That age is just a number has to be the oldest cliche. Many benchmarks are created and revised based on how one has led one’s life. When I came into this profession, people felt the life of an actor rarely crossed 40. But today there are action heroes who are much older than I am.
When I was 35, I remember playing around with a hairdryer one day and noticed that my hairline had begun receding. At that point, I felt I would be lucky if I had any hair by the time I turned 40.
But now, at 50, I hope to have the same head of hair when I turn 70. When you’re young, you feel immortal and don’t really think about the end. But at this stage, I’ve acquired much more patience and understanding about life. I am in, what I would like to call, the ‘sweet spot’, or ‘the magic hour’ of my life. That bit of the struggle is now over and the problems of old age haven’t surfaced yet. Basically, you’re past the petty stuff and you’ve not yet developed intestinal issues related to age.
Being an actor is extremely demanding in terms of fitness levels. Even though I don’t think of myself as an action hero, I’ve done a lot of action roles over the years and I remember how tiring some of them were to pull off. You do it as long as you can, but when your knee starts hurting, and I’m sure it will happen with time, you have to find a way to adjust or get someone else to do it. Even Daniel Craig (as James Bond) has a body double.
With good editing and acting, the entire sequence can create a wonderful impression. And it makes sense to do so, rather than this misguided machismo that we have of wanting to do our own stunts (which is all very well till a certain age), but not at the risk of breaking your leg and endangering a project. I’ve nearly lost a thumb (Kaalakaandi, 2017), had my head cut open (Kya Kehna, 2000), resulting in several stitches and a terrible scar which people thought could be disastrous.
Moderation is the key
One of the famous dangers that film actors in India have always grappled with is the challenge of moderating their alcohol consumption. If you’re not careful, it can push you over the edge easily. While I sometimes like to indulge in a glass of wine, I don’t enjoy hangovers any more. So I try to do everything in moderation and constantly listen to my body. What keeps me going is the love for life and a sense of curiosity and the need to want to challenge myself. You have to strike a balance; you can’t burn the candle at both ends and need to enjoy yourself too. You have to learn to not get too close to the sun and not become too boring either.
The best and luckiest thing I have and what keeps me going is my job. That I’m an actor and am required to look a certain way provides that extra push to want to look good and stay fit. Most actors have done songs where they have danced on their knees.
Weight training may appeal to someone’s vanity and they may pump iron aggressively, but if you’re not mindful and strain yourself, before you know it, you may have joint and back problems. My fitness mantra lately has been to do 150 push-ups every other day, and it feels really good.
Ultimately, the only way you can lose weight is by burning more calories than what you intake. I’ve started cooking and have dabbled in salads and a lot of fish dishes. Breakfast is usually a banana and a coffee followed by work-outs with weights. Lunch is fish and rice or fish and vegetables or maybe dalchawal with a papad. I try to have fruits in the afternoon followed by an hour of walking. I believe that carbs are necessary and so is a bit of sugar. So I also enjoy paranthas and dahi for breakfast on some days and various snacks and peanuts thrown in with sugar and salt through the day. If you eat correctly, it’s also good for your mind and it keeps you energised, positive and happy.
While it’s all great to give it your all, why work harder than you should? We’ve shot for films where we have risen at 5am and powered through 15-hour-shifts. And then, I’ve done a film like Tanhaji, where we shot for reasonable hours quite comfortably and managed focused work within the stipulated schedule and it was a massive hit too. It helps if you look within and project your unique self. That’s what being an actor is all about. We have a galaxy of stars because there’s not just one way of doing it, or one correct or cool expression for a thought or feeling. Also, count your blessings instead of fretting over something you have no control over.
With age comes…
Many wonder ‘what is it all for?’ something that seemed like a futile question once, but now, even I find myself mulling over these existential questions. Why do we have this level of consciousness… All you need to know is that we have a certain amount of time on this planet and there’s a saying in
— As told to Kunal Guha
SAIF HAS SOME ADVICE FOR YOU
1. Don’t pump weights according to how much someone else is pushing. What works for one can injure another. Always consult a trainer for weight training.
2. Avoid fad diets that eliminate
3. Try to do everything in moderation and constantly listen to your body.
4. Focus on being positive and be proud of what is most unique about you.