Saif Ali Khan: Learning to act!

From Main Khiladi Tu Anari  to Omkara, it has been an educational ride through the crowded bylanes of Bollywood for the Nawab of Pataudi. And as the Cocktail star celebrates his 42nd birthday we look at defining roles of the versatile actor’s 20-year-long career in Bollywood

The first memories of Saif Ali Khan – born in Bhopal and brought up in the UK – as an actor was that of a long-haired, cherubic-looking, male version of Sharmila Tagore with a goofy smile, a silly sense of humour and an uber cool fashion sense. Remember films like Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Yeh Dillagi, Tu Chor Main Sipahi, Hum Saath Saath Hain, et al?

And the UK-returned son of the 60s A-list leading lady bumbled around in the initial years of his filmi career – his first film was Parampara – doing humdrum stories packed with melodramatic characters. While the disconcerting disconnect between the real Nawab and his reel roles was apparent, Saif always had a project on hand to keep him busy and the home fires burning.

So neither his fans nor the critics expected anything meaty (read: powerful roles) of the dapper dude called Saif. But came the new millennium, and he shocked, stunned and surprised everyone with his striking performance in the cult-film Dil Chahta Hai.

While Farhan Akhtar’s creation called Sameer (name of Saif’s character in DCH) was still as silly and playful as the star’s earlier roles, the part seemed extremely close to the UK-returned actor’s real life persona. The upper middle-class mindset, the wicked sense of humour and the light-hearted attitude of Sameer worked wonders for Saif’s career as an actor.

Slowly everyone’s perception of and expectations from Sharmila Tagore’s son started altering. Fortunately, he followed it up with Karan Johar and Nikhil Advani’s Kal Ho Naa Ho, again a role with foreign roots, close to the real Saif, adding a new feather to his fancy hat. We don’t know if it was the appreciation for the decent performances that awakened Saif’s acting bug, or the scripts targeting the NRI market that finally connected the actor to his audience. Whatever it may have been, it was starting to work imn his favour.

The big real turning point in Saif’s career came with dark unconventional roles in Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi, Homi Adajania’s Being Cyrus and Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara. The killer hidden behind the façade of a suave lover, an eccentric Parsi artist and a treacherous Langda Tyagi proved that the Nawab of Pataudi had the acting chops to match steps with contemporaries like Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, etc.

But just when we had started enjoying watch the real Saif make magic with his zany sense of humour and out-of-the-box approach, the star actor seems to have gone back to doing far-fetched roles (the ludicrous spy in Agent Vinod and a romantic lover in films like Love Aaj Kal and Cocktail) and giving us nightmares very like those he induced in his earlier days in B-town. Turkeys like Tashan and Kurbaan – though his role in that one was dark and committed – have not helped redeem his reputation.

On this birthday (August 16) we’d like to remind the Khan superstar that it’s time to throw caution to the wind and thrust the envelope out of the window. And get back to some real acting!

Click to send to your wishes to Saif Ali Khan