Indo-Asian News Service

Mumbai

He wishes he were taller and his noise were shorter. But even though these wishes remain unfulfilled, Saif Ali Khan has carved a niche for himself in Bollywood.

In an interview, Saif speaks about the success of ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, rumours linking him to Preity Zinta and how his wife says such Bollywood rumours can often be true.

Were you fearful of Shah Rukh Khan upstaging you in ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’?

I’ve never needed to be insecure about two-hero films because all my successful films so far have been formatted that way. Whether it was ‘Main Khiladi Tu Anari’ with Akshay Kumar or ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ with Aamir Khan and Akshaye Khanna, I’ve always got a good role.

When I did ‘Kachche Dhaage’ with Ajay Devgan I was also given a protagonist’s role. Though there were so many stars in Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’, I think I had the best role.

Even if ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ is a Shah Rukh Khan vehicle I’m as prominently on the posters as him. Karan Johar has shown me so much respect. He has put my name before Preity Zinta. That’s the way it should be because I’m senior to her.

What do we see of you in 2004?

‘Hum Tum’ is almost ready. We shot non-stop for two months. One of the reasons why producer Aditya Chopra signed me was because I hadn’t signed anything recently and was free to shoot at a stretch. He wanted it to be my next release after ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’.

My co-star in ‘Hum Tum’ is Rani Mukherjee. She’s shorter than me. That’s makes me

feel really good! I’d like to have been taller. And for the record, I’d have also liked my nose to be shorter.

‘Hum Tum’ is a remake of ‘When Harry Met Sally’?

The narration is episodic like ‘When Harry...’ but I don’t think ‘Hum Tum’ is copied from any Hollywood film. ...

Are you indecisive?

No...well, yes! I change my mind. I wasn’t sure about doing Aparna Sen’s ‘Gulel’ because she hadn’t given me a script. Then she got Amma (mom Sharmila Tagore) to command me to do the film. If I hadn’t done it I’d have been in trouble! My mom said anyone advising me not to do ‘Gulel’ is not my friend. I play a Parsi alcoholic. That’s the edge to it.

How close are you to your parents?

Very, though I haven’t spent enough time with them recently. I want to spend some time with them. My father isn’t well. Now, after phase one of my career, I can afford to sit back and spend time with loved ones. Being part of a good set-up is important for me to grow as an actor. I need to chill and find my own groove. I do get fiercely competitive when I work. But not in any unhealthy way.

Is your sister Soha planning to come into films?

Yes, I think she’ll be doing a couple of films. She’s taking it very seriously. Of course, I’m supporting her. But it’s amazing... she’s a very educated girl. She was meant to work in a bank in London. Yet she wants to do films. The attitude to acting has undergone a huge shift since Amma’s time. Acting doesn’t seem such a bad career option in today’s times.

How did your wife (Amrita Singh) react to the rumour linking you with Preity Zinta?

Because she’s in this line she knows such rumours aren’t always rubbish. Obviously it caused problems. But I hadn’t behaved in an unbecoming way. I thought we had crossed that era when a girl and boy couldn’t sit together without being linked together. Apparently not.

Evidently someone from the ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ unit carried back this gossip from New York

to Mumbai. Fardeen Khan was the first to SMS me about it. We all laughed! Such gossip does affect me a lot, but as long as I can sleep with a clear conscience no one can hurt my family life.

People had given your marriage 12 days. Now it’s 12 years.

Don’t cast your evil eye. Who knows tomorrow! I’m very happy with my life. I can’t imagine it being any different. I love Dingy (Amrita) to bits.

And now you play a Kargil soldier in ‘LoC’.

What an honour! Back in my ancestral town Pataudi, it’s the only film they’ll look at and say, "He’s our boy". To be playing a Kargil soldier is certainly a privilege. The story of Kargil had to be told. In fact another film, ‘Dhoop’ tells the story of my character, Anuj Nayyar’s, family after he dies in Kargil.

That films based on such contemporary subjects are being made is wonderful. ‘LoC’ is a glorious epic. I wanted to be part of it. I had a blast shooting it.