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Boy to man

india Updated: Jul 18, 2008 14:37 IST
Ashok Rai
Ashok Rai
Hindustan Times
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He was a podgy little boy, skulking around the terrace house apartment of Sharmila Tagore, on Altamount Road. La Tagore was holding forth on how and why she thought there was nothing schizoid about doing a Satyajit Ray masterpiece and a Shakti Samanta pout-boiler at the same time.

An interview was on but Saifu wanted to disrupt the proceedings. He craved mamma’s attention, and at the age of eight or thereabouts, also demanded a sip of the whisky which dad Pataudi was drinking, reclining on a silver chair.

Saif was a being a pest, not exactly a trait which is endearing for a journo eager to complete the questions in his quiver. That was the last time Saif was ill-mannered. A decade later, he turned up in Mumbai, sophisticated and courteous, into aadabs, salaams and duas. Ma had entrusted him to the care and guardianship of Gulzar.

From what I can recall, the patient lyricist-film maker turned white haired overnight. Saif would return home late, a terrible no-no for Gulzar saab who retires to bed shortly after the 10 pm TV news (don’t ask on which channel).

Tipsy turvy
Meanwhile, stories abounded that Pataudi Jr would get tipsy pretty often, was dating (gasp) Moon Moon Sen, had crashed a car into a wall, mum was worried.

Quite expectedly, the England-returned boy also became Pali Hill-returned. He would have to fend for himself, get serious, not hang around with Kamal Sadanah, if he wanted to take his career seriously. Big IF. Big daddy Rahul Rawail tossed him out of Bekhudi.

Co-star Kajol and Saif would initially travel together from their South Mumbai homes to the studios. Kads was fond of him but no can assuage a director upset by a newcomer’s indiscipline. Seems Saif was untraceable for a week.

Down.. but not out
Oh well Kamal Sadanah was cast in Bekhudi which did nothing for nobody, except for introducing Kajol. Saif was seen in Parampara in which he swashbuckled with Aamir Khan, and earlier in Aashik Aawara in which he wooed Mamta Kulkarni (help!). Mum Sharmila asked moi, “I’m worried about Saif. Do you think he can act?” I gave one of those non-committal shakes of the head. Since I was amma’s inquisitor, the nawab boy would be polite (still is) and address me as, “Sir” which was a first, and last for me. No one calls me sir.

I had to phone him and then Amrita Singh to confirm the news that they were married. “OF COURSE NOT!” they yelled. “Such filthy dirty gossip.” The next day, they said, “Er, yes but we weren’t sure how our parents would take it.”

Life settled for Saif and Dingy in Belscott Towers (actually it looks like a bangla) at Versova, but there were funny rumours. Saif had been spotted walking his dog, wearing a pink nightie. The dog didn’t wear the nightie, Saif did. Dingy rubbished that and insisted that Saif was straight, good and all that. She would get upset about the gossipvine connecting him to Zoya Akhtar and Smriti Mishra fleetingly.

The good news was that Saif Ali Khan was doing a decent job of his career, he was pretty cool in Yeh Dillagi, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Kachche Dhaage and Kya Kehna. He had a flair for comedy but didn’t like being awarded in that ‘inferior category’ for Dil Chahta Hai and Hum Tum.

Awards ahoy
He was on the award podium for Kal Ho Na Ho. He’d had the last laugh on the carpers when he won the National Award for Hum Tum. How nice, now mum Tagore must be sure that the Aashiq Awara boy can act. And he can actually, it’s fun to see him, though there was some baby flab back in Salaam Namaste.

I don’t know if I’ve managed to catch the Saif spirit. I haven’t collided into him after the separation from Dingy and the kids. I haven’t said hello to Rozza or Kareena Kapoor, and La Tagore is too caught up with domestic and censorship matters to discuss Ray versus Samanta anymore. All I know is that if I do run into Saif Ali Khan, it won’t be at Gulzar’s.