The recently released ‘Tanhaji – The Unsung Warrior’ has set the cash registers ringing. Gaining massive footfalls on Sunday, the movie has earned a whopping total of Rs. 61.93 crores in the opening weekend itself, despite facing a stiff clash with the Rajinikanth starrer ‘Darbaar’ and Deepika Padukone starrer ‘Chhapaak’. Audience and critics are all praise for this historical drama based on the life of Subedar Tanaji Malusare, one of the most trusted military commanders of Maratha braveheart, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Every aspect of ‘Tanhaji’ is being appreciated by audiences and critics alike, be it the powerful screenplay, or the close to impeccable cinematography, or the impressive music, or even the majestic VFX.
However, the movie has also played an important role in giving a new lease of life to an actor, who is otherwise criminally underrated despite delivering a series of significant performances in various Bollywood films. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Tanhaji has played an important role in the resurrection of Saif Ali Khan’s career.
As the Rajput guardian of Kondhana fort, that is, Uday Bhan Rathod, Saif Ali Khan has proved to be the perfect antagonist to Ajay Devgn’s character in this movie, and he has garnered immense appreciation for exhibiting various shades in his character. ‘Tanhaji’ is nothing less than the tonic Saif desperately needed to prove his mettle, who hasn’t had a single commercial hit since 2013.
Born to celebrated cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and celebrated actress Sharmila Tagore, acting wasn’t a natural choice for Saif Ali Khan. Having worked with an advertising agency in New Delhi for some time, Saif Ali Khan was recommended for a photoshoot by a family friend, following which he was selected for a film project, directed by Anand Mahendroo, which was unfortunately shelved. However, Saif was determined to pursue a career in acting and set out to try his luck in the tinsel town.
Initially, Saif found it tough to adjust to the whimsical attitude of the film industry, especially at a time when the Bollywood of the 90s was nothing less than ‘The Wild Wild West’. He could’ve debuted with the 1992 movie ‘Bekhudi’, which was also the official debut of actress Kajol. However, he was ousted for his ‘unprofessional attitude’ on the sets.
Saif’s debut finally came on screen in 1993, with two back to back films viz. ‘Aashiq Aawara’, ‘Parampara’. For his performance in ‘Aashiq Aawara,’ Saif even earned a Filmfare Award in the Best Debut categoree. While Bollywood is often castigated for their extra-soft corner for nepotism, Saif Ali Khan is one of the rare examples who has transcended the nepotism tag with his acting chops. Struggling with a string of flop films initially, Saif finally tasted box office success with Yeh Dillagi in 1994, and since then he never looked back. With Kachche Dhaage emerging as a box office success in 1998, Saif Ali Khan proved that he is an equally capable actor as well.
However, the tragedy of being Saif Ali Khan was that he was mostly awarded for those performances, which did not do justice with his acting abilities. Saif Ali Khan mesmerized everyone with his acting performances in the early 2000s, be it his role as Sameer in ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, or Rajeev Samra in ‘Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein’, or the iconic antagonist of ‘Ek Haseena Thi’ that is, Karan Singh Rathod, or even the role of Shekhar Rai in the much successful ‘Parineeta’. However, he was unfortunately awarded the National Award for Best Actor for his role in ‘Hum Tum’, which was like a joke with respect to his acting abilities.
Then came the year 2006, when Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Omkara’ hit the silver screens. The way Saif essayed the role of Ishwar aka Langda Tyagi in the on-screen adaptation of ‘Othello’ was phenomenal, to say the least. Though Ajay Devgn was in the lead role, it was Saif Ali Khan’s portrayal that garnered the maximum applause. Saif Ali Khan was even awarded the Best Villain award at the Filmfare Awards and rightly so.
It is an interesting observation, that whenever one needs to bring out the best in Saif Ali Khan, one just needs to cast him alongside Ajay Devgn. Kachche Dhaage brought out the able actor in him, while Omkara catapulted him to stardom. Now in ‘Tanhaji’, Saif Ali Khan has once again proved his mettle with a menacing portrayal of Uday Bhan Rathod.
However, Saif Ali Khan had to go through a fair share of struggles to reclaim stardom this time. Since the release of Go Goa Gone in 2013, Saif Ali Khan hadn’t tasted box office success as of yet. While films ‘Happy Ending’ and ‘Rangoon’ sank without a trace at the box office, films like ‘Phantom’, ‘Chef’, ‘Kaalakaandi’, ‘Baazaar’, ‘Laal Kaptaan’ etc. failed to attract audiences to the theatres, despite Saif giving his best in each of them. Things were such that Saif had to resort to acting in web series in order to maintain his reputation, where he tasted some success with the first season of ‘Sacred Games’.
However, with the imminent success of ‘Tanhaji’ at the box office, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the film has not just won the hearts of the viewers, but also gave a new ray of hope to the sagging fortunes of Saif Ali Khan by doing utmost justice with his acting abilities. Saif Ali Khan, with his brilliant performance in Tanhaji, is certainly back with a bang and line for possibly more such projects, which are both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.