She is a well-known and highly coveted choreographer whose dances are some of the best Bollywood has seen. In 2004, Farah Khan added director to her resume with her debut film Main Hoon Na, starring Shah Rukh Khan. Main Hoon Na showed Farah’s unique style: her films most definitely have a masala flavor, but then add in the flash and the cool and it becomes a Farah Khan film. Her second film, Om Shanti Om had even more of that one-of-a-kind style with its lavish sets and storyline. She added some more layers to make it “A film by Farah Khan”. Both films were mixes of comedy and drama and huge hits. For her third film, the director has decided to change it up and do a full-on comedy, but of course with her take on what a comedy flick should be. Starring Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar, one of the hottest jodis ever, Tees Maar Khan is getting ready to ride into theaters this week! Shirish Kunder’s story is about a conman, a wanna be starlet, a heist on a moving train, lots of loot and many other mad moments and characters. With a background score of her adorable triplets playing, some big screams, and many ‘aww, aren’t they sweet’ from me, director Farah Khan and I chatted all things Tees Maar Khan!
So, what is the story of Tees Maar Khan?
Well, it’s a character based caper film with some mad characters. It’s about the greatest conman in the world and how he has to rob this running train that is going non-stop from Bombay to Delhi.
Did you always have Akshay in mind to play this lead?
I’ve worked with Akshay many times before, I’ve choreographed him, in Om Shanti Om he did a cameo, which was very funny. I’ve always found him extremely professional, extremely punctual. He has this great positive energy on the sets. My husband had actually written the script of Tees Maar Khan with Akshay in mind, and when I read it he was the first person I called up. When you see the movie I don’t think anybody will ask me why Akshay… he is the perfect conman. I don’t know if he will take it as a compliment.
Is it harder to direct a complete comedy compared to something like Main Hoon Na or Om Shanti Om?
It is always difficult to direct a good comedy. It’s easy to direct slapstick where people are falling on banana peels or slapping each other when there is nothing else to do. To make an intelligent comedy with sparkling dialogues and to get that comic timing right, it is not the easiest. I find it much easier to do dramatic scenes like in Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om. The scenes where there is drama, where the people are getting emotional and for example, even in the climax in Om Shanti Om… when the ghost comes down… I found that easy to direct. But to make a good comedy film, to know when the timing is right, to know when you should stop the scene, I think it’s far more difficult.
Tees Maar Khan also stars Katrina Kaif…
Actually, I didn’t really want Katrina in the beginning. I just felt she and Akshay had done too many films together. But then as I was seeing other girls and all, I realized she is the right choice for the film. She and Akshay have had a one year gap and they are going to have another long gap before they’ll be seen together. They haven’t signed anything for next year, so if their fans want to watch them this is their last chance for a very long time.
For me, I thought it would be nice to take her and give her a change of look and presentation because she’s always played this cute, little, simple girl next door, a wholesome girl next door… I wanted to make her look like really hot. The song that she’s done, ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’, it’s become an absolute rage over here.
Tell us about coming up with the concept of ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’.
In the movie she’s actually doing a song in a B-grade movie called Sheila Ki Jawani. So, it’s supposed to be a B-grade movie with a very sleazy producer who is ogling her while she’s doing this. But, the brief in my mind was actually Bollywood Beyonce. In my mind, it was if Beyonce comes to India and I have to choreograph a video for her. It had to have to have that international appeal but it also has to be Bollywood. So, I think it’s a good mixture of Broadway meets the typical moves of Bollywood. Vishal and Shekhar did a really really good job with the music. My kids are singing it. (Laughs) I don’t know if it’s good or bad. Most kids are singing it.
What was your brief for the other songs?
The title song was composed by my husband because that’s the theme song of the film. It is like a cross between James Bond meets Austin Powers, that was what we were aiming for. The thing with this movie is there are no romantic songs, there are no love songs. The movie has no scope for that. The movie is not about that, it’s a roller-coaster ride from beginning to the end. That’s the sort of movie I have made, it’s only two hours nine minutes and everything is high energy and high paced. To make five different songs, all of them energetic, but all of them different, I think that was a tough job to do.
