The comic filmmaker opens up about himself
150 words dummy I realised that. But you can’t deny me success. What kept happening is that there I was screaming at roof tops saying ‘give me my respect, respect me’. I didn’t want to be respected as a stand-up comic. I didn’t want to be respected as the compere, because I had 20 years of that. When I gave a bonafide hit with Hey Baby, I wanted people to start taking notice of me as a filmmaker which wasn’t really happening because they said it was a fluke, big deal, it’s alright. Then came Housefull, then again I started screaming: Take me seriously as a filmmaker. I made statements before Housefull 2 saying this one is going to be more successful, it’s going to be Akshay Kumar‘s biggest hit, it will be my biggest hit.
How is this Sajid Khan different from the Sajid Khan before his last release?
Very different. Not like split personality. I think a little maturity, a little growing up, a little understanding and realisation has happened. Things go wrong in many people’s lives but their critics really don’t bother. But in my case I just realised that people really cared to bother to make sure that no one bothered about me (grins). That’s when I realised that when somebody’s film doesn’t work, people usually should say ‘bechara’ rather than ‘achcha hua’. So in my case it was achcha hua.
Are you talking about the media or the industry?
I am talking about everybody.
Ya that was the reaction…
Also I felt Himmatwala was probably one of the few films in the history of cinema where the film wasn’t reviewed, the maker was reviewed which was a little sad but I think I had it coming. I had it coming also because somewhere I feel I have been a little arrogant. To be very honest with you, I felt that success was slightly denied to me because of this whole popular image that I had of this nuisance value guy on television was hosted by Sajid Khan.
Yes, because on the show you made fun of everyone…
Not everyone took it in the right spirit.
I realised that. But you can’t deny me success. What kept happening is that there I was screaming at roof tops saying ‘give me my respect, respect me’. I didn’t want to be respected as a stand-up comic. I didn’t want to be respected as the compere, because I had 20 years of that. When I gave a bonafide hit with Hey Baby, I wanted people to start taking notice of me as a filmmaker which wasn’t really happening because they said it was a fluke, big deal, it’s alright. Then came Housefull, then again I started screaming: Take me seriously as a filmmaker. I made statements before Housefull 2 saying this one is going to be more successful, it’s going to be Akshay Kumar’s biggest hit, it will be my biggest hit. I think it was also foolishness or bravado childishness… But somewhere God was kind and the film did very well. That’s when I went completely mad. And people tolerate your madness when you are getting more and more successful. I was just going on barking like a mad dog. There was this sense of arrogance… when I spoke figures.
But figures are facts, right?
Yes, but I started making predictions that ‘My film will be the biggest hit, my film will do this, you will not get tickets for the next three days’. I guess somewhere I also felt that the media is accustomed to hearing me speak like this so I must speak like this.
Also, they are not used to anybody else talking like that. No one talks like that.
When Himmatwala was made, I went completely berserk because everyone — from Ajay (Devgn) to the producer of the film, to the other actors, to UTV — were all super confident after seeing the film, we were planning a success party. We were planning a full page ad next day saying we made Rs100 crore. The question wasn’t if we should put it, but when; first week or second week. We were talking this way. But when it released it was Pearl Harbour to us after the bombs dropped.
Analysed later or introspected why it didn’t do well?
Yes, it didn’t do well because that genre shifted. A lot of movies after Himmatwala in a similar genre didn’t work at all because that genre moved. But they were not spoken so much about as much as Himmatwala. I am not trying to defend Himmatwala but I would like to say that I don’t think I have made a bad film, I think I made a wrong film. Also, I became the biggest enemy of the film because my name is synonymous with comedy. Hey Baby also was a drama which had comedy in it. I have made two comedies in my life, Housefull and Housefull 2. The third one is Humshakals. With Himmatwala, I feel my own perception went against the film. People thought the film is going to be a spoof on the 80s and when they saw it, they realised it wasn’t, and they got very disappointed and said what the fuck he has made. Everyone including my own mom said that.
She told me a week before the release of the film, when she saw the film, ‘This not expected from you.’ I hope it does well because you are my son but you know people are going to be a little surprised. And I was like ‘Mom, I can make any kind of film, you see what’s going to happen’.
