Raise your hand if Dil Chahta Hai was your favourite movie growing up. That film had a cult following that could put an actual cult to shame. Scenes from the movie were flashing in my mind as I sat in the drawing room of Saif Ali Khan’s surreal house. After all, he is and continues to be one of the biggest names our entertainment industry knows. However, Khan is so much more than the sum of his characters—he is a multi-hyphenate in every sense of the term. What followed was a conversation about his movies, his absence from social media, his personal style and of course, the grand opening of his House of Pataudi store in Mumbai’s Phoenix Palladium mall spread across 1100 sft.
Harper's Bazaar (HB): Congratulations on your store launch! Why don’t we start at the beginning? Take us through how the idea behind House of Pataudi came about.
Saif Ali Khan (SAK): The vision was to make something that wasn't affordable, affordable. While incorporating both traditional and regal designs, House of Pataudi offers collections that will allow you to look your ethnic best for any occasion. The journey so far has been exciting and we're hoping this new venture will be as fabulous.
HB: The brand started with ethnic wear and now has moved into various categories like perfume, home décor and footwear. What is the inspiration behind all the designs?
SAK: The core design of the collections continues to be inspired by the rich traditions of the Pataudi family. The thought was to create outfits that would enable people to look their traditional best. We have four stores around the country—Bengaluru, Goa, Lucknow and Chennai. Our fifth store is now open in Mumbai’s Phoenix Palladium mall. We have our everyday ethnic line called Rozana, a festive collection called Jashn, and an extravagant wedding range called Riwayat.
It’s about trying to keep the heritage alive in terms of style and extending it to various categories. If you see the designs, it is an attempt to bring the past and the future together. The new store captures the essence of the Pataudi heritage and architecture and blends it with a modern flavour, which is elegant yet understated.
HB: Your personal style has evolved through the years, how much of that is reflected in the collections House of Pataudi puts out?
SAK: My personal style is not very commercial. Very few people may relate to it. For House of Pataudi, we wanted to make something that everyone could access. Of course, there are some inspirations—the simplicity of a few kurtas, for instance. There are a lot of navy blues, whites and greens. These influences are primarily from the Pataudi heritage.
HB: Let’s talk about your movies. You have always been quite selective about the films you have done. Is there a checklist you keep in mind before signing up?
SAK: Not really, I just go by the vibe. But I believe that you work for various reasons. For instance, if you stop working for a while, and only chill, then you will start feeling aimless, which will then make you take up anything that comes your way. So, if you read a script and it doesn’t excite you, then read another. You eventually come across a script that you connect with. It jumps right out at you. But you have to give it time and read. In this job, you define yourself with the choices you make. If you’re in a hurry and are insecure, you’ll end up doing anything. But the gods of acting don’t respect people who work for money. You have to strike a balance.
HB: Sacred Games marked your foray into the OTT space. You were one of the first to see merit in that platform. Are there any more books adapted into series/ screenplays you are keen to be a part of?
SAK: I am surprised I haven’t come across any more book adaptations. I think we are lucky that we have OTT platforms. The work is interesting and challenging, and the medium is brilliant. I saw merit in it because I watch a lot of TV. I knew what Netflix was. Their philosophy is incredible. They want to defy the notion that small screen means daily soaps and it’s only the big screen that has all the glamour, excitement and superior talent. Not to mention, it is bringing the world closer. Right now, I am watching a French show—Call My Agent and I just finished watching a Korean drama. I have understood different actors and their cultures. Working on Sacred Games was an equally enriching experience.
HB: Your line of work can get a bit difficult and it can sometimes be a stressor. Are there moments when you put too much pressure on yourself? How do you deal with that?
SAK: One would think that after 30 years in the industry, I wouldn’t doubt myself, but I do. When it happens, I think "Oh, here we go again. This has happened before and it will happen again." I follow that up by reminding myself that it’s alright. It’s got a lot to do with the mind. But it all depends on the project—if I am shooting on my own and it is easy, then I allow myself the luxury of being lost on the first day, but if I am shooting something like Vikram Vedha, for instance, then I am my best from day one. So I think being unsure and second-guessing yourself is a luxury sometimes.
HB: While the world is experiencing a social media frenzy, you’ve managed to stay away from it all. Why? And if you do ever decide to join Instagram, what kind of content do you think you’d enjoy consuming the most?
SAK: I could easily join Instagram, but I am a bit scared of getting sucked into it. I work hard so that I can relax by doing nothing, but if I have to tag movies and write nice things about people, then I feel that it’s a trap. I don’t want to be trapped. That is one aspect. On the other hand, there is a little bit of money to be made. The catch though is that I have to be careful because people say ‘no, you can’t post this or you have to share that picture to give the impression that you’re like this’, which is fake and it puts me off slightly. It’s a skewed picture for me at the moment. But maybe I will join it someday. I’ve got some great pictures.