Brother-sister duo — Saqib Saleem and Huma Qureshi – gets candid about their forthcoming horror film Dobaara and their quarrelsome yet loving bond, with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): Dobaara is a remake of the popular Hollywood supernatural horror film Oculus. How did the project come your way, and what got you excited about doing the film?
Huma Qureshi (HQ): Vikram Khakhar got in touch with us and said that Relativity Media wanted to come to India and they were collaborating with B4U to remake the hit 2013 Hollywood film Oculus, which is a brother-sister story. I thought it sounded interesting. Vikram was having a parallel conversation with Saqib and said that if we were both interested, they would like to make the film with us. So I spoke to Saqib, who had already watched the film and was keen on doing it.
Saqib Saleem (SS): I had watched the film when it released in 2013 and loved it. I believe that, in India, we have not been able to do justice to the horror genre. We often add a little sleaze to the content and thus lose the family audience. When I watched this film, it was a good film and it’s a genuine horror film. I feel that our country deserves a genuine horror film, where we call our audience to cinemas to scare them. I told Huma, ‘Don’t take pressure, I have watched the film and I liked it but you too watch and if you think we both have something to do in it, we should do it.’ She watched the film and liked it, and then we got on board.
Also, we read the script. They had an Indian adaptation of the script and had made some changes to it. They had also added some characters to the film. We read the final draft and it was very good.
BOI: How have your characters been altered for the Hindi version?
HQ: Well, usually, people adapt a story or maybe even steal the story because there are only a handful of filmmakers who can proudly say that they have officially adapted a story or are officially remaking a story. Then, later, they make changes like Patricia ka Parminder ban jata hai.
In Dobaara, the story revolves around an Indian family who lives in London. It is not a frame-by-frame replica of the original film, Oculus, there are many changes. I don’t want to say much about the movie because I would have to give away the story, but I can tell you that there is a brother and a sister who meet after many years. They haven’t met since they were kids, when something happened that had destroyed their family. When they meet in the present, they talk about that incident, dobaara, and they reconnect. But a lot has changed and the interpretation of events has changed. Since the characters are Indian, people will relate to them.
SS: (Cuts in) We have a very good emotional connect in our film. Relationships in Western films are usually dry, and that applies to the Hollywood Oculus too. On the other hand, we Indians are a little emotional and hume pyaar aur emotions kut kut kar khilaya jata hai bachpanse. We have shown that love in our film. I think the emotional quotient is high. There isn’t much melodrama but there is a certain amount of drama in the film. Like Huma said, there are many new characters in this film. There are a lot of back stories, which the original film doesn’t have. Sure, it is our own interpretation but we have maintained the essence of the original film which has been adapted for the Indian audience.
BOI: As you mentioned, our Indian audience doesn’t have much to choose from in the horror genre. What will this film deliver that other Indian horror films haven’t been able to?
SS: The attempt is to make a genuine horror film and not club it with another genre or add slow, romantic songs. I think every song has its own space, so you cannot insert a seductive, romantic song in the middle of the madness in a horror film. That just spoils the flow of the film. I can say that Dobaara is a genuine horror film and we are promising you nothing more than scaring you. You will not fall in love with the characters… of course, both the characters are lovely, but our intension is to scare the audience.
BOI: While there are no song-and-dance numbers in the film, what kind of music does the film have?
SS: There is no music in the film; it is a song-less film. But we Indians do not understand that, we like to listen to songs and so we have an album.
HQ: We have a couple of songs… one is Kaari kaari and another will release soon.
SS: We released Kaari kaari a few days ago. It is a very beautiful song composed by Arko. The song has two points of view, one of them being the incident. Also, you will see that they are both very disturbed and that pain is evident in that song. There is one more song called Humdard, which will be out soon.
BOI: The flipside of making a remake is that the audience has already seen it…
SS: That’s the reason we are not using the word ‘remake’. We are saying ‘adaptation’ because…
HQ: It’s not a cut-copy-paste…
SS: We have added to the film…
BOI: But there will be comparisons…
SS: That happened when Don 1 was made and also while making Agneepath and its remake. We can’t fight those things. Let’s not even get into that debate. We are saying we made a standalone film. Yes, of course, it’s been inspired, adapted from another film, but it’s a new and different film, it’s got new twists, it’s got new turns, it’s got new characters, it’s an emotional graph which you didn’t get to see in the other film and it’s an Indian story. Humne thoda sa dimag lagaya hai ispe.
BOI: Is it correct to say that producers are now willing to shell out money to experiment with the kind of genres they make?
HQ: Absolutely. And this film is also an experimental film, in its own way. It’s a high-concept, low-budget film. So we have also experimented and had a blast. People will not make a film like this with anybody else.
SS: We are evolving in different ways and are coming up with good films like Neerja, Airlift and NH10. So why hold back with only this genre? We are in the space where tantrik aake bhoot bhaga rahe hai, ya shower se khoon nikal raha hai.. So we have to evolve with every film. I can’t remember a genuine spooky film in a long time. The last I saw was Raat, which had Revathi and was directed by Ram Gopal Varma. And, when a movie like The Conjuring comes to India, it does good business, so we do have an audience, we just have to provide them with the right kind of films.
HQ: I have discovered that my brother is a very professional co-actor and I never expected that from him. When I look back, he is much more professional than I was. I always thought of him in terms of being my brother, not a professional actor. But I think he made that distinction very clearly and I am very impressed with him. Our parents were very worried about us working together. They said, ‘Don’t fight while shooting.’ As an actor, I have watched him grow but, in this film, I got to see how he approaches his characters. He was always ready with his lines, on time, and just very professional. He is a really warm person and I don’t think there is a single person on the sets, who has not fallen for Saqib. He was the most-loved person on the sets.
SS: When you are offered a film, you are excited and you get to discover your co-actors only when you go on the sets and start shooting with them. But, here, I was working with an actress with whom I have grown up. So I told myself that I had to forget the fact that she is my sister and approach it as if we were just two co-stars. Also, since we know each other so well, we could improvise easily.
HQ: Many people will relate to our brother-sister bonding in the film.
SS: If a family won’t work together in a film, then no family will come together to watch a film. This is our marketing strategy… If a family will work together, then families will come to watch the film.
BOI: Our families are the only people who are brutally honest with us. Were you guys honest with each other while working on this in film, in terms of telling each other whether a shot was good or bad etc?
HQ: We don’t have any filters.
SS: This is a chat both of us had, that in this industry we come across people who will compliment you but you will hardly come across someone who says, ‘This shot is not good but I know you can do much better.’ I told her that we need a reality check and why don’t we become that for each other? So if Huma didn’t perform well, then I had to be the first one to tell her that.
HQ: And he does tell me…
SS: And this is how we work, we don’t want to compliment each other without reason. For compliments, we have reviews and people around us who will do that. We also know people who say bad things but they won’t connect like we do. And we don’t get hurt because we know it’s coming from a place of love. It’s coming from a person whom we love and that is how we work.
HQ: When Saqib tells me anything, it’s like an extension of my own thoughts. So we never look upon criticism as an attack.
SS: Huma has a very good quality and that is, she is very alive in her scenes. Most actors memorise their lines and it doesn’t matter what their co-actor says before and after those lines. What Huma does is, she doesn’t get crazy about it. She knows her lines, sometimes she forgets her lines but she is always alive within the scene. If I improvise, she improvises back. The thing is that you are alive in that moment and you connect with your co-actor. That is one very good thing about her. I think most actors do not listen to their co-stars. They are just waiting to say their lines.