The Nawab of Bollywood Saif Ali Khan spends a lot of his time in the British capital for holidays and film shoots. Just recently, the 43-year-old actor was filming for Sajid Khan’s upcoming comedy flick Humshakals in London and Portsmouth.
Khan met up with Bollywood reporter Sunny Malik at the UK headquarters of 20th Century Fox after a long day of shooting with co-stars Riteish Deshmukh and Tamanna here in London.
Saif Ali Khan’s latest film Bullett Raja is distributed by 20th Century Fox in the UK and coproduced by its Indian arm Fox Star Studios. Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, Bullett Raja sees Saif Ali Khan essay the role of Raja Mishra, a commoner who gets transformed into Bullett Raja – a notorious, care-a-damn attitude gangster. The action comedy also stars Sonakshi Sinha, Jimmy Shergil, Vidyuth Jamwal, Chunkey Pandey, Gulshan Grover, Ravi Kishan and Raj Babbar.
Congratulations on your first ₹ 100 crore film Race 2. Has your perception of the ‘100 crore club’ changed now that you are a part of it?
Now it’s all about the ₹ 200 crore club right?
So it doesn’t matter to you?
It does matter. The idea is to make a lot of money. It makes you a ‘star’ when your films do really well at the box office and earn ₹ 150 crores or ₹ 200 crores. It sounds good. People invest in you and you make sure that the films make money. It’s the business of our films.
You are in London for Humshakals. How has the filming been so far?
I think Humshakals is the most commercial movie that I am doing. The kind of songs and comedy that we have in the film made me feel that I’m finally doing a film which has something for everybody, which is important. I mean, Cocktail was lovely but it wasn’t for everyone. Some people may find it a little highbrow and urban. India is a simple and poor country. Our people like happiness, comedy and dances in movies. It’s nice to play such a role in Humshakals.
Your next release is Bullett Raja. What is the film about?
It’s an action movie. It’s a story of two friends who inadvertently, of course, have to end into a life of crime. But not just crime, it’s more of a political hit man kind of crime. It is set in UP where it’s almost legally acceptable that a minister will go around beating people.
Bullett Raja is being distributed by 20th Century Fox in UK cinemas. Do you think that having such a renowned and well-known distributor will help the film in terms of reaching out to newer audiences or do you think that just depends on the content of your film?
No, I think distribution is extremely important. I think the fact that they are connected so well in that amazing way and have that reputation is a plus for them. A lot of people are trying to enter the Indian market without understanding it. But the films that Fox is acquiring for production and distribution have a high chance of being successful. Someone is choosing the films correctly. America and India have different cultures. There is no connection. There is also no possibility that an executive from ‘X’ company will really understand anything. The best offer they will give you is that ‘We have a library of so many movies. Why don’t you remake one for us?’ That’s not really useful.
You usually team up with Eros International for your own productions. They recently started the trend of Indian movies in Russia again with your production ‘Cocktail’. Do you get involved in the distribution aspect of films that you are not producing like Bullett Raja?
No I don’t. I also think that one should work with lots people. I just work on the philosophy of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Hopefully some other people know what they are doing.
How was your experience working with your director Tigmanshu Dhulia?
It was really good. He is a very sensible guy. Something about him reminds me of Sunny Deol, not as a person but because of the kind of films he makes and likes. I think he was even involved in his production house. He likes films like Gaddar but at the same time he has an artistic side and makes films like Paan Singh Tomar. Actually, instead of calling him artistic I should call him good as a he is a good filmmaker. But I would like to nudge him into making more of a commercial movie. He took a tough character in Bullett Raja and made him funny. I mean my character is scared of flying, is charming and naughty with the girl. He is a great friend, has tremendous heroic qualities like bravery and loyalty but is on the bad side of the law.
It’s also a fresh pairing with Sonakshi Sinha for you after a long time. Was that a conscious decision?
Variety is certainly the spice of life in terms of movies. It feels great. How stupid of me not to have worked with different actresses earlier. My pairing with Deepika is great and successful but dancing with Tamanna for Humshakals was fantastic and really cool. We were doing some really great steps and I really thought that it was brilliant. Even for Bullet Raja, Sonakshi has had very successful films but is very down to earth. When you speak to her, you feel like she is someone you have gone to school with, generations apart (laughs).
Does that bother you when people say that you are 40+?
No, because I feel that I’m looking better, at least on most days I don’t know about today, than ever. When you are on top of your game, it doesn’t bother you. But when you aren’t it, will probably start worrying you. When you look in the mirror and you see too many lines and if someone points that out to you, you will feel bad. I feel that forty is the new thirty.
I still enjoy your movies from the 90’s.
I am better now, I think. I do watch them and I think that I did work hard on them. I was watching something the other day where I was hanging off a bridge or something. It was Yaar Gaddar and I was hanging off the Navashima Docks Bridge. Then I had a rat song where I had a rat in my pant. I had to pull it out and say ‘Dekho Mera Chuha’.
What sets your film apart from similar genre films like Dabangg and Rowdy Rathore?
Our film is actually not unlike Dabangg rather than Rowdy Rathore. That is a crazy take on a cop and this is a rather entertaining take on a Mafia guy. It’s not normal for a Mafia guy to behave like my character does. There is also a bit of a western vibe to it because it’s set in that environment. It’s much more entertaining than it should be in that sense.
Bullett Raja is released in UK cinemas this Friday, 29th November 2013.