Why Saif Ali Khan's performance in Kaalakaandi deserves applause: It's a masterclass in the art of letting go
Instances of stars gnawing their teeth into the character is few and far between when it comes to Bollywood and thus Saif’s performance in Kaalakaandi deserves an applause.
This week’s release Kaalakaandi has three stories running parallel to each other on the same night. The Saif Ali Khan sequence in Kaalakaandi begins when his doctor tells the actor that he has only few months to live on account of his stomach cancer.
What follows next is an intoxicated and a very colorful Saif going on a mission to do everything that he had stayed away from in the past. He meets a takes a lot of drugs, bullies a policeman on account of his physical appearance and then makes a wish to have a look at a trans prostitute’s ‘down under’.
This might seem like a very trivial and jocular thing in a film that has quirk plastered all over it but what’s on the flip side is an actor who is ready to bare it all and go the extra mile.
Saif has no qualms and hesitation in mouthing dialogues laced with cuss words and profanities, making references about his jerking off habits and comparing the hair of his own brother with pubic hair. Had Saif not been game, the soul of the film would have withered away. It’s not just the dialogues where Saif treads in prohibited territories; there is another long sequence too in the film where one witnesses Saif in an appearance with a bunch of rubber bands tied to his hair. The essence is to show a carefree Saif whose actions are being dictated by LSD.
There is another sequence in which Saif talks about his child to the wedding lady photographer. It’s a moving scene and the élan with which Saif carries the entire scene on his shoulders is inspiring.
Contrast this act of Saif with other superstars of the current generation. When it comes to getting into a character, for Salman Khan it could only be growing the facial fuzz for Tiger Zinda Hai or developing a tummy for Sultan. For Shah Rukh Khan, it’s just the bespectacled elderly look for Raees or white strands of hair for Veer Zaara (Anand L Rai's Zero may change that). For Akshay, one mustache does the trick.
The term ‘change’ for Bollywood stars has always meant a change in their outward appearance and not the mannerism. Unorthodox portrayal has not been the forte of Bollywood superstars.
In the West, actors have turned great only when they have bared it all to the camera. Daniel Day Lewis, despite his films Gangs of New York and Lincoln, is known for My Left Foot. Similarly Tom Hanks has done as many as five films with the current showman of Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, but he will always be known for his steller performance in Cast Away. Instances of stars gnawing their teeth into the character is few and far between when it comes to Bollywood and thus Saif’s performance in Kaalakaandi deserves an applause.
We hardly get to hear of instances of A-list stars immersing themselves in preparation for a film. When Tiger Zinda Hai was on the verge of its release, there was more news about Salman’s duel with trained wolves and the weight of the gun that was handled by Salman in the action sequences of the film. It was never about Salman meeting the movers and shakers involved in the rescue operation of the 40 nurses and getting a first hand information of the entire parley between the negotiating parties.
Similarly, it remains an enigma if Shah Rukh Khan did his own research for Raees. It’s always the ready made material provided by the maker that becomes their reference for films. When this author asked Ali Abbas Zafar during an interaction just before the release of Tiger Zinda Hai about what irritates him the most about Salman Khan? His quick answer was Salman’s habit of shortening the length of the dialogues. This surely says a lot about the efforts that Salman Khan puts in his roles.
This also reminds us of Salman’s exploits for his role in one of his earlier films called Kyon Ki. The film had Salman in the role of a mentally challenged person. Needless to say the film had tanked at the box office and Salman’s performance in the film was panned. Quiz Salman about that film and he himself will mock it. The reason why Kyon Ki met such a fate at the box office is easy to decipher (nobody wants to see Salman in a weak character, like Tubelight). And this is where stars like Aamir and Hrithik develop an edge over others. A chiseled body for less than a five minute appearance for Dangal, and Hrithik’s act in Guzaarish is still remembered by all for their effort and nuance. While Salman easily forgets his Kyon Ki, Hrithik fondly remembers Guzaarish despite the debacle.
Saif in Kaalakaandi has done nothing in terms of metamorphosis of physical appearance. He has only challenged the normal instincts of an actor and with Bollywood devoid of such instances, the change is more than noticeable. One gets to witness a freewheeling Saif devoid of any reticence.
Kaalakaandi is a shining example for stars on how to suppress the limitations offered by stardom and break free.
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