Saif Ali Khan plays the role of a cool NASCAR driver in Siddharth Anand's Ta Ra Rum Pum. But his entire experience with the racing cars during the shooting of this film was not that cool. Says Saif, “It's extremely tough sitting in the car because it has no doors and once you are locked in there, it's extremely hot and humid. It was hard for me to breathe in there. When the car starts heating up there is a lot of carbon monoxide that gets thrown into the engine and the car heats up - it's like a metal coffin in there”.
He continues to explain the conditions in which he had to drive the racing cars, “Sometimes there is no air and there is black smoke coming on to your face because the engine is open. The kind of g-force that you have on your head when you are driving at speeds like 150 miles in an hour is unimaginable. I've never driven that fast ever, it's almost crushing. All the instruments are crooked on the panel because your head is constantly crooked. So in order for you to read it straight you also have to be crooked .Its quite an intense thing and there was no training involved.”
So with all this pressure (literally) how did he manage to pull it off? “There was a driver next to me in the adjacent car. I looked at him and told him it was hard for me to breathe. He told me that all this is secondary. You just need to have the passion - the drive to drive. It might sound a bit filmy but that's when I realized I wanted to do it and I stopped feeling claustrophobic which I normally don't feel”.
Apart from driving the hot wheels his next new experience was shooting with kids. “They say it can be quite scary working with the kids but Ali (Haji) and Angelina (Idnani) were more professional than most actors I have worked with and as efficient as machines”, exclaims Saif. “There was this one day when I wanted to bunk shooting because I had fever and even this kid Ali was not keeping well. But he kept shooting the whole day. I was in fact, waiting for him to go home so that I could go home. But then Siddharth told me how could I do that when this little kid was still shooting? That was a lesson to me. After that I enjoyed working through my illness and I felt like I had given something better and achieved something special. In the rain and in the wind and in the cold, we shot with the three of us and it was fun. They gave a lot of purity and spirituality to the whole project. They gave a wonderful atmosphere to the film.”
And what about all those rumours of he staying away from the film unit during the shoot and throwing tantrums? “The hotel that I was checked in was on highway and was in the middle of nowhere. It was opposite a cemetery and it didn't have any windows in the rooms. I was smoking cigarettes those days and after shooting in that kind of claustrophobic heat I just couldn't handle the rooms. So I got them to make me a window and it was quite sweet of them to do so. I had to go to K-mart which was the only shop down the road and buy a window and install it. Now they call the room a 'presidential suite' because it's got a window that opens.”
Finally ask him about his splendid onscreen chemistry with Rani Mukherjee despite the ongoing stories of a cold war between them during the filming in London and Saif explains, “I think chemistry has got nothing to do with either your intentions or how you feel about your costar. Like there are many real life lovers who don't have chemistry on screen. Then there are people who don't even know each other but they set the screen on fire. I agree I have great screen chemistry with Rani. I was watching Hum Tum the other day and I just think it's a magical movie in parts. I think Rani is a phenomenal actor and she brings something really special on the screen for which I respect her a lot. It is competitive for me to be working with her because I actually want to be better than her since she is so very good. I guess that makes it a healthy working relationship.”