Guest Editor Sajid Nadiadwala in conversation with team Box Office India
Sajid Nadiadwala (SN): It’s quite difficult. Some are lucky, some were dedicated. I can only speak for myself. I worked non-stop for 27 years, just like Salman Khan. Holidays are when you’re shooting overseas. Like, Housefull ke liye, abroad gaye toh chhutti mana li or Anjaana Anjaani ke liye, USA gaye toh its like vacation. And now we are shooting in Corsica for Tamasha. So when we go there for work, we take some time to sightsee. We were dedicated and were also lucky, and luckily, the right things happened to us.
BOI: Is it also because you’ve maintained a good rapport with everyone?
SN: In the ’80s, a good rapport meant you knew an actor and drank with them late into the night. In the ’90s, the concept changed to a producer who was loaded with money paying the actor what they demanded. Things have since changed – you should give money, you should also have a relationship with the person and have a good track record of not only making good cinema but successful cinemas. I might say I am not talented when it comes to production but people might see some talent in me. Koi hoga jo bolega nahi talent hai. Eventually, it’s a blend of luck and talent, relationship se kuch nahi hota.
SN: That’s very difficult to say… because we have been doing nothing but working and God has been very kind. Koi achchi film hit nahi huyi toh taklif hoti hai… In between, we faced some problems getting visas for London during the shoot of Kick but we cannot complain because it wasn’t a big issue. People say it’s difficult to make projects but all I have been doing is working. One day, I decided to not make a film. That was after Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega. After that film, I felt very tired and I thought I should take a break of two to three years. I felt I should settle down, so I got married and had children. Then I felt like making another film and I made Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. Then I thought I should make one film a year. Four years ago, good talent started coming in to the industry, with filmmakers like Imtiaz Ali and Kabir Khan. So I didn’t have the luxury to make only one film a year.
There may be a time when I don’t feel like making any more films, which is fine because I don’t have any corporate staff working for me. I don’t have a turnover; it’s a small family. I have only two kids. There is no hard and fast rule that I should release films every quarter, that I should make a certain number of films in a specified period of time. This year, I had four releases – Highway, 2 States, Heropanti and now Kick. Actually, there was a fifth, Phantom, which we postponed to next year because my staff is working 18-20 hours a day.
I decided mazdoori karke fayeda nahi hai. So Phantom is releasing on April 3, 2015. So, once again, next year, we will have four films – Phantom, Tamasha, one with Tiger Shroff and Housefull 3. And I am planning another film with Kabir Khan. But there could be a year when we don’t have a single release at all.
BOI: Three hits in your kitty already and now there’s Kick. Do you think this has been the best year of your career?
SN: I hope this is not the best year of my life. This year should be the worst year like arey, sirf chaar hi hit hai yaar. Yeh toh sabse bura saal hai! (Laughs)
SN: We have been thinking guys, my team and I are always thinking. Every morning we discuss what we can do that’s new. If we watched a film the previous night, we wonder whether we can make a film on similar lines. Can we design a film like that? America mein yeh film hit huyi hai, aisa kuch karein? There are some films made by creators like Imtiaz Ali and Kabir Khan, and we can help them design a project. For instance, we designed Highway. We thought even if the film earns around Rs 15 crore, we will make a profit because it’s a small-budget film made on a budget of only Rs 8 crore. It earned Rs 30 crore. So I apply my mind to how we can make this film an international product. Similarly with Kabir’s film. I learn from people and then teach my team.
So, whatever I learnt from Imtiaz or Kabir and all the big directors I have worked with, I convey that to Sabbir Khan. Then I discuss it with my team and see whether we can make it work, like how we make a wonderful combination with Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan and Riteish Deshmukh. That’s a funny combination. We think cinema 24X7 and we adapt a lot of stuff from other people.
BOI: Speaking of maintaining relationships… you did a couple of films with David Dhawan and a couple of films with Raj Kanwar..
SN: (Cuts in) My grandfather did three films with Amitabh Bachchan, Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra.
BOI: Aapko log chhodke kyun nahi jaate?
SN: You should ask them, not me. My colour of money is the same colour as everyone else’s. In fact, I pay 10 per cent less than others do. It’s just that since I am also a creative producer, I take away all the excess trouble a director is usually burdened with, like waiting outside the vanity van of an actor. All my directors never have to struggle with actors. Creatively, I never sit behind the monitor but the only thing I insist on is that I have a say in the final cut. Corporate agreements stipulate that a film should not exceed 2 hours, 20 minutes. But we have oral agreements…be it when Sabbir made Heropanti or (Sajid) Khan made Housefull 1 and 2.
