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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Deepika Padukone's a lovely girl: Saif Ali Khan

The film's acting trio - Saif Ali Khan, Manoj Bajpayee and Prateik - talk to Meena Iyer about their film that hits theatres tomorrow

2011 is an interesting year. Your films Aarakshan and Agent Vinod are very different.
n Yeah true. On the one hand I have an issue-based film like Aarakshan that is releasing tomorrow, and later this year I have a suave Bond-like thriller with Agent Vinod.

Are issue-based films important to be made and watched?
I don't think you can make anyone pay money to watch anything that is not entertaining. The deal is that Prakash (Jha, the director) manages to find an issue-based subject that is inherently dramatic and gives his unique take to it. These films can be interesting, but you cannot imply that issue-based films are boring. Aarakshan is a nice movie.

You also have Race 2 and Cocktail coming up.
Cocktail is a sweet film and Race 2 should go on floors later this year. I've realised that an actor must keep working. I didn't work for a short period in between because I was also involved in production. People noticed the break, but I was okay because I have worked for 20 years continuously. Now I enjoy being on a set. When I get the occasional two days off, I love spending it with the people who matter.

Workaholic Saif, haan?
No! Honestly, I have started to enjoy the process of acting much more now. I know some films will run, some won't. I feel I am good at what I do. I'm lucky to be in a profession that I enjoy and I should quit worrying about success and failure. It's rewarding to come home after a good day's work, read a book, watch some television, call it a night, then go back on set the next day.

Deepika and you seem to be quite an on-screen pair after four films.
Without any offence, I must say there are only four major leading ladies in Bollywod today. That certainly doesn't leave me with much choice. Deepika and I in four films...I certainly didn't engineer it. It just happened. She is a lovely girl, but I am hoping to team up with other girls too. Currently, I am in a good space. Life is balanced. I can focus on my career with no distractions, which is a nice feeling.

You have become a Prakash Jha favourite...
I am fortunate. It is not about being another Bihari. He chose to work with me in Rajneeti and then I suddenly landed up working with him in Aarakshan. Earlier he spoke to me about something else that didn't happen, and then this role in Aarakshan came about. He told me it is a negative role and no one else can do it. I said ok... I enjoy working with him so much. He gives me the freedom to creat something new. We really got along well during Rajneeti. Somehow we agree on more points than we disagree on. He is an expert on the milieu that he puts in his film, and listening to him is an education for an actor. I listen to him and then I explain to him how I am going to portray my character and wait for his value addition. On the set, he lets me do my thing.

One hears the role is really black...
Yes it is a negative role; not a grey role. Cinema is not about heroes and villains anymore. It is about characters. I always felt that there is nothing good or bad in this world. Grey gives you so much scope. Even Bhiku Mhatre (Satya) was grey, but this guy in Aarakshan is black.

You also have Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur...
Anurag and I have grown together professionally. I can say he is one of the most evolved directors I have worked with. It was like going back to theatre workshops and reinventing. I also have Chittagong and a Vikram Bhatt movie coming. Reports of these films from the editing room are very encouraging.

Life is good at 40?
Yes... I'm not in a hurry to go anywhere. I love spending time with my daughter. I am enjoying myself. On Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston said that once you are 40 you become easy in your skin. The desperation goes away and things become much more clear. I would say the same.

How was the experience of working with actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Saif and Manoj?
The shoot of Aarakshan was unbelievable. I was blown away by Amitji's passion for acting and his undying energy on set. He is a living legend, and I got to work with him so early in my career. Working with Saif was great too. He took me under his wing and looked out for me. He made me comfortable and would help me with my lines, especially in scenes where there were hundreds of onlookers. Manoj, too, is an incredible actor and it has been my good fortune to work with such great talent. I was like a little kid on set, everyone was always looking out for me.

Tell us a little about your character.
I play a young college student called Sushant Seth. He is from the upper caste, and an affluent family. I'm friends with both Deepak (Saif) and Poorbi (Deepika), and our friendship goes through major turmoil post the judgement for the reservation of seats. My character faces conflict by siding with the "youth for equality" movement as opposed to my friends. Then he goes through that journey of realising that nothing is black and white.

The character is very different from what you've done before.
Each character poses its own challenges. Being an actor, getting to experience different perspectives, lives and points of view is arguably the most exciting bit. I would not want to keep playing one type of character. Acting in Aarakshan was a challenge because of the language. We're not used to speaking that kind of heartland Hindi. I enjoyed the process of learning my lines and mastering the nuances of the dialogues, along with creating a unique space for my character.

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