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April 24, 2001

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They are the famous director duo known for successful action thrillers like Khiladi, Baazigar, Soldier, Daraar and Badshah.

Abbas Mustan are dressed in their trademark white and are practically inseparable. They are simple, without any filmi airs, warm, friendly and approachable.

Their last film, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke did not make box office ripples. But the film is still going strong with the audience all over the country. The duo says that after watching CCCC, many of their fans have asked them not to make family dramas again.

Their fans need not be disappointed. Their latest film, Ajnabee, (starring Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu) is again an action thriller, which is slated for a June release.

Excerpts from an interview with Runima Borah Tandon:

Your forte lies in action. What made you go in for a family drama like Chori Chori Chupke Chupke?

Since we have been making thrillers, people expect our films to be action-packed. It's not that we like making only thrillers.

Basically, we want our films to deal with emotions. Chori Chori Chupke Chupke is a family drama that can be viewed as a love triangle.

You see, a family story is more interesting when there are negative characters in it. But what happens if all the members in the family are positive? How, then, do you make the audience sit through your film? Thatís what we have tried to do in CCCC.

You could have gone in for an altogether different starcast. Why the same trio?

After we finalised the story, the first name that came to our minds was Salman Khan. The sophistication and innocence on his face suited the role of our character. We narrated the story to him; he really liked it.

Preity was already working with us in Soldier then. Besides, she was very keen on working with us. As for Rani, she had some date hassles initially, but she solved them later.

Looking back, all three of them have done a fabulous job in the film. The audience will keep wondering who had a better role -- Rani, Salman or Preity.

CCCC took a long time to be released. What kind of feedback have you received?

We have been to theatres, watched the film, met the people. The response has been pretty good.

We had seen Pretty Woman four or five times. We really liked it. The girl in CCCC was a dancer. So we decided to fashion her on the lines of the heroine in Pretty Woman.

You know, while making the film, people asked us to go in for a mature actress. But we thought the viewers would not really accept the story.

But then, no other actress could have carried off the role like Preity Zinta. She has this innocent look about her. Imagine telling a girl that youíll give her Rs ten lakhs to have a baby. On any other actress, it would have looked artificial and unconvincing. Not on Preity.

Do you feel that some section of the audience rejected CCCC?

No. In fact, many liked the film, especially women. We have been flooded with phone calls, e-mails and letters, appreciating our work.
Tell us about Ajnabee.

While we were shooting for Badshah, we were looking for a subject for Vijay Galaniís film.

We wanted an unusual story. One of our writers, Neeraj Vohra, said that he had a concept which many people had rejected. We asked him to narrate the story to us. We liked it very much and decided to go for it.

Ajnabee is an action thriller and has been shot in Switzerland, Singapore and Mauritius, as also on a cruiseliner. The indoor work has been shot in Hyderabad and Bombay.

What did you shoot aboard the cruiseliner?

The climax. Actually we wanted to shoot a song on the cruiseliner and the climax in the engine room. We got photographs of the same and put up two sets resembling the cruiseliner. The film ends on the cruiseliner.

It must be a very expensive project, since you have shot it all over the world?

Frankly, today, there is no difference between shooting in Switzerland and Simla.

The Swiss government and the tourism department are very helpful and allow you to shoot anywhere. They don't even charge you money. But in India, getting permission is a big hassle. You need to pay for everything. So it is economical for a producer to shoot a film abroad, after you get bulk dates from the stars.

When you shoot in India, the technical unit increases in size. If you go abroad, you take a limited number of people as well as equipment.

In any case, the script and the story of Ajnabee required outdoor shooting.

How do you work together as directors? How do you both relate to each other during the making of a film?

We are brothers but we are great friends. Our younger brother, Hussain Burmawalla, a film editor, is also involved intimately in every aspect of our film.

There are no formalities between us and we donít hide anything from each other. Before going to the sets, we make it a point to discuss and sort out differences of opinion pertaining to the script.

We go to the sets prepared with our script. During shooting, if one of us comes up with an idea, we discuss it immediately and incorporate it into the film.

The point is we take a long time preparing the script. So it doesn't take us long to shoot a film.

You have a reputation of being good action film directors. Was it easier making Ajnabee than CCCC?

You see, it is very difficult to make an action thriller. You have to keep the suspense alive with the pace of the story in a thriller. You need to consider the music, visuals and location.

Because we made Khiladi and Baazigar, the audience probably wanted us to make those kind of films all the time. As directors, we don't want to stick to action thrillers alone. We want to try out different kinds of films.

After CCCC, however, we received asking us not to make family dramas. So now we know what the audience expects from us.

Why do you always opt for multistarrers?

Well, we have never had stars in our films. We made Khiladi when Akshay Kumar was not even known in the film industry. When we made Baazigar, Shah Rukh was not a big star, nor was Kajol.

So you make stars?

You see, every one comes with their own luck. It depends on how hardworking or sincere they are and how they take their careers ahead. We just give them work. Ultimately, it's their sincerity and hard work that pays off.

How do you handle so many stars at the same time? How was it working with Akshay, Bobby and Kareena?

Initially, Akshay and Bobby were very apprehensive about whether they would get along with each other. But later, they became strong friends. Even today, they are in touch with each other, wherever they're shooting.

Kareena had just done one film then: Refugee. I found her very friendly on the sets. It was like a picnic while shooting for Ajnabee.

You see, the rapport and chemistry between the artistes is very important. Else, the strain will reflect on screen.

You are introducing Bipasha Basu. What is your opinion of her as an artiste?

We used to think models couldnít act, and all they knew was to walk the ramp and smile.

Bipasha, we found, could act. Her Hindi diction is very good. She was nervous on the first day, but learnt rather quickly. She is also a good dancer who can improvise.

We had to work hard on her initially -- that is not new with newcomers. Take Shilpa Shetty in Baazigar, Arbaaz Khan in Daraar and Preity Zinta in Soldier (although Dil Se was released first).

So, new boys and girls must come in. And if our story requires a new face, we will use them. We have never gone in for safe proposals with big stars.

What next?

We have a project for Baba Films with Akshay and Bobby. Soon after is a film for Venus with Abhishek Bachchan, Bobby Deol and Priyanka Chopra.

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