Indian National Award-winning actor Saif Ali Khan is Bollywood’s go-to artist for playing the goofy, immature, emotionally-unavailable and commitment-averse man-child and he’s back in that familiar turf with his new relationship drama, ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’.
Khan, the father of three children, is Bollywood’s quintessential giant baby who refuses to grow up (think ‘Salaam Namaste’ or ‘Cocktail’) in his films and is undoubtedly the king of the arrested development genre in Hindi cinema.
“But there are some new dimensions added to my role to make it more age appropriate… Whether it’s me not being able to keep up on the dance floor anymore or not having the energy to party so hard, but trying desperately to be young and cool,” said Khan in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! ahead of his movie release on January 30.
The trailer of ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ shows Khan as a 40-something party-fuelled bachelor who discovers that he has a teenage daughter from one of his many affairs. He becomes a reluctant dad who is forced into the world of adulting.
“It’s a father-daughter bonding story at its core. It’s so funny when somebody who loves going out with women runs into his own daughter at a nightclub and that brings his life crashing home. The movie explores how he confronts a lot of issues that he’s struggling with… It’s a warm hearted film.”
Directed by Nitin Kakkar, Khan has also co-produced this film because he was keen to be a part of a project that gave him an opportunity to play a central character that’s closer to his real age. Khan, 49, says he was the principal driving force behind making such a film in Bollywood, which continues to be ‘youth-centric’.
In this film, he never glosses over his unsavoury parts of his life.
“Let’s make him a proper drinker who passes out here and there. He’s someone who’s clearly got a problem… He simply doesn’t get it that he is on a self-destructive path and somehow the daughter coming into his life saves him from the brink of self-destruction,” said Khan.
The actor describes his character in ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ as a ‘parent’s worst nightmare’ and ‘his own worst enemy’.
But if there’s one actor in Bollywood who can sell dysfunctional existence with an affable and impish charm, it’s Khan. The actor, who impressed us with his web series debut ‘Sacred Games’ as the troubled Sikh cop Sartaj Singh, claims his checkered career is no flash in the pan.
“I have worked hard on my craft. I have tried to improve how I act… Whether it is ‘Kalaalkaandi’ or even ‘Chef’, I have put myself out there. I have put myself through the grind and I have tried new stuff. A bit of that is paying off now. It’s quite heartening and rewarding. But I have worked quite hard to achieve all of this.”
Unlike Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan, this real-life prince — who was born into Indian royalty — isn’t saddled in his own ‘superstar’ image and continues to be an actor who can afford to do crazy, zany experiments in his career. While his 2001 seminal bromance ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ cemented his reputation as a good actor, his turn in the gripping and visceral ‘Omkara’ (Bollywood’s rustic take on Shakespeare’s jealousy-ridden tragedy ‘Othello’) five years later catapulted him into an actor that can do both suave and uncouth roles with panache.
“That’s what they pay you for… If you can do your role with a bit of charm,” said Khan in his trademark self-effacing tone.
The movie also features Tabu, who plays debutante Alaya F’s hippie mother.
“I instantly agreed when there was a talk about casting her. She is in an entertaining cameo and the film changes gears quite a lot when she enters the frame. Her presence is very strong.”
How about the slightly incestuous scene in the trailer where he seems to be hitting on his biological daughter unknowingly? Was that a tough scene to pull off?
“That scene, we realised early on, that it’s a make or break scene of the film. We were wondering whether to have that scene or not … There’s always a danger of it becoming an incestuous notion. But what works in our favour is that we are strangers. The scene was so difficult because we had to make sure that scene doesn’t make you cringe … We wanted to show that my character is simply excited that a young girl wants to talk to him … Whether it’s funny or not, you can decide when you watch the film.”
While a few scenes in this film were tricky, his character wasn’t out of his comfort zone.
“He’s close to my own energy level and my own personality. It wasn’t as difficult as playing Sartaj Singh [‘Sacred Games’] or Uday Bhan Singh Rathore [‘Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior’]. This role was relatively easier.”
His biggest challenge was to make his man-child character endearing.
“Think about it: he’s an alcoholic, a womaniser and he’s completely fighting his age. But he’s also very funny. The deal is that when his trip settles, he has to deliver the goods. The more of a mess he is, the more entertaining he becomes… We tried to remember the audience every step of the way and we never forgot to have fun as actors.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ releases in the UAE on January 30. Watch the trailer below:
“But we are still youth centric. But now there seems to be some ideas and scope for older actors… I think there are certain actors that will work all their life and I hope I am one of them,” said Saif Ali Khan on Bollywood’s obsession with youth-centric stories.
“I was more worried about how my hair was looking and how the scene would look on camera. I wish I derived some enjoyment from it, but I was more worried about my looks … Things could be worse, so I am not complaining,” Khan on whether it was fun to play a partyholic on the big screen.
DID YOU KNOW?
Saif Ali Khan will introduce actress Pooja Bedi’s daughter Alaya F in ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ and he has the kindest words for his discovery.
“Alaya is the kind of sparkling new girl in the story. The film is really about her and if her energy clicks then the film works… This film would not be as special without her,” said Khan.