Having made his debut as an actor a long time ago, he got into film production with Dabangg, which turned out to be a blockbuster. With the sequel, he turned director and the film is considered to be the biggest entertainment extravaganza of the year. Here’s the man who helmed Dabangg 2, Arbaaz Khan, in conversation with Shabdita Shrivastav
Your transition from an actor to a producer and then a director has taken place in quick succession.
It seems like that but I think it’s a little delayed. I should have turned director or producer a long time ago. But I don’t think there could have been a better way to turn producer or director than with the Dabangg franchise. Even though I feel this is the right time to have turned director, I could have done it some time ago.
Did you always want to become a director?
Yes, I have always wanted to direct. That doesn’t mean I did not enjoy acting but it didn’t bring me the recognition I have received as a director and as a producer. Helming a film gives you creative control over what you want to do and how you want the project to shape up or how you want to go about certain things. I have always felt more like a behind-the-scenes kind of person.
What prompted you to turn producer with Dabangg?
Desperation prompted me to become a producer. I was doing nothing and I needed to get my career started. I was looking for something to change my profession, to change something in my life. I was hoping that maybe a good story or something good would come my way. I kept my eyes and ears open and waited for an opportunity. When it came, I capitalised on it.
You are making your directorial debut at a stage when Salman Khan is at the peak of his career and there are huge expectations. Did this bother you while making the film?
First of all, you have to have self-belief when you take on a project or a challenge like this. But this also brings a certain amount of anxiety and nervousness, which is natural. I was very confident about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. The anxiety and nervousness comes from the uncertainty attached to anything you do, whether films or life itself.
When making his debut as an actor in Daraar
There was a lot of apprehension about how people would accept me as an actor and the career path I would cut after that. I think my performance was well received by everyone.
When producing Dabanagg
I was a little more confident as the producer of Dabangg than I was as an actor in Daraar. I was happier producing.
When directing Dabangg 2
Honestly, I am anxious. But I am equally excited and confident.
When Dabangg was announced, it was expected to be a blockbuster. There are huge expectations from the sequel too. Would you accept anything less than a blockbuster from Dabangg 2?
No, I would NOT accept anything less than a blockbuster from Dabangg 2 as the film has sufficient reason to be a smash-hit. God forbid, should that not happen, I would be terribly disappointed.
The music of Dabangg 2 is similar to that of Dabangg. It’s being called a ‘repertoire’ of the previous movie. Was this deliberate?
It’s the kind of film that inspires that kind of music. The characters have to look right while singing a song. When Chulbul Pandey is singing Dagabaaz re, it looks believable. So his character romances his love interest in a certain kind of way. We had a Mast mast do nain and here we have a Dagabaaz re, which are two different songs. If the songs were in any other film, you wouldn’t have compared them. If Pandeyji was a character in another film, you would not have said they were similar, like Hamka peeni hai or if Fevicol se was in another film, you would not have said that Munni badnam hui and Fevicol se were similar.
And even if there are similarities, there is a freshness and newness to the songs of Dabangg 2. You don’t need to have something diametrically opposite every time. There are bound to be similarities between a film and its sequel so that there is continuity. Doesn’t Batman wear the same outfit in all the Batman films?
You are acting, directing and producing Dabangg 2. What’s it like to multi-task?
It was tough and it took its toll on me. When the movie was over, I was relieved. I was able to give my best to each of these three aspects but I don’t think I will be able to do all three together again. One of them will have to take a back seat.
Is it true that in Dabangg 2, Chedhi Singh’s twin brother (played by Sonu Sood) was supposed to take revenge but since Sood walked out of the project, the script was changed?
Not at all. We thought we would repeat Sonu Sood in the sequel because he was accepted big time in part one. Also, he is a good actor and so we wanted him to be part of the sequel too. We toyed with the idea but we later felt there was no role for him in the sequel. It was a mutual decision that incorporating his character would not add to the film. We both agreed that neither would it help him, nor the film.
Dabangg was a blockbuster. You could have made any other film or a film with new actors or, for that matter, a film with other actors. Why did you choose to direct Dabangg 2?
Only a fool would have said NO to Dabangg 2. Also, since I wanted to become a director, this was the best opportunity. We didn’t think of making Dabangg 2 while making the original. Fortunately, the sequel grew out of a need in people. When people ask you why you aren’t making a sequel, you realise a sequel needs to be made.
Half the sequels being made today need not really have been made. Everyone thinks that every successful film can turn into a franchise. That’s not true. One has to wait and watch. When people ask why don’t you make a sequel, why doesn’t the character continue, that’s when you start entertaining the idea. When we make a film, we don’t have a sequel in mind. All you’re concentrating on is the movie at hand. A sequel can only be made in a very successful franchise.
What next after Dabangg 2?
It’s too early to say what I will be doing. After I’m done with this movie, I will decide what I want to do next and what the next story or script is that excites me to make in into a film.
Sonakshi Sinha on producer Arbaaz Khan
He portrays all his roles with utmost ease. When I was working on Dabangg, where Arbaaz was the producer, I did not have any problems on the sets. He was very hands-on. I think when an actor is very happy with every aspect of his or her job, the producer’s job is well done.
Sonakshi Sinha on director Arbaaz Khan
Arbaaz Khan is a fantastic director. It did not seem like he was directing for the first time. I think he was born to direct. I told him he should have turned director long time ago. He is very sorted and is thorough with the script. He knows exactly what he wants from his actors, and he also knows exactly how to take his shots.
Producer-director Arbaaz Khan on Sonakshi Sinha
First, she is a fantastic actress and second, she is a very disciplined and down-to-earth person. She is an actress who submits to the director and it’s wonderful to have her in the film. She is a thorough professional.
Actor Arbaaz Khan on Salman Khan as co-actor
Salman Khan is a very giving co-star. He does not hog the limelight. He is a very contributing actor. He makes sure the scene is not only about him. Sometimes he shares his lines or adds a line to another actor’s script or maybe tell the actor to do something that will add to the other actor’s presence on screen.
Producer Arbaaz Khan on actor Salman Khan
As a producer, I feel that Salman Khan is a dream actor. Anyone who signs Salman can consider themselves very fortunate.
Director Arbaaz khan on actor Salman Khan
Salman Khan is a brilliant actor who is coming into his own. He made the character of Chulbul Pandey iconic. He is a very spontaneous actor, he knows his audience, he knows his connect, and he has that special something about him.