Hum Tum‘s success lay in the fact that it had Saif Ali Khan in the lead. This role was practically written by him, by his very mannerisms in all his earlier comedies…and more importantly, it had opened up an entire new form of comedy in Bollywood. We had moved far, far ahead from the random slapstick fare that earlier constituted comedy. Saif Ali Khan, Boman Irani…these were actors who changed a generic notion. It greatly benefitted the rom-com genre, and movies started being made for the cineplex’s alone, and a new dynamic was added to Indian cinema.
Hum Tum was followed with some sincere performances in quite some many movies that came after it. The likes of Parineeta and Salam Namaste kept Saif’s flags flying at full mast. He was quite the sensation, he swung into the top bracket at once. He had set a market for himself and as of that point in time (or for that matter, even today) there was no one to take the crown away from him.
Every actor would love to be in such a position. It guarantees the next quite some many Fridays. You have your “peeps” to watch your back. And then Saif went and did something very, very different from what we have usually seen him do. Moving far, far away from the usual, came Saif Ali Khan in an English language edgy thriller — Being Cyrus.
Being Cyrus was different for so many different reasons. It was like the Renaissance of English language films in India. It was no longer restricted to a labeled set of actors, it was now open to all. Saif Ali Khan had chosen English as a language to ‘do‘ some serious cinema, while the rest of Bollywood kept running to Kolkata to star in the next Rituparno Ghosh movie to mark their debut into “serious cinema”. But English was different, because English went across all the major cities of the country. Sure, compared to the grand box office, this was figure is minuscule…but then these movies are shot without luxuries — recovery shouldn’t be such a pain in the ass when the multiplexes will vouch for you. And bring in a Saif, open up an entire new market of audiences exposed multifariously to world cinema.
Being Cyrus bridged a narrowing gap effectively. Two parallel tracks of Indian cinema were finally starting to merge. No longer was Hyderabad Blues a niche audience film. English dialogues started melting into the screenplays, without having a Hindi audio subtitle (like in Border… “Can I come in Sir? Kya main andhar aasakta hoon?” Like come on, choose one language!).
And Saif Ali Khan owned it. All the way. He was cool, he was suave, he was also apparently in the same time zone when Ek Hasina Thi started to pick up on home video. Saif had heralded a new segment to cinema.
And then he signed on for a movie, when everyone thought that the success had made him irrational, that it had gone to his head. “Saif Jokes” re-emerged, his voice modulations were re-enacted in every college canteen.
Saif broke down all his critics. He crushed them into pieces.
(To be continued…)