But moms know better right?
Yes, so when I wrote Humshakals , the first person I gave the first draft of the film to, was my mum and she read it like over the night and in the morning she woke me up and said, ‘I am very proud of this script. This is very funny; it is a page turner and I wish this was your first film, seriously because this is your best.’
Do you know I wrote Humshakals on Monday after the Friday of Himmatwala flopped. It’s not an easy job to direct and write a comedy, especially not one where there are triple roles, but I was fortunate enough because I sat with Akash Khorana’s son and Robin Bhatt on this screenplay for about 60 days. Then I said now let’s complicate it. Let’s have triple roles for all the three guys. Then I said, let’s throw away what we have in the bin and start afresh. They were like ‘why are you going against your own screenplay’. I said no I want to make it more challenging for the audience. Let’s give them same names. So they said ‘Oh My God’ it’s like entering a labyrinth and then trying to get out of a crystal maze with the only key in your hand is a Rubics cube where you have to set all the colours and you are blindfolded. So I said ya, we did that and that took us about 15 days and good six and seven hour sessions. After that I said now let’s decomplex it. I said let’s make it so easy for even a three or five year child to understand. That took another 15 days and I said now the results will be hilarious and that’s when I worked very hard on it and that should not be any solace to the audience, because they don’t care how hard you work. They just want to come to the theatre and enjoy themselves.
How long did it take you to write?
I had the idea of the story with me during Himmatwala. That’s what I do. I sign a film while working on one but then I start principle work only after the film I am working on has released. It’s like the UTV film with Saif now, I will start only in the first week of July. I know the idea and I know the story in my head but actual getting down to writing the screenplay and scenes, it can only happen once one baby is up on its legs.
Do you feel like you have boxed in comedy now forever, or will you try different genre?
I don’t think so, why should I? I think certain brands work in a particular way because people are accustomed to seeing them do that.
But won’t be bored of doing the same thing over and over again?
I don’t think so. And quite honestly why should I attempt something else when I feel I have such a good time laughing and enjoying while making such films. The unit laughs, the actors are pleasant, and we have so much fun while working… while shooting, while dubbing and seeing the trials.
Absolutely. Do you feel that a lot of your audience is kids?
Not only kids, I think teenagers.
You have drawn criticism for the slapstick aspect. You obviously know that because you have made fun of that in your trailer. So this one have slapstick humour as well?
Of course it is. It has every shade of comedy. I view comedy as a very serious business because I feel what may not make you and me laugh, will make an eighteen and twenty year old laugh.
Do you laugh at slapstick?
Sometimes I do. I think when Jim Carry does it, I laugh. Peter Sellers has done it. Kishore Kumar…Why do we revere them as as kings of comedy? But the the correct word to describe my film is situational comedies. The comedy arises out of the situation, and then I play within the structure.
So you had fun making Humshakals?
The biggest proof I can give you of how much fun I have had and how hard I have worked is this: During every film I have put on weight, this is the only film in which I have lost weight and it’s very difficult to lose weight when you are 42.
Why did you pile on weight earlier?
This is the only film where I was working 18 hours a day. I have not been in a relationship during this film so my only attention was the film. I have not had a single day off since the day Housefull 2 released on April 6, 2012. We worked on bank holidays, and even worked on Diwali.
Are you a workaholic?
I have become one in the last two to three years. I have become one because I feel my time is very limited. I am 42, I don’t know how long I can keep going.
Woody Allen is still making movies in his eighties..you have forty more years…
Ya I know. My thing is I would like to retire before I quit. I would like to make as many movies as I can, not jumble them up together like make two or three movies at a time. I can make one movie a year, so I guess I have about ten or twelve good movies left with me, and all comedies, which I can probably sit back when I am 55 and may be watch them and laugh.
Do you see yourself casting Jacqueline in any of these movies?
The film has its own casting, every film has its own commitments.
She got a lot of flak when your relationship ended. The general opinion was that she walked from you away the worst period of your life. Do you agree?
