Saif Ali Khan says he is ‘recession-proof’, admits pandemic didn’t affect his salary demands: ‘I don’t charge too much anyway’

Actor Saif Ali Khan said that he’s being offered the most interesting material now more than ever before. The actor plays a cop in directors Pushkar and Gayatri’s Hindi remake of their Tamil original Vikram Vedha, opposite Hrithik Roshan. The film was released in theatres on Friday.

In this interview with indianexpress.com, Saif talked about having outgrown the romantic comedy genre and said that he started experimenting with his roles because he faced a setback very early in his career. After featuring in a string of romantic-comedies, one of which — Hum Tum — also won him a National Award, the actor decided that it was time for him to start experimenting as he felt “restrictive” in the mainstream cinema format.

He said, “I think I made the right choice in choosing interesting work and I found a lot of support, even from the press. When I tried doing a certain kind of movies, people are much more appreciative than if you play it safe. So at one point when I did stuff like Sacred Games, and films like Kaalakaandi, I kind of opened myself up to working with a lot of new and interesting people, whereas mainstream Bollywood was a little limited with the star-cast you’d be working with every day, even supporting, at one point, and I found that a little restrictive. The ideas were restrictive and I wasn’t having any fun. It was important for me to have fun, so I didn’t bother about anything. I just wanted to act. I’m on that path where I want to really immerse in the character and have fun and not worry about what will people say or what will happen, should I do this or that, but really commit to my part as well. It is fun and I always wanted to get there. Acting is difficult in a sense that you want to be absolutely careless and carefree but there are a certain restrictions in life, but now I how I get to do more of that.”

Saif is one of the few mainstream Bollywood heroes (along with Hrithik Roshan, of course) who has already worked with South Indian filmmakers. He said, “I didn’t say let’s work because they’re south Indian filmmakers. I wanted to do it because I loved that movie when I saw it and then when I read the script, it seemed like an international script. It is the kind of story that’d run anywhere and that’s why they also brought it to Mumbai because they knew it could work even it was Hollywood cop drama, so it wasn’t that it was the script and the role.”

“But having worked with them and having understood the various elements that are working, it is clear that there is a certain integrity they have, as writers and makers, that is working for the movie. I don’t know if I’m spelling it out, but that is something that everybody needs to be made aware of, that this film didn’t get made just like that, it was written in a certain way, shot in a certain way, directed in a certain way, and that integrity plays a very big role in that,” Saif added.

Saif is one of the rare Bollywood heroes who has appeared in multiple two-hero films, with actors such Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn. On being asked if this is because he is a secure actor, he said, “I am not secure as an actor and I think it is an achievement that despite my insecurity, I do not shy away from acting in an ensemble cast or sharing screen space with another great actor. I gather my courage to do it and that is the truth. There were moments when I was like ‘Oh no! this is gonna be tough!’ but at the same time I did it.”

“Having said that, I am at a stage in my career where I am willing to experiment. Maybe when there are two superstars exactly at the same phase of their career, the same level of superstardom, then it might be challenging for the makers to bring them together,” he added.

Many actors, especially in the post-pandemic era, have hit the reset phase as their audiences want to see them reinvent and do better. Many others are also staring at the possibility of a reduction in their salaries. On this, Saif said that the pandemic didn’t really change much for him, personally and professionally.

He said, “I don’t think anything has changed for me post pandemic, even the pandemic wasn’t like an eye-opener for me, but I came across two types of people, some people who are okay with themselves, their lives and homes and books and music and locking down and all, then there where people who weren’t, maybe who lived a more exterior lives. I don’t know, but it wasn’t an eye-opener in a sense that oh this is what life is all about, spending time with family and all, I don’t know it was all the same for me. The first one was lovely, the second one was really scary as then there was an economic crisis. I don’t know if the films have changed, or it is my choice that has. When it comes to fees, my manager says that we’re recession proof because we don’t really charge too much anyway.”

Saif was exposed to an international audience after starring in Netflix’s Sacred Games. Asked if his international appeal informs his professional choices, he said, “Ultimately, it is a job, and you choose the best from what you’re offered or you say no you’ll not do it until you get something that you really like. I observe all the criticism, I like to read reviews, and I think people review quite insightfully and it is nice to read because there might be certain things that I can miss, and I can apply it at some point, I hope. So when I am choosing something to do, I can keep those points in mind, so I’m not taking a step back but forward.”

Saif’s wife, actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, had recently said that her husband has become wiser with age, specially when it comes to choosing films. He said with a laugh, “Especially where I started from. I hope so. I really like the feeling when someone says they wrote something keeping me in mind, I can’t believe it, I never thought people would take me that seriously. It is nice, in recent times I have done some of the best work and I have been offered the most interesting material that I’ve ever been offered, which is always nice. And films have evolved quite a lot, I’m glad I’ve outgrown rom-com little bit, who knows. Vikram Vedha is my kind of a movie, and I loved the role. It is one of the best roles offered to me.”

Asked why he thinks he has outgrown the romantic-comedy genre, he said, “I shouldn’t have said that, romantic films have changed. In those times there was a certain kind of language in movies, a certain kind of character that one played that I think was stretched, but I have personally outgrown that. I think one has to write it age-appropriately, and in a certain way, but rom-coms are always great, I’ve to take that back…”

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