There are not many people in the Bollywood film industry who have been through as many roles as Sajid Khan has. Starting off as an actor and awards show host, Mr Khan enraptured the audience with his easy going manner and his endearing charisma and this has now been extended into the directing of his films. With three blockbuster hits under his belt, Mr Khan proved that he knows exactly what the cinemagoing audience wants. He has now decided to take on one of the biggest challenges of his Bollywood career yet, directing and rewriting 1983 classic Himmatwala۪. BizAsia caught up the director to find out whether this film would live up to the hype and why he decided to take on this great feat.
Tell me about your upcoming release Himmatwala۪ (2013)
It was a 1983 film which was an out and our pot boiler in the commercial funny zone with lots of action, drama and songs and dance. I had seen it as an 11 year old and some things just stick to your mind and this movie was one of them. It stood the test of time as a huge blockbuster and it was one of my favourite films hence, after directing three films which fortunately did very well at the box office, I always wanted to make this film. I wrote a draft and a screenplay which was almost not a remake but a rewrite. It had the effects of the 1983 Himmatwala۪ but my film is not the same film. It is relevant for today۪s audience but the year I have kept in the film is 1983. It is about going back to the 1980s.
Do you think there is a sense of nostalgia about the 1980s within the current audience?
It was a very good period up till 1984, 1985 and then onwards, the fashion became bad, the films became bad. We look back at certain photographs of the 1980s and we shudder looking at our hairstyles and our clothes then. The 1980s was a memorable period. We had the advent of Michael Jackson and the dancing and the compact disk. Technologically, you have got the wonderful years there.
Himmatwala has a larger than life hero and is in fact known as a larger than life film, do you think that type of film is still popular in Bollywood cinema?
Not really, but I like making my films with big stars. I feel, at the end of the day, stars are a huge attraction to draw the audience initially. However, eventually if the film is not good, then nothing will work for the film. The stars certainly bring a certain amount of star power and bring in the audience, but eventually the film must speak for itself. They say that if the film belongs to the actor then henceforth, the film belongs to the director.
What was it like working with your lead actor Ajay Devgan?
Ajay and me have been buddies since college and we were very close at one time and then life took its own toll and we couldn۪t keep in touch. He went on busy making films and I went on busy directing films but whenever we met, we expressed a desire to work with each other. Finally, when the moment happened, we were too happy to work with each other and now we have bonded for the last years that went by, within the last eight months as best friends. We started off as friends, lost touch and have got back together a big director and a big director working together and eventually have ended up being best friends. It is wonderful working with him, it is a very unique combination of a great actor, a great human being and a great superstar.
How did Mr Devgan take the script when you presented it to him?
Ajay knew, since college, my intention for Himmatwala۪. He knew my likeness for the film and he was thrilled about it. I told him that it was not the same film, I have completely done up the movie with a new script, new characterisation and the storyline is 20-25% similar but it is a new film altogether. Even fans of Himmatwala۪ will see my film and like the changes that I have made here.
What was it like working with Tammannah Bhatia who is reasonably new to the Bollywood film industry?
I wanted to be true to the sense of Himmatwala۪ where Sridevi was virtually an unknown actress before the film all over India but a huge star down South and that is the path I followed with Tammannah. I wanted a South superstar to play that role who was now known in Bollywood or all over India except the South. That is how I got Tammannah.
Why did you choose to cast Tammannah in this way, but then cast Ajay Devgan who is very well known?
There were two to three things in my mind that I was very superstitious about. I can tell you that one was this Tammannah reason, the other one was the release date of the film. Even before I started shooting the film, it was the first time in the history of Bollywood films where the release date and not a month, a summer or winter or season written, a release date was written on the poster of the film before the shooting commenced because it coincided with exactly 30 years of Himmatwala۪. Himmatwala۪ released in the same week as I am releasing it, exactly 30 years ago. The third thing was the singer Amit Kumar, reprising his song Naino Mai Sapna. If these three things had not happened, then perhaps I would have made the film.
You have clearly had to place a lot of thought into putting this film together.
I think I follow a lot of destiny.
You have had many roles within the Bollywood film industry. How has this transition helped you direct films like Himmatwala۪?
I have been very fortunate in the sense that I connect with the audience, bang on, straight away, whether I have been hosting shows, award functions or TV shows. All my shows and all my award functions were Bollywood based and film based so my connect was one to one with the audience. That is what I took forward as a film maker with my three films, Heyy Baby۪ (2007), Housefull۪ (2010) and Housefull 2۪ (2012) which turned out to be blockbusters. I have always tried to be very true to the audience and giving them what I feel I will watch with them as an audience and not enjoy as a film maker. I feel as though I am a part of the audience making a film for them rather than being a film maker showing off his story making skills. I don۪t believe in that. I believe in giving the people what they would enjoy watching and making them free of sex, free of double meaning dialogues, free of vulgarity and free of any bloodshed or violence. I like making, perhaps a very rare case today, films that you can watch with the entire family including kids and ladies.
Do you think that more Bollywood films should be family friendly?
I don۪t know about the other film but personally I cannot endorse that kind of cinema. I cannot endorse cinema which you can۪t watch with kids or ladies or with your elders. For me, movie going outings should be a family orientated thing.
What would you like your audience to take away from Himmatwala۪?
It is a family friendly film with lots of humour, drama, songs and dance. It has a great storyline and lots of nostalgic value for those who remember the 1980s and Himmatwala۪. There will also be a lot to see for those who don۪t remember those either. I am sure that people will come out from the cinema with a big smile and think that it was money spent well on the ticket.
Sajid Khan definitely knows what he wants with his upcoming release Himmatwala۪ and we at BizAsia hope that he gets the smiles that he is hoping for. Himmatwala۪ releases on Friday 29th March.