SN: More than work, talent and luck, there is the human element. You’re also growing older. I started working at 22 and am 48 now. During my entire career, I have had only one film that flopped. Whether Andolan or Waqt Hamara Hai, we have made money from all our films. There was only one flop, Jaan-E-Mann. But that’s my favorite film and the critics gave it four and a half stars.
So I don’t believe in hard-and-fast rules. Like, Salim (Khan) uncle always tells me ‘Taqdir paise laati hai, akkal gawati hai’. If I write an autobiography one day, it will tell all these stories. 99 per cent of what I think is intelligent, never shapes up like if I had planned. I planned a few films with various actors whom I don’t want to name but they didn’t materialise…and thank God they did not! And while making some other films, I would say it to myself, ‘Yeh main kya kar raha hoon?’ And those films became money spinners! There are films I have made with my third choice of cast and these have always become blockbusters. There are so many talented people out there but nothing is happening to them. Van ke bahar hi unki zindagi khatam ho jaati hai, gate se van tak life khatam.
I’ve had the same team with me for 22 years. They may not be very savvy but they are hardworking and loyal. I have also never done any PR for my films. The first film for which I did any PR was Jaan-E-Mann and… game over! We didn’t do any PR during Judwaa, Jeet, Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega. There used to be this old guy like a peon, Ramesh (Kerur), who used to come with a bag. If even one picture would get published in Mayapuri magazine, we used to be happy.
SN: That happened by default. There was this joke about a Sardaar ‘Woh Sardaar ek bachche ko well se bacha ke laata hai, sab bolte hai Sardaar kya kaam kiya tune… and he turns around and says, ‘Woh toh theek hai dhakka kisne maara?’ That’s what happened with me too. We were talking to some people about direction but nothing was shaping up. Dates jaa rahe thhe Salman ke and I was worried.
One day, I asked him ‘what to do?’ and he said, ‘Why don’t you direct it?’ I nodded for one second, kya boloon, kya karoon? By then, he had tweeted ‘Grandson has become a director.’ I returned home and told my mother, ‘Mummy, main director ban gaya.’ She was shocked. Then we got the right team together and we faced a visa hassle during the first schedule itself. So we started shooting from January 27 and then I developed a back problem. So I used to lie down while shooting. Salman apna shot deke aake haal chaal pooch ke jaata tha. Bed chalta tha mere saath.
Then it was time to release the trailer and we were not happy with the cut. So my editor and I cut the trailer together. We started getting reactions and people like Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan tweeted about it. My editor and I looked at each other and thought, ‘Yeh toh achcha kaam ho gaya!’ We were just doing our work but now we can take all the credit. Like, that train scene in the trailer which everyone is talking about. It will go down in history even though it happened by default. We were not getting a train to shoot and suddenly we got one. According to the scene, the cycle was to cross the tracks before the train did. Suddenly Salman said, ‘Let’s do it like this… I leave the cycle and I walk.’ Everyone disagreed because the light was falling and we had little time. No one wanted to change it at the last minute but he insisted that he would abandon the cycle and cross the rest of the tracks on foot. I told him, ‘It’s a train and you have to be scared.’ But when he delivered that shot, we gaped at each other, speechless. It was FANTASTIC. We couldn’t have taken another take anyway. It all happened organically.
Now we are wondering how we can match the film with the trailer. Trailer toh nikal gaya, khush bhi ho gaye log aur soch rahe hai trailer se kamaal hogi film. We are wondering whether the film will live up to the trailer! When Salman suggested that I direct the film, I had no choice. I started working just as I used to with other directors, except that this time, I was sitting behind the monitor. Earlier, I used to visit the sets at lunch time but, during this film, I used to reach at six in the morning.
That’s the difference, my people helped me. If I had any doubts, I used to ask Imtiaz. During the sound mixing, I used to ask Kabir to look at it. During the poster designing, Sabbir helped me. My DoP, Ayanka Bose, was very nice. So everyone rallied. I knew the basic work because I have delivered 17 to 19 super hit films. I figured there must have been a reason. That reason came into play while making Kick. But aisa response aayega socha nahi tha.