Marvel at the Khans: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan on turning superheroes with ‘Wastelanders’

Power couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan collaborate on a project after more than a decade, and this time it is not a movie; the duo tell us about working on ‘Marvel’s Wastelanders,’ a Hindi podcast series from Marvel and Audible

February 16, 2023 06:18 pm | Updated February 20, 2023 05:12 pm IST

Kareena Kapoor Khan will voice Helen Black/ Black Widow, while Saif Ali Khan takes on the role of Peter Quill/ Star-Lord

Kareena Kapoor Khan will voice Helen Black/ Black Widow, while Saif Ali Khan takes on the role of Peter Quill/ Star-Lord | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

11 years.

It has been 11 years since Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan tied the knot and the moniker ‘Saifeena’ entered collective Bollywood dictionaries. 

But it’s also been 11 years since the acting duo worked together; a successful collaboration that yielded projects such as LOC: Kargil, Omkara, Kurban, Tashan (on the sets of which they fell in love) and Agent Vinod, which marked their last on-screen appearance together. 

A still from ‘Tashan’ (2008)

A still from ‘Tashan’ (2008)

For years now, fans have waited to see Saif and Kareena team up again, though not for a lack of news surrounding them — the national media obsession with their two young children, Taimur and Jeh, is evidence of this — and now it could finally be happening, thanks to Marvel Entertainment. The two Bollywood stars are all set to play superheroes… but not (yet) on screen. 

Teaming up with audio storytelling brand Audible and Marvel, Saif and Kareena are part of Marvel’s Wastelanders. This original podcast series in Hindi is set in a post-apocalyptic future timeline where supervillains have established a new world order after vanquishing almost all the good guys. Now, it is up to the remaining superheroes — many of them who are in hiding — to team up again and regain order.

The Bollywood couple, along with an ensemble cast of other talented actors such as Jaideep Ahlawat, Masaba Gupta, Sharad Kelkar, Ashish Vidyarthi and Mithila Palkar, among others, voice-star in different episodes throughout the series, though the epic finale (in quintessential Marvel fashion) will see them join hands — and erm..., voices. 

Kareena, who takes on the role of Helen Black/ Black Widow — made memorable thanks to the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in the MCU movies — says the more she read the script, the more she understood why the makers wanted her to play this particular role. “I could totally relate to the character; she’s fierce, independent and intelligent. Helen also knows exactly when to make her moves. Being given the chance to provide my touch to this fascinating arc of a spy-assassin is really exciting, and I immediately said yes,” she says.

Kareena Kapoor Khan at the launch of ‘Wastelanders’

Kareena Kapoor Khan at the launch of ‘Wastelanders’

The fashion icon’s upcoming projects include Hansal Mehta’s The Buckingham Murders (inspired by Kate Winslet’s Mare of Easttown) and Sujoy Ghosh’s Devotion of Suspect X, which is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Japanese author Keigo Higashino.

Over the years, Kareena has starred in blockbusters such as Jab We Met, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and Ra.One, and has been one of India’s most coveted stars for two decades now. It is fitting that her Marvel debut will be compared to none other than one of Hollywood’s finest: Oscar-winner Susan Saradon, who voiced Helen Black in the English version of the Wasterlanders podcast.

Big shoes to fill?

“I have listened to the original series, and of course she (Saradon) is fabulous in it, but since this is in Hindi, we have changed it a little. Our take on the series lets me add my own emotional arc, figure out what Helen should sound like since it’s such a physical show, and most of all, design it in a manner that appeals to the Indian audiences,” Kareena says. 

Titled Black Widow, the episode also features designer-actor Masaba Gupta as Lisa Cartwright, an analyst for a private security company, who is assigned to surveil Kareena’s character for various reasons; a task that naturally puts her on a collision course with Helen.

“To work with such an amazing bunch of actors, especially my dear friend, the gorgeous Masaba, is a win-win! We haven’t begun recording our podcast yet, however, Saif has already finished his episode, and his main advice to me was to listen to Mantra Mugdh, the director, and let him guide us. He (Saif) also knows I’m a very instinctive actor, so he asked me to follow my gut always,” Kareena smiles.

Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan during the launch in Mumbai

Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan during the launch in Mumbai | Photo Credit: ANI

Saif and Kareena have already voice-starred together; in the YashRaj Films animated rom-com Roadside Romeo in 2008, where they played two puppies in love. At a time when Saif is in the most experimental phase in his career (audiences will see him next as Ravan facing off against Prabhas’s Lord Ram in Adipurush, the mythological feature based on the Ramayana), his portrayal of an older Peter Quill/ Star-Lord in Wastelanders promises yet another intriguing addition to his repertoire of absorbing roles.

“I actually had no reservations at all accepting the part. Marvel is such a wonderful brand, and the concept of the Audible platform is superb. Voice-acting is a really interesting space for an actor to try and get into, and the fact that it was such a beautifully-written part and episode made it a no-brainer of sorts,” Saif tells us.

Saif Ali Khan at the launch of ‘Wastelanders’

Saif Ali Khan at the launch of ‘Wastelanders’

In Star-Lord — which kicks off the entire series — an ageing and almost over-the-hill Peter Quill (Saif) and Rocket (Vrajesh Hirjee) crash-land onto a barren wasteland, where they must find for The Collector (Anangsha Biswas) an ancient cosmic relic, while encountering a number of challenges and adversaries.

One of the highlights in the live-action Guardians of the Galaxy/ Avengers movies was the superb repartee and banter between Chris Pratt’s Quill and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket; how were they able to translate that to the podcast? “The chemistry between both of them is on the pages, and their relationship is so well-articulated in the script. We just had to stay true to that, and let the magic happen. Sometimes I imagine it can be hard for co-stars to get along, but in this case, I have an immense amount of respect for Vrajesh and what he does, so it worked out great,” he explains.

Saif, who was last seen in the action-thriller Vikram Vedha, adds that it was an easy decision for him and Kareena to come on board. “It was a very quick discussion at home to dub for a Marvel series, and we both agreed that it would be a real fun project to be a part of.”

Are their sons, Taimur and Jeh, into comics or Marvel yet? “We haven’t introduced them to Marvel comics yet, though their father reads to them every day, since Saif loves books so much,” Kareena laughs.

The stars also say that they are both game for a live-action Marvel series in the future (of Wastelanders or otherwise), maybe even something that could potentially re-unite them on screen? “We hope so! It’d be quite cool, even though I’m not quite in the zone to do action sequences right now. But yes, after the dub is done, why not?” grins Kareena, while Saif quips, “Marvel projects have amazing scripts and they are so well-cast, so it’s a yes for sure. But I also wish we get a chance to bring more of our own mythological stories and epics to life soon.”

Poster of Marvel’s ‘Wastelanders’

Poster of Marvel’s ‘Wastelanders’

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