Saif Ali Khan: A star in Bollywood — and on Netflix

Mumbai, Jan 29 (AFP/APP): Saif Ali Khan, bonafide Bollywood royalty and star of Netflix hit “Sacred Games”, says India’s massive film industry does not need international audiences to thrive. But that may not be a good thing, he cautions.

The 49-year-old actor, whose latest film “Jawaani Jaaneman” (“Youthful Lover”) is out on Friday, has starred in multiple blockbusters over the years, from “Dil Chahta Hai” (“The Heart Desires”) in 2001 to “Tanhaji”, released earlier this month.

Yet even as foreign films — like South Korean hit “Parasite” — find viewers and awards overseas, Bollywood has remained on the fringes of global entertainment, content to target India’s 1.3 billion population and millions of others from the diaspora.

“The thing about our culture… is that we don’t really need verification, validation, appreciation from an outside culture,” Khan told AFP in Mumbai.

“There are so many of us that if we just keep each other happy then we don’t financially need anything,” he added.

But he warned that while such an insular approach may not harm Bollywood’s bottom line, it could be “dangerous” for the industry’s development.

“Cinema is about people meeting, comparing, collaborating because the human condition is quite similar. But if we isolate ourselves… I think we will lose out on something because we will keep catering just to ourselves,” he said.

The son of cricketing legend Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi — whose family ruled the former princely state of Pataudi — and actress Sharmila Tagore, Khan has never shied away from taking risks, straddling Bollywood and art-house cinema during his decades-long career.

Even so, the opportunity to play troubled policeman Sartaj Singh in “Sacred Games” in 2018 was a turning point.

“I think Sartaj Singh did a lot for me. People who don’t usually watch Hindi films watched ‘Sacred Games’… and working with all those people in that environment helped my acting a lot,” he said.

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