As Saif Ali Khan steps into the room after a quick shower, you realise he’s looking different. Maybe it’s his unusual attire — a white kurta tucked into shorts — or maybe, it’s the ‘agent’ haircut. He insists, it’s the two-year-old beard. “I’m fed up of it and even shaved it off, but the Phantom makers insisted I grow it back for the promotions. I’ve also been exercising and dieting,” he admits.
There’s a mellow air about him which has nothing to do with becoming a nawab. He doesn’t take the title seriously and the responsibilities he’s undertaken are as a good citizen helping those less fortunate.
“I recall my father (Mansoor Ali Khan Patuadi) saying, after the privy purses were abolished, and it was a relief not to be a nawab anymore. You were expected to look after everyone and there wasn’t enough money to do so. Being a royal is interesting only if you are paid huge money, which we aren’t. I inherited a nice house and some great cricket photographs, but the money to renovate the house comes from my movies,” he asserts, adding that after his death, his children, Sara and Ibrahim, will get lots of money and land, houses and watches. “But it’s what I earned, not inherited.” There was a time when money was a concern, but today he’s settled, financially, and looking forward to moving into a new house, renting out property, investments paying off and living on a certain budget independent of movies. “Now I can work with good directors, build a reputation as a reliable, committed actor and produce something creatively special with an eye on the budget to ensure recovery for the investors. That’s something I overlooked with Bullet Raja and Happy Ending. I made money, but also made lots of mistakes which proved costly in the long run.You can’t be blamed for the ideas but it’s a grievous error to go over budget, somebody has to pay for it,” he rues. He’s being extra cautious today. Home productions are waiting for a viable idea and a good director and though several announcements have beeen made lately, including Sujoy Ghosh’s Devotion of Suspect X, Vipul Shah’s remake of the Colin Firth thriller Before I Go To Sleep, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon with Salman Khan’s Jugalbandi, Saif insists that they were premature. “Jugalbandi’s a nice story and Salman as a producer is a plus, but we’re still working things out. Sujoy and I have to decide what to do. Vipul has the rights to a film I really like, but apart from Rangoon, nothing else is signed or rolling. But news leaks out, people do things for various reasons,” he sighs.