I think it’s a question better asked to her than to me. I have just realized one thing in my life that one must have the courage to go on and on and that’s precisely what I have done. I have been like a horse with blinders where the only thing that mattered to me was my film. I know that I have been a good son, a good brother and a damn good friend and a damn good boyfriend. I know that and I don’t need certificates from anybody to tell me. It’s like this realization the I have been speaking my mouth off not realizing that the other person is thinking that I am an asshole.” But the other person doesn’t have the courage to tell me that I am an asshole because my films successful. But wait till one of the films don’t work, then that person will have the courage to tell you ‘listen, you are an asshole’. Why does the person have to gauge you by your success or failure. Why can’t this person just be fond of you, I am a very nice likeable guy, I am fun guy to be with …
Do you think you are a likeable guy?
I don’t think so because you speak your mind that people don’t like to hear that.
No, you live in the past. In the last two years I have not changed completely as a person but I now know what not to say. I also think I have become a little more reserved. I think I have become a little more politically correct.
But that’s not you, right?
How do you know?
Because you call a spade a spade
Yes, nothing wrong with that but I have also realized that if you have called me home for dinner and you ask me how is the food. We all know that the food was bad but I am not going to tell you anymore that the food was bad. I’ll tell you, ‘Next time you come to my house’. May be you will get a hint. But earlier I would have told you that is the worst food I have in my life and I am want to throw up, where is the dustbin. But so I gues people will say, “achcha yaar, now he is trying to put on this good boy act.
Yes, everyone will think this is only till your next hit, and you will go back to being your old self.
I don’t need success or failure for me to change, you are not understanding. I changed because I realized that with all the negativity which Himmatwala carried, I realized that something is very wrong and it’s not got to do with the film, it’s got to do with me. Please understand that. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being nasty again in my life, irrespective of whether Humshakals works or not. Of course there will be certain people even now who will not want even Humshakals to work. But that is the mark of the film industry. As an industry we are not very happy with somebody else’s success.
That’s true. That image of the industry being one big happy family is a mirage.
But at the end of the day I am not trying to win a popularity contest of being Mr.Nice. It’s just that, I think I have understood one thing. I have got my Mojo band and my Mojo was that I used to be very funny. Over the last three to four years, I had stopped being funny. So what if my movies were funny, but my funny was insulting. My funny was hurting someone. Now I am funny on my own. I am having a better time in my life and I am happier just working and laughing and I have started wearing funny T shirts.
Are you a different person on the set and off the set?
No. I am the same. I just like to work in an environment where people are enjoying themselves. Right from the first shot I took of Akshay Kumar in Hey Baby to the last shot I took of Saif in Humshakals in five films, I feel that it’s such a privilege and an honour for me to work with stars. So I feel they should be at home and they should feel like coming to the set the next day because what we are making is not history. We are making just another movie which we hope will have a good result and people will enjoy, so let’s enjoy ourselves while making it. The process, the journey should also be as fun as perhaps the destination will be.
How flexible you are at the sets?
Very flexible. In fact there are many a times when I take suggestions from my actors as to how do you feel we should do this or you do it and show it to me. Sometimes they come up with brilliant ideas. Actors are very intelligent people. If they weren’t that intelligent they wouldn’t be in the position they are in. Of course they have to be guided, they have to be coaxed. Of course they have to be scolded sometimes, and they have to be emotionally black mailed in some things which they will not agree to do in a scene. I interact a lot with actors, I interact a lot with the DOP, assistants..I interact a lot with almost everybody on the set and I feel if a director has his vision , his vision must be clear and loud and understood by those two hundred people on the set. Everybody must know what’s inside his head. So I share my thoughts aloud.
You shut yourself completely after Himmatwala.
Because I felt I didn’t want any distractions. I got bgan writing my next film. I realized that there will be people expecting you to hit out and abuse somebody, or defend myself, the film or give stinging interviews. I didn’t want to deal with that. I didn’t want to talk. I just went under the grid and now I have come out of the grid. Resurfaced and I think in my head a slightly more matured person, slightly more easier person, slightly more calmer person and almost like I think the best therapy is work therapy, and that’s what I did to myself. I just disassociated myself, not that I have been or done anything wrong but when I look back at certain interviews of mine on Youtube and I have realized “Listen, you have spoken like an asshole man, don’t do that because that effect will just last for a minute but the after effect is going to effect you a lot,” and that’s precisely what happened.
Failure made you a softer person..
