I was in Switzerland and I was going out with an Italian girl and people said, “What are you doing? This is a very earthy role, you should be in India.” I was sitting under a tree with my headphones learning my lines. So lot of preparing…I knew all my lines and I knew everybody else’s lines. Vishal (Bhardwaj), on day one, stopped calling me Saif and the whole crew called me Khan saab. Which was a sign of respect that I’d nailed it on day one.
My mother said, “You should do some Shakespeare, why don’t you do Othello?” I was shooting with Vidhu Vinod Chopra for Eklavya and I was staying at the Rambagh Palace Hotel. I was having breakfast on the lawn and Vishal rang up and said, “I want to offer you Othello but Iago’s role.” I said, “Why do you want me to be the villain?” He said, “No…I saw Dil Chahta Hai.” So I said, “And you thought of me as the villain?” Some directors are like that, you know. He said, “See, I think you’re really handsome. So how can you be Othello? He’s all worried that his wife is cheating on him..” I looked up Iago a little and they said it was the only Shakespearean villain that has more lines than the hero. So it’s the role in Shakespeare. I think I’d already cut my hair. But he said, “Just buzz it and let’s do something crazy.” It was Eid. And he said, “Apne baal kurbaan kar do.”