Anees Bazmee: “In ‘Pagalpanti’, you’ll see a beautiful London”


Gearing up to start his forthcoming project, titled ‘Pagalpanti’, filmmaker Anees Bazmee is currently in the British capital prepping for the shooting schedule before his cast arrives.’s Shyama Sudra recently met with Bazmee who spoke of the film, his cast and more.

You’ve filmed in London quite a lot throughout your career, and it seems the UK is one of your favourite locations to shoot. Now you’re here for ‘Pagalpanti’, shooting in London and Leeds in particular. Why these two places in particular?
Well actually I have a lot of friends that are over here, and the first time I came here somehow I connected with this place. I like this place. I love this place. I came here for ‘Mubarakan’ (2017) and I saw so many locations. I couldn’t complete it in the shoot, because there were only 60-70 scenes, and other beautiful locations are there. So I told my producer, let’s shoot in London (for ‘Pagalpanti). In Leeds, there are two big mansions, beautiful locations and I’m shooting there for another 15-25 days. Then I’ll be back here in London and shoot over here because I couldn’t find that kind of huge place here (in London). UK is a very beautiful place, and as I told you there are a lot of locations in my mind where I can shoot. It’s a very beautiful city and I think London jo abhi tak explore karna hai woh hua nahi (what there is to explore in London I haven’t done yet). In this film you’ll see a fantastic London, a beautiful London.

You’ve worked with John Abraham and Ileana D’Cruz separately before. What’s different about their characters in this film, and how do you plan on directing them compared to what you’ve done previously?
Yes, John Abraham, I worked with him in ‘Welcome Back’ (2015). It was a huge hit and he was very happy. He had always wanted to play a comedy part, and when I narrated this story he loved it. He’s doing very hard work on this character. With Ileana, I worked with her in ‘Mubarakan’. She a very sweet girl, a very good, professional actress and I think both will look very nice together. In ‘Welcome’, John was not doing a lot of comedy because Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar were there. But in this film he is doing a lot of comedy with Arshad Warsi and Pulkit Samrat. Ileana’s character is very different from ‘Mubarakan’. She’ll be fun to watch, she’ll be very good, a very different kind of character.

Comedy and action are two genres that have worked very well for you. What is it about these two genres that draw you to filmmaking?
I think comedy is the most difficult genre. I wrote about 40-50 films as a writer, and then I directed some beautiful films like ‘No Entry’ (2005), ‘Welcome’ (2007), ‘Singh is Kinng’ (2008), but I still find it’s very difficult. I’m working here. I’m sleeping for two hours. Some people, when they see a film they think oh it’s very easy,  but it’s not easy to make people laugh at this time. Everybody’s in so much tension, I think people forget to laugh. So it’s very difficult, and as a writer or director. You have to plan your punches or dialogue and your situation which is very challenging. I don’t believe in double-meaning dialogue and slapstick. It all becomes very, very hard for me because I want to make very clean films where you can sit with your entire family and watch. My reputation is like that. I don’t believe in slapstick also where people are falling and making faces. So I create situations like that. I feel tragedy is where you start comedy. For example, Nana Patekar in ‘Welcome Back’ is very serious because his sister’s not getting married – it’s a very serious kind of situation. In ‘No Entry’ where all the three people are in the climax and they are going to die, so they are very serious. So basic instructions for my actors is; don’t do comedy, be serious. When you don’t work on your situation and when you don’t work on your scenes and dialogues, then you have to depend on your actors and where they are jumping. I think comedy is basically a very serious job. Whenever I wrote a very beautiful scene, I was not in a good mood. All my great scenes, for example in ‘Welcome’ where Nana Patekar is on the horse or the climax of ‘No Entry’ or the climax of ‘Welcome’ with the entire house, whenever I wrote these I was in a very, very bad mood, I was actually angry. Because for me, comedy isn’t where you’re laughing, it should be a very serious thing and how you are punching dialogues. Everybody is very serious in ‘Welcome’ where the house is falling apart and they are all going to die.  But somebody else’s tragedy can make a good comedy for others.

You do this so well. Where does your inspiration come from with these types of films?
Actually, I’ve been in this industry for the last 40 years. Initially, I worked in the sound department, then in editing, then in the art department. I did very small work, then I became an assistant director with 15-16 directors. Then I did some ‘ghost writing’ where I get only money, it (the film) doesn’t have my name and I changed my home. I think about 36 times every 11 months. So I saw a lot of people and I was different situations where you meet so many people, so many characters. Mujhe lagta hai ke jo takleef hoti hai uski under comedy hoti hai (I think that where there are problems there is comedy in there). For example, one of my friends was staying somewhere bahut door (very far) and I thought what should I do, chalo main chalta hoon (ok I’ll just go) and that friend always thought “I’m a big poet” jab woh tha nahin (when he wasn’t), so just to have food, jab woh khana khilayega (when he would feed me) I used to go and say “yes sir, tell me your shayari (poem)” and he used to say his shayari. He couldn’t write but I would say “wah wah wah”. So this is also comedy. So mujhe lagta hai ke jo mere takleef hota hai, mujhe comedy aata hai (when I’m in a problem, I can do comedy).

