IN CONVERSATION Director Sajid Khan tells BHUMIKA K. he likes to make films that are huge at the box office and that can only happen if you have a satisfied family audience
The cherubic director Sajid Khan grew up in the heart of the film industry — his father Kamran Khan was a stunt filmmaker, his aunts Honey and Daisy Irani were child artists, his cousins Farhan and Zoya Akhtar are filmmakers, Sajid’s older sister Farah Khan is a choreographer and director. Comedy was clearly his forte right from the beginning — whether he was acting, directing, or hosting live award ceremonies or TV chat shows. He built a reputation for himself poking fun at everyone. And then when he stepped into the shoes of director, he nailed it spot on. His three films — Heyy Babyy, Housefull and Housefull 2 — each made more money than the previous, and the super-confident Sajid proved to Bollywood that he’d got the pulse of his audience. Of course, he couldn’t care that many squirm at the kind of comedy involved. The man who can get away with saying anything because of his whacky sense of humour, now offers Himmatwala — the official remake of the 1983 superhit starring Sridevi and Jitendra. Excerpts from an interview…
What is brand Sajid Khan? Because that’s what you’ve become — a brand by yourself.
In my poster of Himmatwala I’ve called it a Sajid Khan Entertainer and henceforth I’ll call all my films entertainers because that’s what my films are. My brand is very simple…I make them the way I like to see them. My brand is that when you go into my film, you’re not going to be embarrassed. I believe my life has been shaped by films, both Hindi and English, but more or less popular films. Of course I watch offbeat films here and there. I may not like them but I do watch them. But I wouldn’t make them, because I like to make films that are huge at the box office and that can only happen if you have a satisfied family audience.
Do you have to be loud to get humour across to Indian audience?
I think you’re thinking American sense of humour (he insists, and grins) and we’re better than that. But we have a long way to go to touch the British sense of humour. I LOVE the British sense of humour. My mum was born and brought up in England so she instilled in me and my sister a good sense of English humour. Housefull did huge business but most jokes went over the audience’s heads because they were more British in nature. In Housefull 2 I decided to go louder, and hammier with my jokes, and decided to use a lot of my television stuff — it grossed twice the business of Housefull (1). But the American sense of humour is what you’re relating to. Where Jim Carreys are born, where Eddie Murphy is louder than a loudspeaker. I think they do make intelligent comedies; I think we do too. But less people will laugh at a subtle joke, and more will, at a man who slips on a banana peel and falls.
So slapstick is what works?
Slapstick works. But slapstick should not be crude, I don’t endorse crudeness. I love stupid humour. But stupid humour has to be put across intelligently by actors who have a great sense of comic timing. Sometimes you have bad actors doing bad comedy and that for me also works (laughs). I love hammy. I think anything that makes me laugh when I am directing, will make audience laugh — more or less I’ve been right three times; all my three films have been superhits. With Himmatwala I’m going to do it again. Though the setting is rural, I’ve kept the humour offbeat.
Both Heyy Babyy and Housefull have been remakes of films from the South…
Really??!! (shocked) Not true. Not true (emphatic). Show it to me. Himmatwala is my first official remake. I’m honest enough to admit if I ever do something like that. Housefull is partly inspired by Chupke Chupke. I have a set of writers who bring certain scenes to me and if I like it, I put it in my films. I would not know if it’s a south remake… Housefull was written by Sajid Nadiadwala. Heyy Babyy, everyone said was inspired by Three Men and a Baby. But I was inspired by a friend’s real life experience and Mehmood’s Kunwara Baap. But I would not steal or copy anything; I would make fun of such people on my TV shows!
But it seems the South is where good films are getting made… because people in Bollywood seem to look here for inspiration a lot.
I love the South. At a time when the whole word was following Amitabh Bachchan in the 80s, as a kid, my three matinee idols were Superstar Rajinikanth, Jitendra, and Mithun Chakroborthy. There’s not a film of these three superstars that I haven’t watched. The cinema that Superstar Rajinikanth does — and you must understand I’m not saying superstar out of respect each time I take his name — it’s because I’m his greatest fan. To do what he does, have such a fan following all over the world…it’s almost unparalleled. I don’t think Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt enjoy the kind of success and diehard fan following he has.
Why is the 80s such a great period for you to keep referring to in your films?
Because I was in my teens! I was born in 1971. It had a huge effect on my life. The south Indian wave of cinema which came after Himmatwala, which many people said is trashy, regressive, and over the top, I found it largely entertaining and so did the entire country; that’s why it did so well. Of course towards the late 80s it started going towards the cruder side…towards the lewder side, with double meaning and innuendoes; that is something I didn’t enjoy… and then it faded out. But the over-the-top heroism…thank god for the south. It worked great in the south.