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Sajid Versus Sajid

The hit producer-director duo – Sajid Nadiadwala and Sajid Khan – is back with their latest offering, Housefull 2. This time, we at Box Office India took a back seat and let the witty Khan grill the maverick Nadiadwala. Here’s how it went…

Sajid Khan (SK): Saj, what has motivated you for so many years, to make films without actually chasing profits? You have usually made films which you and your family would like to see. Sometimes, those films have gone over-budget but that did not deter you. So what is the driving force behind your passion over profit?

Sajid Nadiadwala (SN): You know that since I was in school back in 1986, we had our own theatre in Malad.

SK: (Interrupts) Yes, the New Era theatre.

SN: No. Savera in Malad. We used to watch every film almost 25 to 50 times there. Right since then, I was sure that I had a knack for films. It, sort of, runs in your blood. Being a chartered accountant, there was always a fear of debit and credit balancing. Then, jab story sitting hoti hai tab creativity flow hoti hai. Then you feel, bas ek sequence chahiye, and then you feel ab ek aur sequence chahiye. Or you feel the climax should be stretched. So there is always a tussle between a chartered accountant and a creative producer. Eventually, the creative producer wins.

Even when I was making films like Aandolan, Waqt Hamara Hai and Zulm Ki Hukumat, I used to go over-budget. I was down by Rs 8-10 crore. This was in 1990, which, aaj ke hissab se, is Rs 150 crore. I was also unlucky because I made films but I didn’t earn good returns. Zulm Ki Hukumat was really appreciated but that time things didn’t really click. I guess I am lucky now. You know, when we started Heyy Babyy, I had no idea why we were making it. It was more like two friends, you and me, getting together for a project.

SK: Yes, in fact I remember during Heyy Babyy, you had asked me what I thought the budget of the movie would be. I said I would need Rs 10-12 crore and you ended up spending Rs 30 crore plus! I wanted to base the film in Delhi and you took us to Sydney!(Laughs)

That is the power you have as a producer. I think you pump the money you earn back into your films. How, then, do you manage to run such a big office?

SN: There are times when I am alone in my office and I realise that with such a big organisation, kuch karna chahiye. I should make four or five films every year. But, eventually, kuch banti nahi hai. There have been times the actors and I have met and they have green-lighted a film but the film has been shelved after three months. Kuch na kuch hota rehta hai. Of course, luck is also a consideration.

SK: There are around five top production houses in the country today. Yours is one of them. But, unlike you, the others are also making small budget films either to create new-age cinema or to make a quick buck. Why haven’t you made small budget films?

SN: As you mentioned, Heyy Babyy was budgeted at Rs 10 crore and we ended up spending much more. I feel if I make a film, say, Paan Singh Tomar, for instance, I would end up spending Rs 80 crore and I would go bankrupt! I have a responsibility, I have two sons now and an organisation of 100 people. I am also responsible to the distributors and people expect so much from my banner. I can’t let them down. Also, there are so many people in small towns. They do not get to see even a proper trailer before the release of our films. So in a way, you are cheating the audience. They come from places like Assam, Orissa, Bihar and MP, and they come with expectations due to the brand. If the film is produced by Sajid Nadiadwala and directed by Sajid Khan, it has to be an entertaining movie.

SK: We have a track record.

SN: Track record bhi hai aur inko pata hai ki inki picture achchi hoti hai. They know that we are not scientists that we will experiment with cinema. There is a saying in the film industry that festival cinema banayi aur logon ke festivals kharab kar diye. I don’t want to fall into that category.

SK: Yes, as I always say, crossover cinema is when people are watching a film on screen one at a multiplex and then they cross over to another screen to watch another film. (Laughs)

SN: Jokes apart, I feel I am not prepared to make small budget films. I do watch these films, sometimes more than once, but I am of a different mentality. Till I begin to make

only one or two films a year, I will not try that type of cinema. Perhaps after two to three years, when I want to work on 15 or 20 films… Then it’s a different story. Also, we are a private limited company, not a public limited company. It is our personal investment. I go to the public only once, and that’s on a Friday.

SK: That’s when we want unlimited public, not limited!

SN: They take the public’s money and then they go to the public again on Friday. (Laughs)

SK: When you made your debut in 1990, you were the youngest producer in the country. At the time, there were around 15 to 20 big producers. You are the only producer who has survived this long. How did you manage that?

SN: I was 21 when I graduated and then I studied chartered accountancy. When people indulged in alcohol, I studied sincerely. I wasn’t 100 per cent sincere but at least 70 or 80 per cent. Luck was also on my side. Us chakkar mein I just sailed through. Today, the competition is fierce and there are almost 200 people working at the same time. So there are big banners and names, like Karan Johar working on several ideas simultaneously; there’s Farhan Akhtar working on something and Aditya Chopra working too. There is a lot of competition and it’s very healthy. Back in 1990, there wasn’t a lot of competition. At the time, there was always someone busy drinking somewhere! (Laughs)

But if I manage to sail through now, it would be a feather in my cap because now the pressure is intense and a lot of hard work goes into our films. Actors also work day and night. They are not into alcohol, women or glamour. Everyone is busy focussing on how to publicise their film, how to write a good film and how to make something different.

SK: Unlike other production houses, you have always believed in making commercial films.

