In Kachche Dhaage, he was seen in a rugged action entertainer where Ajay Devgn was the tough nut to crack while Saif was a suited booted corporate type. The contrast worked for the audience and the chemistry between the two male leads pretty much visible. The film wasn’t a huge success but good enough to boost Saif’s career. For someone who hadn’t seen a box office success for ages, Kachche Dhaage was God sent as Saif managed to look forward to the new Millenium.
In the same year (1999), Hum Saath Saath Hai happened and though it was definitely a weak follow up to Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Saif’s portrayal of Lakshman in a film inspired from ‘Ramayana’ found good appreciation, especially from his female fans. As Salman’s younger brother, he painted a cute picture and it was first the first time when audience was exposed to his now-famous charm. The film was a good success at the box office and Saif was seen smiling again.
Though Dil Chahta Hai followed a couple of years later, the foundation had been laid for Saif Ali Khan when it came to carving his own niche. Despite the presence of Aamir Khan and braving the insecurity of working with a first time director (Farhan Akhtar), Saif gave his all to a role that was totally author backed. He got some of the best scenes and punch-lines and he didn’t allow the opportunity to go by. Though there were intermittent road blocks like Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan and Aarzoo, he wasn’t much worried. Cinema had changed and multiplex culture had ensured a long innings ahead for Saif.
New subjects, a new look Saif
Though Saif was never working on a heap of films, this was the time period when it was expected that he would start concentrating a lot more on his choice of banners and roles. He played an anti hero in Kya Kehna and though it was a tough call to take since Chandrachur Singh was the real hero in Bollywood terms, Saif knew that his was a meatier part. Playing a Casanova wasn’t the tough part, to leave a pregnant girlfriend (Preity Zinta) in lurch was. However, the gamble paid as Saif was seen in a new light. A light film like Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega further tapped his comic potential though it was surprising to see him agree to do a special appearance in films like Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein and Darna Mana Hai.
None of the two films did much to his career and same was the case with Na Tum Jano Na Hum which had Hrithik Roshan in the lead. When so much was expected from Saif and there were many big banners lined up ahead, special/extended guest appearances like these undermined his true talent.
This is where Karan Johar came to his rescue and gave him a role that changed his very identity. As Rohit Patel, Saif Ali Khan was seen as never before in Kal Ho Na Ho and his on screen chemistry with Shah Rukh Khan was crackling to such an extent that the two soon became gay icons.
Kal aur aaj
Kal Ho Na Ho was truly a landmark film for Saif Ali Khan. Not only was the comic drama entertainer a good hit, it was also a film that added new fans for Saif Ali Khan. He was playing in the big league even earlier but this was totally different as there was a certain confidence that Saif ended up gaining immensely. He knew that he had to take further charge of his career and there was a further sign of maturity that one could see in him as not just a professional but even as a person.
No wonder, even though he was one of 32 major characters in JP Dutta’s LOC Kargil, Saif was noticed in the war saga. Still, he knew that he had to do something different now and thankfully, this happened pretty quickly. Saif acted as a loveable baddie in new age thriller Ek Haseena Thi and even though was a moderate success, his mean side was noticed by one and all. Buoyed by audience acceptance to different characters that he was portraying, Saif played a man with evil shades in two more films – Being Cyrus and Omkara.
Coming soon: Part III where Saif’s rise in Bollywood over the last half a decade would be narrated along with his increase in might that has now resulted in bigger game, money and responsibility for him
Click HERE to read Part I