Saif Ali Khan as a homegrown version of Gordon Gekko makes so much sense, it’s painful to see it being wasted in a trailer as pedestrian as Baazaar. Gauravv K Chawla’s 2018 film looks like a watered-down version of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, that came out more than three decades prior. In the film, Khan plays a stock market wizard, who nails smarmy lines like “Rule# 1: Mera paisa kabhi khona nahi. Rule# 2: Rule number 1 kabhi bhulna nahi“.
From a trade point-of-view, Khan has been on a downward spiral in the past few years. His last ‘hit’ film was the critically-decimated Humshakals (2014). Recently, however, he has completely done away with his ‘safe space’ of the cool, urban bachelor (based in London, New York), moving on to darker, meatier and edgier roles. Whether it is a middle-aged, divorced man contemplating mortality over the course of an evening while he’s high as a kite, or whether it is playing a Michelin-star chef struggling to reconcile the tattered pieces of his personal life, with his soaring professional life. As someone nearing his 40s, he’s trying to make sense of what it all really means (much like the actor’s real life, some might say). One gets a feeling that there are few things Khan wouldn’t do, considering it is within the confines of good storytelling.
That’s probably explains what led him to choose the role of a loser-ish cop in Sacred Games, who momentarily considers drinking phenyl, to end his miserable life. No ‘tough guy’ pretense for our ‘hero’ in this series. And boy, did he make a meal of his silent cop routine. Khan communicates volumes even when he quietly (some might even say creepily) sits on his bike, staring at his ex-wife’s apartment from a distance. Was Khan’s Sartaj Singh, the actor’s biggest success in recent times because the conversation wasn’t hindered by Monday morning box office figures? Maybe.
Continuously grappling with the status-quo of a leading man in Bollywood, Khan has come a long way. In fact, Khan and his cameo as the faux-Russian, Boris in Go Goa Gone, is the only performance that comes to mind as a parallel to Brad Pitt’s playful cameos in films like Burn After Reading or even Deadpool 2 (where Pitt appears on screen for less than second). Khan seems finally at peace with himself as a constantly learning, evolving actor. Just watch him deliver a line in Gujarati saying, majaa aau se (this is going to be fun!) with a wry smile on his face.
If there is any doubt in your mind that Saif Ali Khan is currently having a blast in his tenure as a Bollywood leading man – you have to read about his next film, Navdeep Singh’s Naga Sadhu Bounty Hunter, where he will be sporting long hair-extension to play the holy man.
In an age, where vain superstars makes films about their ‘image’ and their ‘fans’ – it’s nice to see a leading man really pushing the limits as to what is ‘acceptable’ to the audience. And to see it from Khan’s perspective – his continuous box office failure might actually shelter him (and consequently us) from filmmakers making films purely for a quick buck. For after a long, long time, it is Saif Ali Khan ‘the actor’, who is being spoken of and in a world of superstars, what a wonderful thing that is.