SN: After Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, everyone said aisi filmon ka zamana khatam ho gaya as there was a lull. But now look at Dabangg, Ready, Bodyguard, 3 Idiots, Golmaal 3, Singham and Agneepath. The top seven films are all commercial films.

SK: I think all the top 20 films are commercial. There are no offbeat films at the top.

SN: In 2007, when we made Heyy Babyy, crossover films were in vogue. They were making films which were different.

SK: These films were ‘cooler’ and were around 2 hours, 5 minutes’ long. They were dubbed ‘international’. That’s why the trailer of Heyy Babyywas path-breaking, as it had an English soundtrack and English sound.

SN: Yes, it was also rumoured that that was the end of commercial masala cinema.

SK: For me, commercial cinema can never die. Of course, bad cinema will never work and good cinema always will. People said that Ready and Bodyguard were not good films. But I beg to differ. You can be lucky once but not in the second and third week.

Box Office India: In the ‘90s, most filmmakers thought the big money was in the overseas market until they realised that business can cross Rs 100 crore in the domestic market too.

SK: Sajid and I have had heated arguments over the collections of a film. He used to say that no film could cross Rs 50 crore in the first month. Today, an Avatar has grossed $ 3 billion in ticket sales alone. A time will come when a film will earn Rs 100 crore in its first weekend alone. Most likely, that film will be Dabangg 2. It can cross Rs 300 crore nett lifetime at the box office. If it’s a bad film, it will still end up doing Rs 250 crore. Raju Hirani’s next film might cross Rs 250 crore. That’s the scale of films these days. With Housefull 2, this is the first time in five years that we are not nervous.

SN: Which is dangerous too. (Laughs)

SK: I used to write letters to him, saying our film will be a hit and will cross this much and he used to laugh.

SN: He is very optimistic. I am cautious sometimes. He is lucky as his first film was a hit and my first hit came after four films. Jo bacche ne aag se khela hi nahi hai, usko aag se jalna kya hota hai pata hi nahi. Humne toh aag se jalna seekha hai. (Laughs) One day, I was swatting mosquitoes, and a distributor happened to walk in. He said, “Sir, what are you doing?” Sajid, touch wood, you never saw such days!

SK: (To the Box Office India team): His involvement is a lot more than that of a producer. Housefull 2 is actually his story. I have worked really hard in my life, but never this hard. He was a little worried during Heyy Babyy as I was having a really good time with the actors then, but this movie did not allow me to do that. I stayed away from all the actors and used to only spend time with the DoPs because there were so many actors in the film. If I spent time with John (Abraham) and Akshay (Kumar), then Rishi Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty would feel bad. We were also tensed. We had to manage and juggle time with Mithun, Akshay, Riteish (Deshmukh) and all the other actors. It was very difficult to manage 20 actors all at the same time…

SN: (Interrupting SK): But tell me… Why are you so irritating on the editing table? Why is your first condition always that the film should be 3 hours, 15 minutes long and not less?

SN: (To the BOI team): Phir yeh aata hai, glass todta hai, jhagde hote hain, phir ek din aata hai and he will say, 2 hours, 55 minutes bas, aur iske baad kuch nahi katega.

SK: (To the BOI team): Par 15 minutes phir bhi kat jaate hain! (Laughs)

SN: (To the BOI team): Once editing begins, we are afraid that he will smash the machines.

SK: But fortunately, this time we didn’t fight.

SK: (To the BOI team): Can you believe that Housefull released in April and we didn’t speak for two months? We stopped speaking the very weekend the film released.

SN: (To the BOI team): Because he thought we edited more than we should have. He wanted the film to be 2 hours, 20 minutes long and I wanted it to be 2 hours, 16 minutes long. So we fought over those four minutes. But this time, we knew we would get along from the very first cut.

SK: If the film doesn’t work in terms of direction and screenplay, it will not last for 30 minutes. If it works, it can last upto three and a half hours.

SN: You know I feel that after a point, you cannot make the audience laugh. They get tired of laughing.

SK: Golmaal 3 is 2 hours, 39 minutes long, and made Rs 110 crore. Welcome collected Rs 75 crore and it’s 2 hours, 55 minutes long. But I think that even if Dabangg was 2 hours and 30 minutes long, it would have still been a BIG hit. 3 Idiots, the undisputed champion at the box office with Rs 202 crore, is 3 hours, 7 minutes long! How do you beat that?

BOI: Why did you guys decide to go ahead with Judwaa 2 and not Housefull 3 instead?

SK: We will.

SN: But we have to take a break of two years.

SK: Housefull 3 is as much my brand as it is his (Sajid Nadiadwala) or Akshay Kumar’s. We are a trio. We were trying to build a brand and we did. Like Golmaal will always be a Rohit Shetty brand.

BOI: Finally, what is the USP of Housefull 2?

SK: We have had a track record of one successful movie followed by another successful film every two years. Just like Govinda and David Dhawan’s jodi. They made so many films back-to-back that after a point people were not interested in the film per se. It was taken for granted that their combo would work all the time.

Now, hopefully, the business of Housefull 2 should be equal to the combined business of both our previous films. Heyy Babyy earned Rs 53 crore nett in India. Housefull earned Rs 74 crore. I think with Housefull 2 we should easily cross Rs 75 in the first week. So the USP is that people know what to expect from us and that our film will be entertaining. Sajid Nadiadwala’s school is entertainment, my school is entertainment and Akshay’s school is entertainment.

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