The dashing actor, born on August 16, 1970, shares some of India’s destiny if one is to see how important the date is. India as an independent country on the historic date of August 15, 1947, also begins a journey from the very next day to a freedom it so aspired for. Saif Ali Khan is born into that freedom, when every year, the country’s celebratory mood spills into another day, August 16. And so the celebration continues.

But, like a new India, the road has been rough for the actor. Although born into royal lineage, son of Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, and actress Sharmila Tagore, the actor came into the hindi film industry as a complete outsider. Raised in UK, and with little exposure to Bollywood cinema, when Saif Ali Khan debuted in 1993 in a film called Aashiq Awara, opposite none other than the fire-spewing actress Mamta Kulkarni, the film failed to launch his career. He was considered ‘pretty’ for an actor. The film earned him his first Filmfare trophy for Best Debut.

His pairing with co-actor Akshay Kumar worked in films like Main Khiladi Tu Anari and Yeh Dillagi, which gave him foothold. He appeared in several multi-starrer films which kept him afloat. He was still to make it as a solo-hero. The nineties was when actors were known by quantity, rather than quality work, and so was the case with Saif Ali Khan, who took up more films than what he could probably manage.

A turning point came in 2001, when the path-breaking film Dil Chahta Hai, depicting the story of modern youth in India showed him in a new, never before seen character, and it suited his persona. In a way, India’s fast moving, modern landscape also mirrored the change in films and its actors. Finally here was a film where Saif was seen playing a normal guy with everyday problems about love, life and career. The film was a success in metros and urban cities and gave him a new lease in cinema.

Saif cut down on projects and began to identify a path he wants to take his career along. His role as a New York yuppie in Kal Ho Na Ho was widely appreciated. He won another Filmfare trophy for Best Supporting Actor. He followed it up with stellar performances in Ek Hasina Thi, Hum Tum, and Parineeta. His Hum Tum role fetched him a National Award. It wasn’t until Omkara, in 2006, that he had everyone floored. His riveting performance in the Shakespeare adaptation of Othello, deservedly earned him every trophy in the house. By now he had become a powerhouse talent no one could dismiss.

Ever since, there’s been no looking back, with his entry into the 100 crore club franchise, successful films like Race, Love Aaj Kal, and Cocktail, and production. On a personal note, the actor is a very private person and keeps away from the public eye, except during promotions and events. He rarely interacts with the media, and likes to keep his social commitments undisclosed. Last year, he married actress Kareena Kapoor, in a quiet ceremony held at his residence. He has been married once, to actress Amrita Singh, with whom he has two kids.

Here’s wishing the actor a happy, and prosperous year on his birthday and for more to come.