September 13, 2001, Chandigarh, India
These days Saif has a reason to smile
Film on Nepal massacre
These days Saif has a reason to smile
WITH two major hits in as many months, Saif Ali Khan is on top of the world. For the first time in his career, he has tasted success, now that ‘Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega’and ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ have run to full houses. Better still, as an actor, he has found his niche — in comedy.
While ‘Love Ke Liye’... has Saif teamed with Aftab Shivdasani and Fardeen Khan as three street-smart guys out to make money by any means, in ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, he is Sameer, out to woo Sonali Kulkarni. Here too, he is teamed with two other actors, Aamir Khan and Akshayee Khanna.
Both are feel-good films, which mark a departure from the usual run-of-the-mill potboilers and syrupy romances dominating Hindi cinema. Saif’s characterisation as a simple, playful and fun-loving soul has particularly gone well with Indian audiences and places him at a turning point in life.
"The last 10 years have been batting practice," says the actor, true to his calling as former Test cricketer Tiger Pataudi’s son. "The match has only just begun. It’s been fun to be an actor, though I am looking to get a little more job satisfaction now. I’ve just been hitting fours. It would be nice to hit a six!"
Saif informs that he had expected an upswing in his career with Sooraj Barjatya’ ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ (in which he had again, a light-hearted role), but it did not get him roles or good money. If anything, the film proved to be a "morale booster".
"Then came ‘Kya Kehna’, which taught me one lesson," he narrates. "I learnt there is no point doing films just for the sake of having a release every few months. In the early nineties, there was a need to make some money, which resulted in a signing spree. But fortunately, that kind of motivation does not last."
Today, he says, he wants to do a "few good films and be paid well for them". Ideally, it should be one film at a time, but he admits he is still in no position to plan his career and has therefore been working in films as varied as ‘Na Tum Jano Na Hum’ and ‘Koi Mil Gaya’.
"Actually, Iplay a pretty serious character in‘Koi Mil Gaya,’ he reveals. "The film does not give me much scope to be funny, but in a scene where I am buying the girl an engagement ring, I’ve tried to inject some humour. Actually, I try very hard not to be Saif. In this case, I think I got away easily",
But does he not miss doing another ‘Main Anadi Tu Khiladi’?
Saif turns evasive; "Maybe, if I have greater understanding of screenplay and know how to variate a performance, I could try comedy more often. I can be funny only if it is in keeping with the character I am playing. But as I said, I end up playing Saif!"
When asked whether he relates more to his father or mother (the dream girl of yesteryear, Sharmila Tagore), Saif chooses the latter. "In fact, I am exactly like her", he exclaims. "My father is much more reserved and introverted. He likes his conversations to be clear-cut and concise. I am just the opposite".
As for his mother, he points out that the resemblance can be terrifying: "The way we talk and think are very much alike. Even our insecurities are similar. I even know what makes my mother behave the way she does because I am motivated by the same thought. As an actor though, I am nowhere close to her..."
But then, if he has to choose a role model, it would be Amitabh Bachchan. "I think every human being is capable of excellence, but every now and then you come across someone who is naturally gifted as Sachin Tendulkar in cricket and Amitabh Bachchan in cinema.
"Besides his natural talent, I
also think his enduring appeal can be attributed to the fact that though
we are making all kinds of films today, the character of the protagonist
hasn’t changed much and Bachchan typifies the character best. People
still write roles with him in mind. That makes him the greatest star
Bollywood brand appeal
FOR the Rs 800-billion advertising industry in India, Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan have emerged as Hindi cinema’s prime brand ambassadors, Their combined earnings are, however, nowhere close to the Rs 100 million charged by Amitabh Bachchan for a campaign.
While Hrithik’s asking rate is said to be Rs 25 million, Shahrukh charges Rs 15 million per campaign Salman, who used to charge between Rs 5 and Rs 7 million for some motorbike and hi-fashion garments ads, hiked his rate to Rs 10 million for a cola commercial.
Shahrukh and Hritik are also pitching for rival cola brands, Pepsi and Coke while Amitabh holds an exclusive contract with investment banker, ICICI. Industry reports indicate that Pepsi would be launching Amitabh soon after his annual contract with ICICI expires.
Observes Sam Balsara of Madison Advertisement: "Celebrity advertising is turning out to be effective when the product fits the personality of the ambassador... At the same time, there is always a risk of the product being forgotten while people remember only the celebrity."
He adds that in the last five years, movie stars have made more money from advertising contracts than from films. The price tag of the stars depends on the size of the campaign, number of days they would be involved, brand value and of course, the their own box-office popularity.
But then, nobody is complaining. The ongoing Tamarind shirts’ campaign featuring Hrithik is already a big hit because of high brand recall. Similarly, Hyundai is recognised as "Shahrukh Khan’s Maruti" rather than a car of Korean-make.
Coke hired Salman to promote its Thums
Up brand when the soft drink sales were dipping. And Pepsi points out
that the brand recall of their television commercial has gone up from 20
per cent to 31 per cent with the launch of the Shahrukh campaign.
Film on Nepal massacre
THE ever-ebullient Dev Anand is yet to be done with ‘Love in Times Square’ and has already announced his next project — a film on the royal carnage in Nepal. He is ready with the script, cast and crew, but has not decided on a title as yet.
Describing it as "mainstream Bollywood film", the 78-year-old actor-filmmaker clarifies that it will not provide a blow-by-blow account of the massacre that rocked the Himalayan kingdom. It will have its share of songs and dances, he informs.
"I was very disturbed with the ruthless assassination of so many members of the royal family," Anand recalls. "The gory act immediately prompted me to make an interesting film which would provide a dramatic run-up to the massacre. People are aware of partial facts. I intend to fill in the gaps."
He says, he shares "a very warm and special relationship" with both the royal family and the political establishment in the country. "I was the only Indian to be invited to the wedding reception of King Gyanendra and was on very good terms with King Birendra," he states. "I have informed the Nepalese government of my plans to make the film and will soon fly to Kathmandu to finalise the details."
He reveals that in keeping with the "sensitivity of the issue" and in deference to the sentiments of the Nepalese people, he will use fictitious names for his characters and introduce many dramatic elements so that no direct parallel may be drawn between the reel and the real.
Adds Anand: "I am casting fresh faces
because it is difficult to imagine any established actor or actress essaying
these roles. Their star image could cloud people’s perceptions. Moreover, I
want to complete the film within eight months so that the theme retains its
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