'Housefull will be the biggest hit of 2010'
Three years after the hugely successful Heyy Babyy, director Sajid Khan returns with another comedy, Housefull.
Joining Akshay Kumar and Riteish Deshmukh (who also starred in Sajid's debut film) in Sajid's new caper are Deepika Padukone, Lara Dutta, Arjun Rampal, Jiah Khan Boman Irani, Randhir Kapoor and Chunkey Pandey.
Sajid is very confident Housefull will screen to full houses. He tells Patcy N why. Excerpts:
How did you get the idea of Housefull?
While we were celebrating the success of Heyy Babby and deciding what our next film should be, Milap Javeri --my screenplay writer on Heyy Babyy -- shared something that had happened to him.
On the last day of college, he proposed to his girlfriend with a ring. She not only returned it; she also broke up with him before driving off on another boy's bike.
Milap was in love with her for two years. His heart broke when she rejected him. He started crying. The ring fell from his hand, he slipped on the ring and fell himself. His pant tore and a dog bit him.
All this happened to him in the space of just five minutes.
I started laughing; I could easily imagine Akshay enacting such a scene. Milap said, 'Kaminey mere saath itni badi tragedy hui hai aur tu has raha hai (You rascal, such a big tragedy happened in my life and you are laughing)'.
But I thought the whole incident was very funny; in real life, you sometimes find humour in pathos. It was a sorrowful event -- what happened with him was wrong but it was funny.
From that incident, we started developing the characters and a story -- what if Akshay is the world's biggest panvati (person plagued with ill-luck) and nothing in his life is ever good. Though he is a good man, everything bad happens to him. It took us 18-20 months to write the story and screenplay.
Your first film Heyy Babyy was inspired from Three Men And A Baby and Rob-B-Hood
[Sarcastically] Have you seen Three Men and a Baby? What happened in that movie? Main chor hoon. Maine zindagi bhar sirf choriyaan ki hai (I'm a thief. All my life I have done nothing but steal). I have no original thought. I only plagiarise. I rob all the stories from world cinema. I rob stories and make films.
Whatever I am today is because I have robbed from others and made my name. Heyy Babby, the whole movie, was a copy. In fact, Housefull is also lifted from 50 movies -- that is what you are trying to say and this is what you wanted to hear, right [laughs]?
[Sarcastically] Rediff par dekhiya aaj Sajid Khan ka khulasa. Yeh openly admit kar rahe ki inhone chori ki hai (Sajid Khan exposed on rediff. He openly admits he has plagiarised). This is what you wanted to hear, right?
I give an open challenge to anyone, anywhere in the world. Take the DVDs of Heyy Babyy and Three Men and a Baby and Rob-B-Hood -- which I have not seen till date because I am not a Jackie Chan fan, I stopped being his fan since the 80s because his cinema kept on going down and compare them.
Show me even one scene that is copied ditto -- like Mahesh Bhattsaab did in his films and Sanjay Gupta did in his movies -- shot-by-shot. If you show me even one scene, I will never make a film again.
The scene diaper scene in Rob-B-Hood
There is a diaper scene in Three Men and a Baby?
No in Rob-B-Hood, I said...
I have not seen Rob-B-Hood till date. In which year was Rob-B-Hood released? Rob-B-Hood was released in October or November 2007 and, even if we think it was June, Heyy Babby released on August 24, 2007.
My whole making of the film is documented. I shot the diaper scene in February 2007 so did I enter Jackie Chan's brain in Hong Kong and copy the scene (Bo Bui Gai Wak, also known as Rob-B-Hood, released on September 28, 2006).
I want to ask you a question. Which is the greatest Hindi film ever made?
Sholay. Right. Have you seen Magnificent Seven? Have you seen Seven Samurai? Have you seen Once Upon A time In The West?
Even if we think that one of your favourite film is Munnabhai MBBS, have you see Patch Adams [laughs]?
Let me tell you a truth. We grew up on cinema. That doesn't mean you copy the thoughts in your head. The English that you speak has been taught to you by somebody in school. Does that mean you are copying that person? No, right?
I have not seen Rob-B-Hood till date. Even if I have, I am not stupid. My name is Sajid Khan. Main doosre logo ka bhanda fodta hoon television par (I reveal other people's secrets on television). Am I so stupid that I will copy a scene from some other film? I made television programmes for four years and showed how others copied.
What is lacking today in most people is what is taking our nation down -- common sense.
Image: A scene from Housefull, inset Sajid Khan
'I am not a tacky person though I may talk tacky'
How do you decide on your cast -- based on your relationship with them or what the subject demands?
It's got to do with little bit of both. The demand of the subject is important as well.
When you see Housefull, you will realise every character is perfectly cast. If you see what Riteish and Akshay are doing in the film, I don't think anyone else can do it. Whether it is Arjun Rampal, Lara, Deepika or Jiah -- all are perfectly cast. Even a Randhir Kapoor, Lilette Dubey or Chunky Pandey -- they are perfect for their roles. That's what I feel. Now, it is for the audience to decide.
It helps to be in love with your actors. I love my actors because they are all my friends. When you work with friends, the atmosphere becomes easier. At the same time, it becomes your moral responsibility to write a good scene for your friend and shoot it well.
On the first day of your shoot, you welcomed your cast with a letter which said, 'Welcome to the biggest hit of your career.' Was that the Sajid Khan brand of humour or your optimism?
What is Sajid Khan's humour?
