Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala is due to release this Friday and BollySpice got talking with the team during one of their shoots. Tamannaah greets me with a “You look like someone I know!” to which I reply that hopefully that someone is a good friend.” Oh yes she is!” laughs Tamannaah. Relaxing between a grueling dance shoot, Ajay Devgn and Tamannaah get talking about the film, the inevitable comparisons and Sajid!
Of all the 80s masala movies, why did Sajid choose Himmatwala to remake? Says Sajid, “As a kid I was 11 years old when I saw it in 1983 and I saw it 36 times! It was an absolute guilty pleasure. It changed the way Bollywood films were made, bringing in the South Indian wave. Even when I was making my first film – Heyy Babyy – I was thinking should I do this or should I make Himmatwala. I wrote the structure of the film and when I spoke with Ajay. He liked the idea and then I restructured it for him. It is not anything like the ‘83 Himmatwala.” But it’s still set in the 80s…” Yes it is. Because it is a little over the top, has the 80s feel to it.” And what was it that made him sure that Ajay-Tamannaah would be the perfect Jitendra-Sridevi.” Tamannaah because I wanted a girl from the South – a superstar from south – just like how Sridevi was. Ajay because I don’t see myself making too many movies in my career ahead without Ajay Devgn. I love him and I respect him a lot!” They do seem to take offence to the comparisons though. Says Sajid about Tamannaah,” It’s not fair to compare the two -although I know there would be comparisons- I really hope that she gets as much fan following her as has in down Southl. Just as Sridevi got in the 80’s!” Ajay too thinks that this is not about stepping into Jumping Jack’s shoes. But wouldn’t there obviously be comparisons by the audience? Says Ajay, “Generally, the mood of the film is set in the first shot. So when you start seeing the film you know where it is taking you and then you get it or you don’t get it. And if it takes you where it promises, it works and from the first shot the audiences will understand that this is not a take-off on Himmatwala or a spoof or we are following the characters or the storyline.” Sajid mischievously adds,” Yeah, it’s on completely different lines. In fact, I should have saved some money and not bought the rights!”
So what is Ajay’s character like? Thinking about it Ajay says, “The director is the best person to talk about the character. As the title says “Himmatwala” – how we put it –“ “He is very righteous in the film. He will do no wrong,” chips in Sajid,” He respects women, he protects women. He will fight injustice…” ”He is a typical hero,” adds Ajay. “There are no flaws in this character. I mean, he is the kind of guy you want to marry or the kind of guy you would want to bring home to your parents if you were a girl or a guy would want him as his best friend. I have written a very clean cut Hindi film hero for Ajay. There are all shades – there’s comedy, there’s action, there’s emotions. He sings and he dances” adds Sajid animatedly. One might wonder if it’s just a typical Bollywood hero character then what made Ajay –known for his varied choice of characters – go for this movie. Ajay admits frankly, “Because it has all the shades anyone would want. Sometimes it becomes difficult to stick to the character – the drama zone, the emotion zone, the action zone - to tap each zone and still maintain the character. It is actually very difficult to play a typical hero.” Tamannaah who is looking absolutely ravishing in the trailers has an equally interesting role, “It’s actually based on what was in the original with very minute changes… Yes, pretty much what was there in the original. The film is based in the 80s so the character looks like, dresses like people did in the 80s. We had to keep the 80s ka look so we have tried to keep it to those times”
The audience has been seeing Ajay do more and more masala and comedy movies in the past couple of years as compared to his earlier serious ventures. Was this a deliberate change? ”I enjoy doing comedy. That does not mean that I would not like to try something else,” he says adding, “I like to switch genres. I have not yet received a script as interesting as say Zakham or Company.” How has the experience been working with Tamannaah considering it’s their first film together. ”It has been great. She is experienced and punctual, she has no ego hassles…The atmosphere is nice when you work with her and I really respect people who know their job.” Tamannaah has done an incredible amount of work down South and I wondered if Ajay had caught any of her movies. Admits Ajay, “I have not seen any of her earlier movies. But when she did her first shot we all knew that she knew what is to be done.” Tamannaah, on the other hand, loved Ajay’s work in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and said that if there was one movie of hers which she could show him it would be Paiyya (her 2010 Tamil movie).
