Saif Ali Khan is one of the most popular actors of his generation in the Hindi film industry. Like most Khans of Bollywood, he has a filmography spanning decades, starting all the way back in 1993. Over the years, the actor has done everything from leading commercial hits to experimenting as grey characters to foraying into the streaming space. In retrospect, it looks like he’s done a little bit of everything while walking the fine line between stardom and underrated performances. While he has played the leading man quite a few times, he hasn’t always been the quintessential “hero”. Saif has a way of occupying supporting roles that are unmissable. Be it an antagonist or the funny best friend, he’s a scene-stealer. And that comes with a fair share of risks that he has been willing to take.
As the actor celebrates his birthday today, we’re looking at his movie roles that aren’t main characters but stole the show anyway and deserve a spin-off of their own.
Go Goa Gone
Go Goa Gone came out in 2013, but the vision of Saif Ali Khan sporting blonde hair, smoking a cigar and talking in a comical Russian accent hardly feels like a distant memory. The horror-comedy film, which is often cited as India’s first attempt at a zombie comedy, saw the actor play Boris, a trigger-happy zombie killer. This was not the film’s main character, considering it revolved around a group of friends who take a Goa trip that turns into a nightmare. It features Vir Das, Kunal Kemmu, Anand Tiwari, and Pooja Gupta. Saif doesn’t even appear until the second half of the film, and yet, he steals the show by cleaning off the lead trio’s hands. Watching the film, one can tell Saif had a great time playing an unhinged killer of the undead. Go Goa Gone is also one of those films that left fans begging directors Raj and DK for a sequel film. Considering that the film ended on a cliffhanger, there is enough material to bring back Boris, a petition fans would easily get behind.
Kal Ho Naa Ho
During the 2000s, Saif Ali Khan seemed to be playing good-looking funny guys. The most memorable of the lot is his role in Kal Ho Naa Ho. The film saw him feature alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta. Its plot revolved around Naina (Preity), a rather serious young woman whose life changes when she meets Aman (Shah Rukh) and soon falls in love with him. Saif plays Rohit, Naina’s best friend, who, with some help from Aman, tries to woo her. On paper, his character is set to be overlooked in more ways than one. Yet, Saif Ali Khan manages to make Rohit stand out. He’s funny and loving in a way that makes you root for him in spite of all the other elements in the film that threaten to overshadow him. The film effectively established Saif as a rom-com star, and it’s a pity we get to spend so little time with his character. Between his chemistry with his co-stars and his effortless charm, there’s enough material that leaves us wanting more.
Saif had played antagonists before Omkara, but audiences were simply not prepared for just how sinister he was in the Vishal Bhardwaj directorial. In the film about jealousy and ambition, the actor played the role of Langda Tyagi. The most striking aspect of his portrayal of the character inspired by Iago, Shakespeare’s character from his play Macbeth, was its physicality. As the name suggested, Saif walked with a limp and never once broke character. And that includes a rural accent. It’s safe to say that his performance cannot be put into a neat little box of villains or side characters, it was in a league of its own that defies typecasting. He’s just that good at talking to characters with chameleon-like ease. The film came just three years after his stint in Kal Ho Naa Ho, which made his transformation even more shocking for audiences. While Omkara had a sprawling run-time and an ensemble cast that included Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor Khan, Saif more than managed to shine on his own.
In Tanhaji, Saif Ali Khan is reunited with his Omkara co-star Ajay Devgn. The film, directed by Om Raut, revolved around a historical figure – Tanaji Malusare, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s trusted general, and his efforts against the Mughal empire in India. Saif Ali Khan was seen in a new avatar of Rajput fort keeper Udaybhan Singh Rathod. It was quite a flamboyant character that required Saif to deliver an over-the-top performance, and he expectedly rose to the challenge. No surprises there. While the role drew comparisons with Ranveer Singh’s brilliant Alauddin Khilji in Padmaavat, Saif’s portrayal of the historical figure stood on its own. Again, he was not the main character in the film, but he managed to draw attention to himself in every frame he was in.
Main Khiladi Tu Anari
Saif Ali Khan is hilarious and has done his fair share of comedy films, but he peaked with Main Khiladi Tu Anari. The 1994 film saw him play an actor who has been typecast as a romantic hero but wants to be taken more seriously as a performer. When he’s stopped for drunk driving, he runs into inspector Karan (played by Akshay Kumar). One thing leads to another, and he decides to follow Karan closely as research for his next cop role. Saif has impeccable comic timing that shined bright in the film. It is important to note that the film was partially inspired by the Hollywood film The Hard Way and Saif’s character was loosely based on Michael J. Fox’s character from the film. Not that it stopped Saif from owning the role and delivering a highly entertaining performance.
As Saif Ali Khan turns a year older, here’s wishing the versatile actor a very happy birthday.