'Padma Shri is a bit premature but I'l live up to it' | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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'Padma Shri is a bit premature but I'l live up to it'

Saif Ali Khan reacts to reports that he is undeserving of the national honour and that he only got it because his parents are well connected.

entertainment Updated: Feb 01, 2010 20:11 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Saif Ali KhanCongratulations. So, is Padma Shri Saif Ali Khan feeling at the top of the world?

Actually I’m still a little surprised. From my understanding of these awards, such a distinguished honour is usually reserved for someone far more senior. I feel humbled and hope that I can live up to the Padma Shri in the future.

Well, yes, Rekha, the other Hindi movie star to be honoured with a Padma Shri this year, is at least a quarter of a century ahead of you.
Yeah, I’ve barely been around in comparison to Rekhaji. We’re definitely not in the same league. It’s just that we’ve both received this honour at the same time.

Film critic Rajeev Masand has tweeted: Arjun Rampal gets National Award, Saif Ali Khan gets Padma Shri. What next? Darsheel Safary appointed chairman of the Children’s Film Society? Comment.
(Laughs) May be Darsheel should be made chairman of the CFSI. The Internet allows all kinds of thoughts and opinions to be posted. And why not? We’re living in a democratic society, after all. There’s no need to take such comments personally.

By the way, which actors got the Padma Shri before me?

There was Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan last year. And before that Shah Rukh Khan...
Is it so bad to put me in the same category as these actors? Is my contribution any less? Hey, what’s the big deal?

The big deal apparently is that more than your achievements as an actor, it was the fact that you were the son of cricketing icon, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and legendary actress, Sharmila Tagore, that fetched you the honour at the age of 40.
(After a thoughtful pause) When I was in school may be I did get some special treatment because of who my parents were. I would concede that even in England it got me a little more attention. And definitely, in Delhi’s society, people were conscious of the fact. But my career in Hindi movies has not benefitted in any way because I’m the child of my parents. The film industry is the most democratic place in the world.

No parent, however well-connected, can make a movie run. And hey, we have a democratic government too. I don’t think it would give an award just because I’m a nawab’s son?

Today, celebrities are targets more than beneficiaries. It’s no longer a privilege to be connected. Eyebrows were raised when you won the National Award for Best Actor for Hum Tum earlier. It was said that your mother in her capacity as chairman of the Censor Board influenced the jury’s decision.
My parents would die at the thought of influencing the authorities and lobbying for an award. Sudhir Mishra who was the chairman of the National Award jury that year had pointed out that the reason they thought me deserving of the honour was because of the ease in my performance and the quality of my acting.

That’s his opinion. There were others who believed otherwise. I don’t think it would have been so shocking had I won the award for Omkara. Going by that logic, even though I really liked myself in Hum Tum, I did do an Omkara later and proved my credentials as an actor, didn’t I?

You’re saying that commercial Hindi films like Hum Tum and Rock On! are undeserving of national honours?
I think there is a section in regional cinema that feels a little sidelined when Bollywood infringes on the National Awards that they may consider their domain. They believe that actors like us are already being feted at the more glamourous, film-based awards on TV.

You endorse that point of view?
I don’t. I think it’s unfair not to recognise talent in commercial cinema because Bollywood is as much a part of our culture. You cannot ignore it because it is Indian cinema too. Entertaining films like Hum Tum and Rock On! are beautiful art forms as well. You cannot exempt them from national honours.

When I got the National Award for Hum Tum, many believed that I didn’t deserve it. I proved otherwise with films like Parineeta and Omkara. Today, some believe that the Padma Shri is premature. I hope I can prove to them too in the future that I deserve it.

Does Aamir Khan is deserve the Padma Bhushan?
Definitely! I’m really happy and proud for Aamir. When I started out, he had just finished Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin. Salman (Khan) and he were the superstars.

Growing up in the industry, I have, in some ways, followed actors like Aamir. I’m one of the earliest admirers of his genius. He’s taken Indian cinema to another level. If we are at the Oscars and the Sundance Film Festival today, it’s in a way, thanks to Aamir Khan.

In the government list of Padma winners, you belong to Maharashtra.
I guess I do. I was born in Mumbai, moved to Bhopal, Delhi, Pataudi and then London. After my schooling in England, I returned to Delhi, then shifted back to Mumbai to make a career in the movies.

This is where I found myself and grew into the person I’ve become. A large chunk of my life has been spent in Bandra. I’d think that makes me a Mumbaikar though I’d like to think of myself as a cosmopolitan Indian. Hum sab Hindustani hain, right?

