The Grown-up
By Khalid Mohamed
Friday, July 13, 2012

After reports of fist fights, brawls and violent reactions to negative publicity, the soon-to-be-married Saif Ali Khan seems to have finally matured.

Associated with controversies galore, Saif Ali Khan appears to be cleaning up his act.

After a fist fight in a sushi restaurant on the eve of the release of his production, Agent Vinod, the 41-year-old actor has avoided trouble. Now, the focus is on his impending marriage to Kareena Kapoor after a five-year-liaison and the upcoming rom-com Cocktail, which features him with newcomer Diana Penty and his Love Aaj Kal co-star Deepika Padukone.

Imtiaz Ali, who had helmed the 2009 movie, too is back this time but as the writer. And surprisingly it’s Homi Adajania who has directed Cocktail — an unexpected choice, because Adajania is identified with an edgy, black humour style evidenced in his debut feature Being Cyrus.

In the title role of Cyrus, Saif Ali had played a drifter enmeshed in situations, ranging from the bizarre to the surreal, in a crumbling hill-town mansion. Despite its offbeat theme, Adajania’s film had been thumbed up by the masses as well as the mandarins — and is remembered for its excellent ensemble performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Dimple Kapadia.

Adajania, who isn’t your typical Bollywood director that rushes from one project to another, prefers to spend his time scuba diving and mountain climbing. Yet, his flair for quirky humour and fluid technique is unquestionable — elements which Saif Ali Khan can obviously connect with. The advance word on Cocktail is upbeat: the TV promos have set off a buzz in the trade, although it has also been pointed out that the story appears to be periliously close along the lines of Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Aah, but then it’s only one in a hundred films that can boast of originality.

Saif’s attempt to create an Indian James Bond image with Agent Vinod may have backfired majorly, but the part of a lover boy suits him to the hilt. He has always been pleasant and credible when portraying the quintessential Romeo — be it in Yeh Dillagi (1994), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Parineeta (2005) or Hum Tum (2004), for which he won the National Award for Best Actor. It was a likeable performance but whether it deserved a National Award is extremely debatable. In Omkara (2006), however, as a diabolical rustic version of Shakespeare’s Iago, he was first-rate.

Khaleej Times

Stills from Cocktail and Agent Vinod

Over the decades, the grapevine has kept a close check on the actor’s private life. Saif’s former wife, actress Amrita Singh, has not exactly been in a forgive-and-forget mood. Over 13 years, she had never found approval from her in-laws and the hurt persists. Evidently, Amrita aka Dingy, has distanced herself from her ex-husband. Their children Sara and Ibrahim do meet Saif occasionally, but it’s no secret that neither has taken to their stepmother-to-be Kareena. Amrita Singh, after renewing her career as a television actress, has set up a tastefully-appointed penthouse apartment in the plush Juhu-Vile Parle neighbourhood. “This is my dream house,” she states. “It was tough after the separation. I had to start life all over again but now I’m at peace.”

Acting offers have already been pouring in for the teenaged Sara, who has been seen at film premieres and functions. “She’s always been precocious,” Amrita says. “But I won’t push her towards an acting career or prevent her from taking major decisions in life.”

Saif still has to make his feelings known about his daughter following a film career. Since the passing away of his father, the legendary cricketer Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, he has had to assume the title of the tenth Nawab of Pataudi. Saif’s marriage to Kareena has been postponed frequently before but now the big day has been set for October 20. The bride will wear the wedding gown that had been designed for her mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore.

So, has the actor matured? To a certain extent, yes. His interviews are more guarded — earlier he would make his displeasure obvious against co-star Akshay Kumar — and he doesn’t go berserk on reading negative comments in print. There was a time, when he had even burst into the home of a journalist who had dared to criticise his mother’s beehive hair-dos of yore.

Mercifully, he doesn’t give out pretentious statements that he’s a Renaissance Man who would like to do nothing more than to sip cognac, brandish a pipe and read a novel in an armchair. Going by his recent behaviour and attitude, yesterday’s enfant terrible has been tamed. Amen.

(The writer has been reviewing Bollywood for decades, has scripted three films and directed 
three others.)

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