Mumbai, Born and brought up in a non-conservative westernised atmosphere, Saif Ali Khan says he has gone through a life-changing experience while working in Rensil D’Silva’s tentatively titled “Jehad”. The actor gets out of his zone to play an Islamic fundamentalist.
“Yes, I play an Islamic fundamentalist while Vivek Oberoi plays the more moderate Muslim,” said Saif.
“The role has not only made me more politically aware, it has also made me more religious. I knew a lot of things about Islam. But I was always more spiritual than religious. Working in Rensil’s film has made me know more about the religion. I did a lot of reading on Islam during this film. I always believed in the higher power,” Saif told IANS.
“The one most decisive thing that I learnt had to do with Allah – we tend to presume that to be the Muslim god. But Allah is the Arab word for the same god, or the one true god. That, I thought, was a wonderful thing to learn while playing this character.
“All religions believe in the oneness of god. So what’s all the fighting about? Whether it’s Christianity, Islam or Judaism, many of the religions have fought a holy war at one time or another. It’s been a part of religious history,” said the actor.
This is not the first time Saif is playing a negative role — he played a bad guy in movies like “Ek Hasina Thi” and “Omkara”. But he admits playing a negative character in this film has changed his perception towards life and religion.
“It’s the most politically relevant character I’ve played. Though my Langda Tyagi in ‘Omkara’ was a political creature, his politics was subverted. In Rensil’s film, I play the jehadi as a very real and suave gentleman, dressed in very dapper clothes like a college professor, and hence more frightening.”
Tell him that Irrfan Khan says being a Muslim he’d never play a terrorist and that he turned down Vivek’s role in “Jehad”, Saif replied: “Did he? To me, the whole point of being an actor is to become characters I can’t be in real life.
“My character is redeemed at the end. But even if he wasn’t, I’d still say yes to a role that explores my emotions that lie too deep for fears and tears. My character in Rensil’s film has become the way he has because of the way Americans have treated Afghanistan and other Islamic states.”
The 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, says Saif, has not affected the way he looks at his character in the film.
“I don’t think 26/11 or earlier 9/11 are Islamic acts. No matter what people say, I don’t think any terrorist is a Muslim. Let’s make that distinction very clear. Of course, the population of Afghanistan may disagree with me. But I condemn 26/11 as a deed done by non-Muslims.”
Putting an end to the title dispute for the film once and for all, Saif said: “This film has to be called ‘Jehad’. There’s no other title for it. But I don’t think our producer has the (rights to the) title yet.”