's more to life than just girls. After marriage, you want to focus on other things like work, house and in that sense, it does help a lot. If you are married to the right person, which I feel lucky that I am, you get time and peace of mind to be able to do other things.What is the mood like now because both of you have releases coming up?
It is busier than it has ever been in terms of shooting. I guess also it is pre-release time and you have got two nervous actors. She is not showing it. I am a little anxious, but I'm aware that she might be anxious as well.
After your dad, the late Tiger Pataudi, you are the man of the house now.
I miss him particularly because nobody can tell my mother what to do anymore. That is the main reason. He was a very nice person apart from anything else. He was definitely man of the house and my mother sometimes says that I am the man of the house, but I don't think she really means it. I think she means, she is the man of the house!
Do the women of the family come to you for advice?
I think they are all quite headstrong and know what they are doing. They all ask, but finally do exactly what they want.