Saif Ali Khan is at an interesting crossroad in his life. As an actor, he is going from strength to strength, bringing variety and versatility to his repertoire. Forget the box office performance of Rangoon, it can’t be denied that the Vishal Bhardwaj film saw him at his complex best on screen. At the same time, he is balancing serious with the light and frothy fare like the forthcoming Race 3 and Chef. On the personal side, it’s his children who are in the limelight now – be it baby Taimur whose every move is documented or his daughter Sara Ali Khan who will be making her Bollywood debut soon and is already a social media sensation. His relationship with his children is somehow influenced by another big bond in his life – the one that he shared with his late dad Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. While the media is still obsessed with his marriage to Kareena Kapoor and his new fatherhood status, we get the Nawab to talk about his own father and how he was impacted by him. And by the way, Saif doesn’t like to be called Nawab – find out why.
Why don’t you like being called a Nawab?
Please don’t call me a Nawab. I would rather be known by my name. This title comes with a lot of responsibility. Also, I agree with people who have opined that the era of Nawabs is long over. I am also acutely aware of the fact that after 1971, the Indian government decided to abolish all royal entitlements. I wouldn’t define myself as a Leftist per se but I don’t like the idea of aristocracy that is associated with the word. It basically means that the person belongs to the privileged strata of the society. I support a classless society, this stratification is something that doesn’t have my support.
With his father Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi
You were saying the man who truly can live up to the title of Nawab is your father...
Exactly. I cannot even be a fraction of what my father was. My father will always be one of the most respectable figures in the history of modern India.
Were you close to your father?
When I was child, I was very, very scared of him. You can ask mom and she will tell you that whenever I was upto some mischief, she would threaten me that she would go tell Abba. That used to be a panacea for every mischief I was planning. You mention the name Abba to me and that was ‘kaafi’ to discipline me. However, over the years, as I grew up, my equation with him started changing. As I grew older, I started taking part in long discussions with him. These discussions are the times I cherish the most. I have spent a lot of time with Abba, discussing everything under the Sun, from philosophy to poetry, from politics to cricket.
Is Saif Ali Khan more influenced by his father or his mother?
It was always mom who moulded me. It was she who looked after my studies and decided the clothes I would wear. I remember whenever we had to attend a party, my mother made sure I wore a suit. Since we belonged to a Nawab family, we had to be immaculately dressed. I used to hate it and throw a fit over it.
We heard that you are making a documentary on your father? Is this true?
Correct, we are working on the project. Right now, we are trying to collect some relevant footage and unfortunately, not much is available. So the progress on the film has been a little slow. In the documentary, I would like to highlight his life in the 1960s, which I think was his most interesting phase. It was when he was actively playing cricket. After he quit, he was a slightly different person. Cricket was his life but after he left active sports, he gradually became detached from the game. I want to highlight these important aspects of his life; I am sure a lot of people would want to know more about it.
Saif with Kareen and baby Taimur
You said that you have taken after your mother but we are sure there’s a lot of senior Pataudi in you too...
Of course, there is (laughs). I can easily get detached from things. That is something that I have taken after him. Like my father, I also enjoy the idea of living life to the fullest. On some days I feel like just sitting at home, contemplating and reading a book while it is raining outside. I would just watch the raindrops hit the earth from my window. My father used to do this too.
Can you share some fond memories of your father with us?
My father was a very special person. We (Saba, Soha and me) always thought of him as the perfect role model. He had his expectations from us but never told us what to do. On the contrary, he believed in leading by example. Not many know that he had an uncanny sense of humour. He was very dignified and down to earth. My father has always been my hero.
Do you ever play cricket?
It’s not a hobby but a serious profession in our family. I played cricket for my school but never took it professionally.
What kind of a father are you now?
I think I am good father (smiles wide). I attend my kids’ school events, the Parents’ Day and all that. I take them out on holidays every year with me. I always try to be a friend to them. Your children need your quality time and I am acutely aware of it and try my best.
With his son Ibrahim