Saif Ali Khan excited about playing 'Othello' adaptation ...

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, (IANS) Saif Ali Khan is excited about playing a Shakespearean role in "Omkara" - the challenging milieu, look and character, and the thought of deglamourising himself.

In this adaptation of "Othello", Saif plays a role where he has no interaction with women. He terms his role as "impotent" in the film.

In an interview to IANS, Saif speaks extensively about challenges - both in reel and real life. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Q: After looking like a rock star, you look like a UP (Uttar Pradesh) ka bhaiyya in "Omkara".

A: I am excited because it is an adaptation of Shakespeare and a really good adaptation of "Othello". I feel this one is truer to Othello than Vishal's "Maqbool" was to "Macbeth". Vishal turned "Maqbool" into a falling-in-love-with-the-boss's-wife kind of love story...albeit a marvellous married-to-the-mob take.

Q: You have studied Shakespeare in London?

A: Yes. The language and look of "Othello" are familiar to me. And I like the way Vishal has transposed them to a local milieu. The biggest challenge for me in "Omkara" is the Uttar Pradesh milieu. It was enriching to shoot there.

I hadn't been to Lucknow since my childhood. It is a slow-paced, relaxed town with lovely food and lovely old houses. Some of the old families know my family.

I met a lot of family friends at Shaad Ali's wedding. The unfortunate part of being a movie star is that you get constant attention. This takes away the pleasure of getting to know people. The atmosphere makes your self-conscious.

Q: Was it tough...and rough?

A: I knew it would be a rough shoot. But it was a bit of a conscious decision. I did it to remain balanced as an actor. Every film can't be shot in LA, man! All my work was going in only one direction and image. I needed something different like "Omkara".

Q: But being familiar with Shakespeare...is that an advantage?

A: Not really. Once you are into the script, it doesn't really matter where it came from...only where the narration is going. I have done so many adaptations. I did "Parineeta" my own way. I had never read Saratchandra Chattopadhyay's original.

But in "Othello", I was keen to go back to where Iago came from. He's the first literary psychopath. So, the challenge was the milieu, look and character, and the thought of deglamourising myself.

Q: Isn't the thought of a star deglamourising himself a form of vanity?

A: If you think yellow teeth and a limp are vanity...I guess they are a kind of defiant vanity for an actor. I've played a villainous role in "Ek Hasina Thi". That guy was far more glamorous and attractive. That guy used his charms to seduce the girl.

In "Omkara", my character uses other people's frailties and blind spots to his own advantage. He has no interaction with women. I'd say he's...impotent.

Q: Is this the toughest role so far?

A: It required homework to get into a different language and body language. Everything I did so far, and came naturally to me, was Westernised. With a little bit of preparation and with Vishal's help and the whole atmosphere he creates, and also with the help of a cast that completely believes in the project, it was easy to find the truth about my duplicitous character.

Q: Is the black character helping you connect with negative emotions?

A: It's not a very nice feeling. I can't wait to finish playing this guy. Even his look is repugnant. With the makeup, costume...I'm okay. But the haircut and the commitment to keep it short for the whole shoot...these have me freaked-out.

I think Vishal and I need to do something more larger-than-life next time. Maybe "Hamlet"? I don't know...Shakespeare seems to be Vishal's forte.

Q: Why do you look so tense in public?

A: You mean the picture taken at Abhishek's (Bachchan) birthday? I don't know...I was smiling quite a lot. Maybe I need to get my public face more in place...With all those miniature video cameras, shooting stars unawares is no longer a burden for the photographers. But I guess the paparazzi is comparatively okay over here.

Q: Life for you has been difficult in the past year.

A: It has been a big learning experience. The experiences in the past year have made me learn how to tell right from wrong. I've become calmer. I'd like to stay calm to do my kaam. I'm surer than ever that whatever has happened in my life happened for the best.

Q: Correct decisions don't come easily to you?

A: They don't. But I finally do what's right. I instinctively make the right choices in life, and then agonise over them. I live in a goldfish bowl. People around me affect me with their opinions. But at the end of it all I don't know what goes on in their heads, and they don't know how my mind works. Though I'm sure everyone has his or her agony to deal with. But I wouldn't know what they feel.

I recently read about some fan getting upset with Angelina Jolie for wrecking Brad Pitt's happy life. But how does anyone know about Brad's happiness...or mine?

Q: Do you have wacky obsessive fans?

A: No, I don't. And that's the way it should be.

Q: Your daughter Sarah accompanies you to a lot public events.

A: She likes these events...the shows and the weddings for which she likes to dress up. I'd like her to be child-like and fun all my life. But she's growing up. She's quite clear about wanting to be an actress when she's older.

Q: You're repeatedly nominated for best actor.

A: Yeah, for "Parineeta". That's refreshing. Earlier, I'd be repeatedly nominated for best supporting actor or best actor in a comedy role. Now it's best actor. I'm glad. Though I knew Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan will win all of them for "Black". At least I was nominated with the best.