Father’s Day Special: Saif Ali Khan On Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi

My childhood was one huge picnic. We had this humungous family in Bhopal with about 15 cousins, aunts, uncles, my grandmother. And my dad was someone everyone used to look up to. He had been captain of the Indian cricket team at 21. What could be cooler than that? Obviously it was impressive. To top it, he had the personality: cool and funny but dignified and well-mannered, too. I mean, look at him. Even in the World Cup, he didn’t say anything unless he had something to say. He’s an internal person, quietly confident.

In many ways he’s been my idol. I remember this lean and athletic figure in Kolhapuri chappals, T-shirt and jeans, playing the flute; he plays the flute and the tabla really well. He loves classical music, ghazals and Urdu poetry. 

He was a real father to me, an outdoorsy kind of guy. We played cricket together, of course. I enjoy cricket but then I’m not that good. I don’t have to be.

We’d go driving in a jeep through the jungles of Bhopal. We’d hardly bounce because he drove so well. We’d go shooting partridges — it was legal then — him, with this cool rifle; me running after him with my toy gun. Then we’d have partridges for dinner. And though it may sound contradictory, I got to know a lot about wildlife [through that experience].

My mom was emotionally explosive. He was always the calm one. If I was messing about or having late nights, he wouldn’t slap me or anything. He’d calmly ground me for a week. But I got away with more than my sisters.

His fame never affected me because he didn’t socialise much; in fact he was a recluse. When he got time off, he did his own thing. I was more in awe of his impressive personality than his cricketing image.

I remember I had a birthday party at the Ashoka Hotel in Delhi and I wanted to put up my name in the bulletin board outside. I told him everyone puts their name outside when they have parties. That’s when he told me something that I’ll never forget. He said in our family, we don’t advertise. We like things understated. I think that’s something that stayed with me. Acting in movies is all about showing off but I don’t think I’m flashy.

Another thing that I admire about him is his sense of style. The way he carries himself, his gait, everything about him. He’s been the most stylish person I know. He was never conscious of it, just naturally stylish. Plus, he’s got this piercing stare which can be quite intimidating.

I have learnt how to carry myself in public with dignity. It comes naturally to him. And he’s taught me how. It’s the best gift he has given me.

What impressed me most was his sense of responsibility. If anything went wrong, he took the blame. He’s my yardstick. I know that I’m like him but not enough; I’m getting there. Now that I’m a parent I try to be like him. At least where the responsibility bit is concerned. I’m getting there.

This story originally appeared as part of a special issue in June 2015, where Man’s World Magazine got popular people from different walks of life to talk about their equally popular fathers. 

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