As you mentioned, you’ve been a part of the industry for 40 years, and where film-making has changed and developed, you have always remained current. How do you plan to do this for ‘Pagalpanti’, not only for audiences in India but for your international market too?
My audience is always very vast. I don’t want to make films for some particular audience or some particular people. I want that my films should run in Chandigar and in London also and everywhere. It is a difficult job, because aisi picture banaane saare logo ko aapko khush karna hai (to make a film like this you have to make everyone happy), so I think it comes from the experience of so many films I’ve written and everything. About 50 films I wrote, and aaj yeh jo film hai, banaa raha hoon ‘Pagalpanti’ (and today this film that I’m making), I think it’s a beautifully written film, very nice, good dialogues where all the actors are very good. I chose all the actors, say yeh character hai (this is the character) and I want this actor for this. For example, the other actors there – Saurab Shukla, he’s very good in comedy and he’s very good in action scenes also. So I chose him, unka thoda date problem tha (he had a few date problems) but then I said “I want Saurab Shukla”. Like that three-four other actors are there, not as a main hero but side (characters). So a lot of people who are actually good actors. I took all the actors, and it’s an ensemble cast – three heroes, three heroines, Anil Kapoor, Saurab Shukla, three villains, one another very important character. So it’s actually 14-15 people. But I never chose any actor to put his photo on the poster, it should be the correct role for him. Meri jitni films hai (all my films), all films, everybody’s in my film, whether in ‘Welcome’ Nana sir, Anil Kapoor, Feroz Khan, Akshay (Kumar), Katrina (Kaif), everybody has a great role. The same goes with ‘No Entry’, everybody has a good role. So it is very important that you’re not taking anybody just to make your cast bigger. It should be a great role. In this picture John is the main hero, but other people are also doing fantastic roles.

One thing you do very well is to ensure each of your characters have the opportunity to have their own screen time.
Yes, otherwise you can’t make such a big film. You need a lot of actors and everything when an actor says “yes this picture is very good for me and it’s a great character for me”. And these days you can’t make such a big film, because you need the combination of a lot of actors. When an actor feels that ”yes this is a very good film for me and it’s a great character for me”, then he’ll agree, otherwise to assemble so many characters for 60-70 days, that is not easy. Two things are very important for any actor: the film is beautiful and my character is very good. That’s the only way you can make such kind of films. After 12 or 13 years, I still get calls from people whenever these pictures run on TV, ‘No Entry’, ‘Welcome’. It’s a big achievement when you get a call after 12 years with then saying “Oh my god, what a film!” And aise nahin ke ek film bani aur log bhool gaye (it’s not that one film is made and then it’s forgotten), they are remembered it after 10-12 years.

Where did the title ‘Pagalpanti’ come from?
This film is full of madness, so i think this is the apt title and luckily this title was with my producer. I told him I need this title, I want this title, my picture will be called ‘Pagalpanti’ because a lot of madness is there. We are going to enjoy it. All my actors are calling me and saying “Yaar we want to come.” Shooting is around the 17th and they are asking now. It’s a nice thing because I gave the script to everyone and everyone is reading it and they’re so excited and happy. On my set everyone is very happy, we actually have a picnic. We are not tense, not shouting, not angry, nothing. I have the best rapport with all the actors and my body of work they know, so there is no tension on the set. People ask me “it’s so difficult to manage everybody”, and yes it is a big job because when you are putting a camera and 16-17 actors are there. Everybody is insecure, everybody’s a different kind of person but somehow with me I do it very easily and actors believe in me. We are friends and they like me, I don’t have any other problems – no ego problems. I’m a very down to earth person, very straight-forward, very honest. If in a particular scene, a particular actor is not very important then I’ll say, “Sir this is not your scene please you step aside.” People like me for my honesty, I don’t manipulate because I make films with my heart and with honesty.

You’ve said recently the sequel to ‘No Entry’ is finished. Can you reveal any further details about it
I wrote a beautiful script of ‘No Entry’ sequel and it’s complete. I’m very excited and the entire unit, my production people, my co-writers, my producer – everybody, I feel ‘No Entry’ is a very, very special film. People love the film and when we make ‘No Entry’ part two it will be something else and people are going to wait for this film. But I’m just waiting for my producer Mr Boney Kapoor. He’s going to tell me now I’m ready from my side. Whenever he’s going to say yes, these are the actor’s dates and these are the actors, that’s when I’ll start. I’m making one film called ‘Aankhen’ with Amitabh Bachchan sir, where three blind people are there, it’s a suspense-thriller kind of film. I made, a long time back, a picture called ‘Deewangee’ (2002) about a split-personality, so after that I’m doing this kind of film. Then I’m making one love story with Kartik Aaryan. That I’m doing after ‘Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha’ (1998) with Kajol and Ajay Devgn. So I think not only comedy, but I’m doing action-suspense-thriller, and I’m doing love story.

You are so well known for the films you’ve written and directed and, with many big names from the industry taking on other responsibilities, have you ever thought about doing something like that and going in front of the camera?
In front of the camera? No, no. I have had a lot of offers to judge television reality shows. All my actors say when I perform the scenes “you know you are a good actor”, but i get a lot of offers to judge reality shows, especially with comedy, but I’ve been caught up with film I don’t have the time. would like to thank Anees Bazmee for meeting us.

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