(laughs) No, it’s made me a little harder person because the softness around the bulge of my stomach has gone. I have lost twenty kilos.
What’s with the Tamanna rumour?
Ok once and for all, Tamanna is a kid sister, there you go. I hope that ends it once and for all, please. It’s the stupidest rumor I have ever heard. She laughed about it, I laughed about it. I told her listen just lets laugh about it. It’s not just distasteful, it’s baseless. I am very protective about all my heroines. I am very protective about all my actors for that matter. Do you know that I used to walk all my actors to their cars. I have done it with Akshay, Ajay, Saif, Riteish….I love my actors, I love my girls. I am very close to my girls, I am very close to my actors. We sit and we hang out. Why do you think there is so much exuberance and fun in my video blogs or in my promos, or in my promotions.
Are you going to be one of those eternal bachelors like Salman?
I don’t know…How do you know I am single?
Are you saying you are not?
I am not saying I am but I am not saying that I am not. I am saying that there is a certain part of your life, it must be personal.
But why do people hide it when they you are in love. ………
But why do people need to flaunt if from roof tops?
You don’t. But going to the lengths of arriving in separate cars to the same venue etc. Is it necessary?
No. I have never done that. I think my last relationship was pretty much open, we were living together to end all rumors Close friends knew, the industry also knew and people also knew. I don’t think I am going to be an eternal bachelor all my life. It’s just that I keep very quiet about my personal life. I am a very very private person. That’s why I am not on twitter.
That’s the Parsi side of you.
Ya, but perhaps that’s why I am not on Face Book.
But you are on Twitter
For two months during Housefull 1, I was made to go on twitter at gun point by Ritiesh and Karan one night. They said, ‘you must, you must, it will help the film.’ And then on 30th of April when Housefull released I bid farewell to all the twitter people. Though I was very popular, I didn’t realize that lacs of people following me.
Does twitter really help get you the audience?
I don’t know whether it gets the audiences or not but it does spread awareness, I know that for a fact. I think any social media platform helps ………….
So why won’t you do it for your film?
There are many actors on in my film who is on twitter. Butwon’t people on Twitter feel a little cheated that he has only come to promote the film? I wouldn’t want to do that. I wouldn’t want to cheat anybody. But I promise you, I will give you my word of honor, I will reconsider it if my movie is a big hit.
You should, you have go so much knowledge.
I have been thinking about it. Hopefully Humshakals is a big hit I will go on twitter.
Ok Finally, three reasons why people should go and watch Humshakals.
Well, if people have enjoyed my comedies like Housefull One and Housefull two, then they will certainly like this one a lot.
Is Humshakals like Angoor in any form?
Not at all, because Angoor by itself was a remake of a film called Do Dooni Char, which was based on Comedy Of Errors. Which is world property. Like any of Shakespeare’s plays. Most classic double role films always have a blood line. By which I mean that that they end up brothers or they end up sisters in the end. Humshakals is not. No one is connected. Its co incidental that there are three people who have people who look like them and guess what they are all in London and they all turn out to be the same houses and they have the same names and then they interchange. I think in terms of coolness its cooler than Hey Baby and Hey Baby was very cool for its time in 2007 with a title like Hey Baby. It’s cooler than that in 2014. That’s what I have done. Fatherhood changes you motherhood changes you. It makes you more responsible. No I haven’t changed, I have just evolved.
You put your heroines in bikins but didn’t want to see your girlfriend in swimwear. Isn’t that double standards?
No, how is it double standards. In Housefull One, there were bikinis, Hey Baby, there was a lot of glamour, in Housefull 2, the girls have done a very hot song wearing hot pants. Housefull 2 wasn’t the kind of film which required extra leg show or swim show because every scene of the film had a father in it. I have never ever anything in my film distasteful. I would like to keep it in such a zone there they look hot, sensuous, and sexy but you can watch it with your family and not feel embarasssed. I have never had double standards and for me no one is above my film. My film is God to me. My film is what the audience needs to watch and enjoy and I cannot let anything, anything personal or impersonal, professional or unprofessional come between the audience and my film. That has been my structure for life even when I have been doing standup comedy on television or hosting shows. I used to not really bother about the channel said. And that is how I will always be about my work.