There has seldom been perhaps a more dramatic change than this. At least I can’t think of any.
We first saw glimpses of the future in 2002 or so, with Dil Chahta Hain. Till then we wouldn’t care much if Saif Ali Khan was in a film or not. He was never the center of attention, he was never even a byproduct of attention. He was made fun of because of the way he spoke, he was made fun of because we all thought he looked like a girl, and we would laugh at his acting skills for completely different reasons.
What started out with Parampara, way back God knows when (1992 or something maybe) was always a joke. The only little bursts of glory Saif may have achieved was because of Main Khiladi Tu Anari and the “Ole Ole” song from Yeh Dillagi. But those were far and few in number, and seriously could not count for anything.
He tried everything. Literally everything. And nothing clicked. I even checked somewhere that he was in a movie called Surakshaa, where he was apparently in double role, playing the roles of Amar and Prince Vijay. As I said, everything.
He even tried taking the soft core negative route with movies like Kya Kehna, but then again, zilch. Also under the hammer here is Bollywood’s Fargo lift, Love Ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega… that was far gone!
And then came 2002, approximately ten years since his first film, and Saif was cast in the role of Sameer in Farhan Akhtar‘s Dil Chahta Hain. If I remember correctly, that was also the year in which Lagaan released and there was this mad frenzy around the movie, what with all the Oscar nod and all. And yet this movie stood out. This movie was equally appreciated, lamented that it released in the same year as Lagaan.
And while discussing Dil Chahta Hain, the movie can be left for another article, the acting by the three protagonists came under the limelight. And Saif was suddenly all we could think of suddenly! He was the funny one, the one everyone was forced to love. He was the ultimate friend, the one who you could always count upon and the one who always made you laugh.
And then came dessert… Kal Ho Na Ho. The sheer success of this movie was reverberating on every youth’s lips (at least). They knew the banter between Saif and Shah Rukh Khan to the T. They were enacting the “Are you Muhammad Ali?” scene by rote. Saif was big, Saif was the one you knew you’d get your money’s worth on.
And with it came a minor judgement call on his career — the improbability of ever delivering a solo hit at the box office. He was always the guy you never took seriously. How could he pull the entire show by himself? He’d need someone to support him through and through. And after the respected, but denied performance in LOC, came the solo starrer after Kal Ho Na Ho. Ek Hasina Thi opened well, but tanked by the second week. There were other movies to be seen, like Khakee.
Ek Hasina Thi now enjoys a kind of cult status amongst cinephiles.
But he sealed it in his next release itself. Hum Tum, from the Yashraj banner did the same old comedy, only more modernized to suit current sensibilities. Multiplexes gave it all the boost it needed, Hum Tum was a mission accomplished. Right till the point he got his first National Award for the movie (and Filmfare nominated and awarded him the Best Comedian Award [????]) Interestingly, both Awards that year were a joke… but then we digress.
After Hum Tum, everything changed…
(To be continued…)