If one leaves Chand Sa Roshan Chehra aside, Himmatwala can actually be touted as her first mainstream Bollywood movie. So what made her say yes to this as her Big Bollywood break I ask. ”Actually more than me choosing Himmatwala it was Sajid who chose me. Himmatwala is very special in my career because Sajid selected me without even taking an audition. And that means a lot..” “But he saw all your 24 films!” quips Ajay with Sajid adding, “with a microscope!” “…that’s a lot of belief and I consider myself very lucky to be working with him,” adds Tamannaah laughing. Sajid : “The first day she met Ajay was on the first day of photo shoot.” So was she nervous? “I guess I was. I was actually pretty nervous when I came there but Sajid bhai and Ajay are both damn sweet.” How different is shooting for South films and Bollywood movies? “I guess apart from the language there is no big difference,” she says pondering, “They are all fab people. Here I guess what I particularly liked about this unit is that work is not made to feel like work at all.” Considering her peers like Kajal and Asin shifted base to Mumbai after their Bollywood debut, is she planning to do the same? “I want to keep my mind open as of now. Today you know the best thing is actresses like me are not bound by place or language and both have been reaching to global audience. So not only South Indian or Hindi, I am open to doing movies in other languages as well.”
I ask Sajid what’s more difficult to make – a remake of an original hit or a sequel of an existing hit? He says, “Every film that you make whether it’s a sequel or a remake is extremely difficult. You have to ensure that it works and connects well with the audience. I don’t think anyone can make a sequel or a remake of a film which will have a guarantee saying that it will work. The most important factor of making a film is when you are writing it. And I write my movies. I like to introduce and write new scenes which I would like to see as an audience and I think from an audience point of view.” Today, it’s not about whether a movie is a hit or a miss. It’s whether the movie made it to the 100 crore club…”100 crores have become more symbolic or synonymous like 100 days of silver jubilee. Those things don’t exist anymore. So it is used by the media to make it an exclusive club.“ The audience might take the movie to this club but critics haven’t particularly favored his past movies. Sajid vents out, “I think the critics have given up on me because somewhere I was the first person many many years ago, when everybody was kissing their a**es, I was kicking their a**ses. And before the release of my first film I went out to the world and told them not to read the reviews of Hey Babyy, whether they are 5 stars of 1 star. I don’t want positive or negative comments. That’s why you won’t see me on Facebook or Twitter. I do not believe in these social networking sites because most of the comments in them are doctored and manufactured. So it’s not that critics don’t like my films. They enjoy it, but they don’t like me. That’s what I believe and that’s what I want them to believe, but I don’t read reviews so I don’t know whether they give me 5 stars or 1 star. Also, somewhere down the line, it’s very important that the audience like your films. I have met so many audiences who have seen Housefull 2 more than once and have said that they love it, their kids love it. So why did it get bad reviews? That was inexplicable. I didn’t read the reviews so I couldn’t answer it. Also I tell all my technical crew and the rest of the team that one person comes to me and tells me the rating we got, I will throw you out. “
Any masala/mass movie is hugely popular owing to its dialogues and punch lines. I ask them what their favorite dialogue is from the movie. “Na main dilliwala, na main CBI wala, ek behen ka bhai hu, ek maa ka beta. Main hoon Himmatwala!” goes Sajid agreeing that such punchlines in movies are important. “Why do we remember the Amitabh of the 70s? Because of his dialogues. Not only Hindi films, worldwide star icons have been remembered by their dialogues even as simple as ‘I’ll be back’.”
The stars have to go back to the shoot but before that I ask them to describe the movie in three words. “ Entertaining. Entertaining. Entertaining.” Says Ajay to which Sajid replies, “ Couldn’t have said it better!”