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Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan is back in action as a cop in ‘Vikram Vedha’, shot in Abu Dhabi

Khan talks about his chemistry with Hrithik Roshan, Bollywood’s lean phase, and more



Saif Ali Khan plays a fierce cop in 'Vikram Vedha'
Image Credit: IANS

An avalanche of negative press has surrounded Bollywood films with many questioning the quality of its content and dimming of star power, but National Award-winning Indian actor Saif Ali Khan is fiercely optimistic about ‘good movies’ having an incredible power to offset that curve.

“There’s a lot of negativity and everyone is getting all worked up about something or the other. And that’s unfortunate, but basically they all want to watch good movies. I don’t think anything can interfere with that,” said Khan in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

It all boils down to the basic tenet of actors giving their viewers ‘good stuff’ by working hard. His latest film ‘Vikram Vedha’, also starring Hrithik Roshan and out in UAE cinemas on September 29, sees him play a fierce cop who is on call to hunt down a dreaded gangster.

Saif Ali Khan in 'Vikram Vedha'
Image Credit: instagram.com/hrithikroshan

Filmed extensively in Abu Dhabi during the pandemic, ‘Vikram Vedha’ is the remake of the 2017 Tamil film of the same name. The directors Gayatri and Pushkar remain the same, but its lead players from the original R Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi are being played by Khan and Roshan.

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“This is one of the best scripts that came my way and honestly it’s very rare to get such scripts because it’s a very big industry … It’s not common to get a script that’s almost perfect,” said Khan.

The slick trailer, which doesn’t give much away apart from the power games being played by a cop and a criminal, explores the themes around morality and good vs evil.

As a part of leg work, Khan — who has impressed us with his acting prowess in films such as ‘Omkara’ and ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ — watched the original film and was impressed with R Madhavan’s acting heft.

“I did see the original and it was very interesting. I am pretty much dressed the same as Madhavan… I thought he was amazing in his role. He’s really a handsome, relaxed, and wonderful actor… There were a few things that’s slightly different and that’s the magic of interpretation,” said Khan. He remembers feeling that he would react a little differently when faced with situations that play out in the original.

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Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan with 'Vikram Vedha' filmmakers Gayathri and Pushkar
Image Credit: instagram.com/hrithikroshan

“South movies are often remade in Bollywood, but here the same makers are doing the Bollywood one. It was so interesting to listen to them explain the why and how behind the scenes … It was like a play where every actor has got a slightly different approach to the role and after a while, it almost become a new movie. The lines may be the same, but they are delivered differently,” said Khan.

At the time of this interview with Gulf News, Khan — who is the son of late cricketing legend Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and iconic actress Sharmila Tagore — was at his residence in Pataudi and was in the midst of filming another project.

Last seen in the con-couple comedy ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, Khan has constantly re-invented himself by taking on roles that are unorthodox. His plunge into the world of web series with the riveting cop series ‘Sacred Games’ was widely appreciated. But his turn as a law enforcement officer is a far cry from the diffident cop-act in ‘Sacred Games’.

the cast of Bunty Aur Babli 2 at Emirates Palace.
Image Credit:
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“‘Vikram Vedha’ is powered by starry personas who are alpha males. This is what our directors wanted and is dealt with in a slightly testosterone kind of way … But it’s a really good role, I promise,” said Khan. He’s so confident about this film that he even asked this journalist to relay her reaction to his new release after its premiere screening in the UAE’s Vox Cinemas on September 28.

The film’s title originated from the Indian mythological tale Vikram-Betaal (a collection of 25 tales narrated by Vetala to Vikram). Vetala is the Western equivalent of a vampire who convinces King Vikram to listen to his tales.

“King Vikram has to get the vampire to a slightly tantric ritual and they reach a deal where the vampire narrates riddle-laden stories … It was a device to tell stories … So I play this cop looking for this dreaded underworld gangster and a special task force led by me is formed to catch this guy … So Vedha tells Vikram three stories and everything changes in the audience’s minds constantly,” said Khan. The trailer — where Khan as a cop is seen questioning a cheeky criminal — asks questions on who’s truly good and who’s truly bad.

What sets ‘Vikram Vedha’ apart is that the makers managed to get two A-listers to work together. Bollywood folklore is rife with stories about directors and producers finding it impossible to cast stars of the same stature and star power in the same field fearing ego tussles. But Khan — who has been in the industry for more than two decades — is one of the most assured and confident talents in Bollywood. Adjectives like ‘insecure’ and ‘petty’ can never be attached to a talent like Khan. His next few sentences describing his co-star Roshan’s strong work ethic cemented our belief.

“Hrithik is extremely handsome and has got incredible screen presence. I can go on and on about it and I hope I can say the same about me,” said Khan with a laugh.

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They both got along famously well.

“I like him very much. He’s an absolutely wonderful guy — very patient. I learned a lot working with him. The filming was quite intense and it needed a high standard of concentration … But he has a very strong work ethic, just like me,” said Khan. For the scenes shot in Abu Dhabi for this action thriller, Khan told us that he wasn’t involved in any of those sequences.

Image Credit:

International shoot or not, the brief given by his directors was simple.

“I play this tough-guy role … There’s a lot of gun fights and a fair amount of action. There was a bit of physical preparation in terms of bulking up a little and getting into my character’s mental space. My character is a very interesting guy and I know that this is going to be a good film.”

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Asked if Khan — who’s known to be an actor who reads voraciously and speaks eloquently — has finally managed to hit a sweet spot in his career and he’s audibly pragmatic. Bollywood often doesn’t know what to do with actors who are suave, well-read, and articulate, but Khan believes that it’s up to him to make a mark there.

“I have a nice place, a good job and I am quite happy in my life.” Pictures of him gardening with his children or enjoying a book often go public. So who does he credit to maintaining that impeccable work-life balance?

“My mother was a movie star with a good work-life balance,” reveals Khan. And instead of ending the phone conversation with a clinical good bye, this actor extracted the promise from this journalist to message him directly after the local screening.

“There have been many times when I tell a journalist not to message me after the movie. But I am so confident of ‘Vikram Vedha’ that I want you to message me your thoughts.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Vikram Vedha’ is out in UAE cinemas on September 29.

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