Sometime before the Novel Coronavirus disease spread global panic, I had walked into a multiplex to watch the Nitin Kakkar-helmed comedy Jawaani Jaaneman starring Saif Ali Khan. Seen as a 40-year-old party-going womaniser who lives and works in London as a real estate broker, Saif’s spontaneity entertained the viewers thoroughly. What was also noticeable was that the theatre was half-empty, which brought back memories of low attendance in almost all Saif films in recent years.
Saif needs a solo hit badly. He has acted in a variety of films ever since Farhan Akhtar’s coming-of-age drama Dil Chahta Hai (2001) gave him the breakthrough he was looking for. That performance was a major reason why the industry started believing in his potential as a star-actor.
Two decades later, his filmography indicates that he has been successful while playing all kinds of city slickers. If he played a crucial supporting role of a Gujarati living in New York City in Nikkhil Advani’s Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), he was impressive as a flirtatious cartoonist in Kunal Kohli’s Hum Tum released next year. In Siddharth Anand’s Salaam Namaste (2005), he was a chef based in Melbourne. ‘Jazz’ Singh of Jawaani Jaaneman was written along similar lines, but the film failed to attract its target audience.
One of his upcoming releases is Varun V Sharma’s Bunty Aur Babli 2, the spiritual sequel to Shaad Ali’s 2005 blockbuster Bunty Aur Babli. The film is scheduled for release in June which might not happen.
Mukesh Chhabra’s Dil Bechara is a romantic drama based on John Green’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars. It stars Sushant Singh Rajput and debutante Sanjana Sanghi and also has Saif in an important role. The film was meant to be released in May, but a postponement of release is inevitable.
As India stays indoors, Saif might be finding viewers who are addicted to laptops and cellphones. Seekers of offbeat entertainment, who had missed out on the gangster epic Sacred Games or failed to watch the first two seasons in their entirety, might be watching or revisiting the series on Netflix.
Subscribers of Disney Hotstar might be streaming Om Raut’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, a 17th century period drama in which Ajay Devgn plays Tanhaji Malusare, a trusted commander of Shivaji.
Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi (2004) or as the amiable fellow with a dark side in Homi Adajania’s Being Cyrus (2006), Saif has chosen to look around the stereotype often. Some of his choices have paid off, while the others have resulted in commercial failures.
His career has experienced ups and downs, but his approach remains unchanged. Recent years have seen him play a former actor who becomes a film entrepreneur in Bhardwaj’s period wartime drama Rangoon (2017). In Gauravv K Chawla’s Baazaar (2018), he is an unscrupulous tycoon who has minted money in the share bazaar.
In Akshat Verma’s Kaalakandi (2018), he is a terminally sick man. In the recent revenge drama, Laal Kaptaan, helmed by Navdeep Singh, he is a militant Naga sadhu who wants to find somebody badly.
Saif could have stuck to his most accepted image of the carefree urban man and played its variations throughout his career. He has chosen to be different, however, which is praiseworthy. His films have indeed been flopping in recent years and he needs a big hit soon. That, he will surely get after the film industry is back in business.