Right. What was your parents’ reaction to the Padma Shri?
Amma is happy, may be a little amused. She laughed and told me not to let it go to my head. My father sent me a congratulatory message saying it was well-deserved and given that it’s a government honour, I should respect it.

What about your children?
Sara congratulated me, she seems a bit shocked. (Laughs) Ibrahim beautifully has no clue and that’s lovely.

And Kareena?
(Laughs again) She’s over the moon!

Her sister, Karisma Kapur, threw a party to celebrate your award.
I need to correct you there. Lolo (Karisma Kapur) did not throw a party for me. It was a housewarming bash with a few friends. She has just finished doing up her apartment. It so happened that the same afternoon, we learnt about my Padma Shri.

I’ve never been comfortable hosting a party to celebrate an award. I did not do it when I bagged popular film awards or even the National Award. I’m not going to do it now. It’s just not me.

To be honest, when I came into the movies, I never imagined that I’d win such big honours some day. Now that I have, I have the responsibility of living up to them.

Buzz is that Padma Shri Saif Ali Khan will be performing at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year.
I’ve done it before, in Melbourne, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock if I were asked to perform in Delhi. But so far, I haven’t been asked so let’s not jump the gun.


‘Not too many great films are being made currently’
I’ve not been signing films of late. It’s being said that’s because the offers I’ve been getting are pretty mediocre. In a manner of speaking, that’s true. Not too many great films are being made currently. But I’m always hopeful of a good script coming my way.

Meanwhile, there’s Agent Vinod, my next production, that’s very close to my heart and should go on the floors soon. Buzz is that I stopped Kareena from signing a film with Aamir (Khan) because I wanted to start my own film. That’s ridiculous!

Whether it’s Kareena or any other actor, as a producer, it’s my responsibility to ask for their dates well in advance and work around them. And that’s what I’ll be doing.

Will I be more chilled out this time around? I don’t think that way. Every film comes with its own dreams and nightmares. Yes, since I have produced a successful film (Love Aaj Kal) earlier, I have a good feeling about Agent Vinod. But that doesn’t mean I’ll get complacent.

‘I want Kareena to make an ‘It’ couple with every hero she works with’
I enjoyed 3 Idiots. Aamir’s (Khan) character was like a moral super-hero. He showed us a world we could connect with easily and, at the same time, promoted self-belief, exposed the loopholes in the education system and stopped us from following the crowd.

It is an entertaining and enriching film.

3 Idiots worked well for Aamir and Kareena (Kapoor), and I couldn’t be happier. I want all her films to be superhits. I want her to make an ‘It’ couple with every hero she works with.

I know the chemistry is for the screen only. ‘It’ or ‘Shit’ couples, we all work hard to make our films run.

There’s been a lot of speculation about when Kareena and I are getting married. I think I’ll remain true to form and keep everyone guessing.

The buzz about her weight also continues. It is now being said that I’d like her to be a size zero forever. Does it matter? I could even want her to be a size 10 but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

‘It’s unbelievable the things you do when you’re in love’
I enjoyed 3 Idiots. Aamir’s (Khan) character was like a moral super-hero. He showed us a world we could connect with easily and, at the same time, promoted self-belief, exposed the loopholes in the education system and stopped us from following the crowd.

Love Aaj Kal was one of the top grossers of 2009. I was hoping that the film would work but the element of fear remained till the release. There’s an uncertainly about every Friday.

It wasn’t a unique story but I liked the idea of the girl realising the day after her marriage that she’s made a mistake and returning home to tell her husband that she can’t live with him. This, even after she learns that the man she loves is off to the US to live out his dream. She doesn’t chase after him but lets him go.

Eventually, realising that he can’t live without her, he quits his job returns to her, even believing that she’s still married. I thought that was amazing morality and really romantic. It’s unbelievable the things you do when you’re in love.

I’m really excited about Race 2
Will Love Aaj Kal have a sequel? Not in the traditional sense. It’s only when certain characters are so strong that people want to see them back, that a franchise like Batman and Superman can be built.

In Hindi films, Dhoom has that kind of a brand power. And Race too. Though I’m not sure when Race 2 will get started, I’m really excited about it. It’s really cool!

A word of caution here: Not every film can have a sequel and not all sequels work. Even Hollywood has made some rubbish movies, Speed 2, for instance.

‘Sometimes people want to watch a little popcorn’
Kurbaan was a special film in many ways but may be the subject was a little too heavy for our audience. When it was conceived, it was a unique concept. But by the time it released, perhaps people were tired of hearing about terrorism and fundamentalism. It was a well-made, timely film but sometimes you want to watch a little popcorn.