Tell us about Akshaye Khanna’s role in the film.
Akshaye Khanna is playing a superstar who really wants to win an Oscar award. You know, he’s really upset that Anil Kapoor has made it in Hollywood. (Laughs)
What do you think audiences are going to like best about the film?
Obviously, Katrina’s dance is really, really hot, so we know what the men are going to like for sure. (Laughs) But you know what is surprising is the women are really digging that song too. The songs are fab. The movie has a great plot. It’s very entertaining. It’s big, it’s over the top and it’s full of mad characters that you haven’t seen before. I guess somewhere down the line I have a brand of my own, the kind of films that only I make. It’s been three years since I’ve made a film like that.
Choreography and directing have similarities, especially in Bollywood, because the choreographer many times directs those sequences. How do you feel your experience in both has helped you?
Being a choreographer for so many years has definitely helped me, in the sense that, I worked with so many good directors and with each film I learned a lot about my own craft and about my technique. Every time I would work with a different director there was something I would learn, sometimes what to do and sometimes what not to do. So, it definitely made me a more confident director when I went on to the set. It wasn’t that it was my first time on the set and it was like, ‘Oh God, what am I gonna do!?’. I don’t know whether it’s taught me to make better films, but it did help me to gain a lot of confidence and to learn a lot about my craft. Having said that, we’ve had many choreographers who’ve made terrible films. But it’s also made me easier with the people I’ve worked with because most of them I’ve choreographed earlier.
How do you think you have grown as a director over your three films?
I don’t try to showoff any more, I think, in my films. I remember in Main Hoon Na it was all about ‘Oh God, if I take this shot like this… then I’ll show them how this shot should be taken’ and ‘This scene needs to show there is a Director there’ I think by Tees Maar Khan, I now let the scene unfold the way it should without trying to impress everyone with my directorial skills. I think I’ve just become a little simpler in the way I shoot. Having said that, I am still as impatient as I was in Main Hoon Na, I get bored if nothing happens for more than 15 seconds. But now also if a script does not need something I don’t put it in just because there should be love song or there should be an emotional scene. I keep it a bit more true to what the script is telling you. Like Tees Maar Khan is a mad script and it should stay mad right till the end.
Did you have fun shooting this film?
Oh God, Yes! We have lots of fun shooting this film. At points I couldn’t say “Cut” because I had fallen down laughing. The actors are going on with the mad scene because no one is saying cut because the director has fallen down behind the monitor laughing.
What do you think is important in a comedy film?
I like comedies, which are situational comedies. I don’t like comedies where people are just doing buffoonery and trying to make it funny. A good dialogue is always welcome and of course, you need good actors with good comic timings otherwise nothing is gonna fall into place. If their timing is off, if their pauses are wrong, if they are not saying it in the correct way, the best of punches can fall flat.
What do you think of Hindi films today?
I think we have a lot more daring films. We have films that are very different from what we are used to seeing. There are a lot of films without any songs or without any dances, which are taking topics, which we had never dared to take some years ago. There is an audience for those films also and maybe it’s a niche audience, but if made within the budget, that film will find its audience. It will do well and make money. That’s a good sign always.
What do you love most about Tees Maar Khan.
I like the fact that this is my husband Shirish and my company’s first production. The company called is Three’s Company, you know, for our babies. I love the fact that we have produced a movie, it’s been a year and now we are releasing the movie and it’s our film. I really like that feeling.
I would like to thank Farah Khan for taking the time to speak with me and to say one more time, ‘aww how sweet your babies are’! I wish her, Shirish and the triplets all the best. The mad characters of Tees Maar Khan arrive in theaters on December 22nd, be sure and (as the lyrics say) ‘catch him if you can’! I know I will be there!