Let you tell me -- the first spearhead in my film is Akshay Kumar, the second is Deepika. Deepika's biggest hit, Om Shanti Om, did Rs 80 crore (Rs 800 million) business all over India. Akshay's biggest hit, Singh Is Kingg did Rs 76 crore (760 million) business all over India.
I am not talking of world figures. I am talking about the India figures because the overseas international market is 20 percent of the Indian market.
At the end of the day, I have a feeling that Housefull will be a bigger hit when the final gross figures come out from all over India.
The biggest hit of Arjun Rampal's career is Om Shanti Om, Heyy Babyy is Riteish's. For Jiah. it was Ghajini. Though Jiah is not the heroine of the film, it is the biggest hit of her career. It grossed Rs 110 crore (Rs 1.1 billion) in India.
I am hoping -- I am sure -- Housefull will cross that.
These words sound very arrogant. People may think, 'Apne aap ko kya samjhta hai Sajid Khan (What does Sajid Khan think about himself),' or 'Apne aap ko tees maar Khan samjhta hai Sajid, kaise baate karta hai (Sajid Khan thinks he is the greatest; look at the way he talks).'
I don't think anything great about myself. I am a normal, routine, subdued human being. I trust my audience. I know they want to watch a nice, entertaining film. If they like it, they will watch it many times. The proof is 3 Idiots.
Why did people watch 3 Idiots four to five times in the theatre? Because they were entertained.
Why do 95 per cent of the films that release today flop? Because they are not entertaining. Their directors want to prove a point. Who are they making the film for? For losses and empty theatres?
Why is the film industry incurring huge losses? Because filmmakers are not making films for the audience.
The audience is not dumb; if you give them senseless and meaningless films, they instantly reject it. The audience consists of people like you and me.
You just wait and watch. When Housefull is released, not only will it be the biggest hit of 2010 -- I could be wrong when I say this -- but I am sure no one will leave the theatre without a smile.
You've said Housefull is a tribute to the filmmakers of seventies and eighties.
Did I say that? I said my film is a humble homage to Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Feroz Khan, K Raghavendra Rao, Brij saab, Ravi Tandon, Narendra Bedi
I believe their cinema redefined Indian cinema with one word -- entertainment. I wish most of these directors were alive because, somewhere, I have learned a lot from watching their movies. These directors would have been extremely proud of Housefull.
When you will watch Housefull, you will think this film comes from their stable. I am not mad to make such a statement. When I saw Housefull after it was completed, I could see glimpses of all these directors in my film.
I have not taken any formal training in direction from anyone. I have not worked under a Sanjay Leela Bhansali or an Ashtuosh Gowariker or a Farhan Akhtar or a Farah Khan or a Kunal Kohli. I have worked under these people only by watching their films.
Housefull will not remind you of the seventies or the eighties. It is a very modern film.
The best thing about Housefull is the freshness of the clothes and the look. It does not look like another tacky comedy the kind we are so used to seeing. I would never make a tacky film. I am not a tacky person though I may talk tacky.
Image: A scene from Housefull
'We have Queen of England and Prince Charles and Lady Camilla also in the climax'
Was it difficult handling so many actors in the film -- especially in the climax where all are in one house?
The climax does not happen in one house; it happens in Buckingham Palace. It is a very unique climax. You are right, it was a big challenge to get so many actors together. Luckily, by then, we had gotten used to each other.
Sajid Nadiadwala is a fantastic producer. The way he planned the shooting schedule of the film, along with my chief assistant and me, was great. We managed to wrap up the film in 67 days.
We took Sundays off but even on those days we either had lunch together or planned for the next day with the production team. The actors would rehearse the next day's scenes for an hour or two.
Every scene comprises seven to eight actors and the climax has the entire star cast. We rehearsed it like a play for two days.
You have the Queen of England, Elizabeth, in the climax?
Yes, we have Queen of England and Prince Charles and Lady Camilla also in the climax. They are actors who pass off for the Queen, Prince Charles and Lady Camilla.
Housefull sees the cast speak many languages is it your attempt at national integration?
Yes it is. I believe in the cinema of Manmohan Desai. I grew up in Nehru Nagar Housing Cooperative Society. On my floor itself, there were five different nationalities -- Parsi, Muslim, Punjabi, Gujarati and Catholic. I grew up as a child in all these houses. I can speak little bit of all the languages.
In every Manmohan Desai film that you see, there is some sort of national integration where you have the principal characters speaking different languages. I tried that in Heyy Babyy. I had Boman speaking in Bengali, Akshay speaking in Punjabi and Riteish speaking in Marathi. I liked doing that.
In Housefull, Lara and Boman speak in Gujarati, Riteish speaks in Marathi, Arjun and Deepika speak Tulu, Lilette speaks chaste Urdu, Randhir Kapoor speaks in Sindhi. I have used lots of all these languages. I like doing this kind of things.
Will the audience be able to understand what's happening when there are so many different languages?
Yes, they will. It (the use of the language) is not though any heavy duty dialogues; it's got more to do with emotions.
The audience does not need to understand the language. My driver cried when he saw Titanic. It's got to do with the visuals and emotions, which are universal.
Image: A scene from Housefull
'A critic's opinion matter to only small films that depend on reviews'
Why did you spell Housefull with a double L? Is it because the housefull boards outside theatres always spell it that way?
When did you last see a houseful board? It has been long since we have seen it.
We have kept that LL knowingly because that's how the theatres spelt it. If there is so much buzz about Housefull, it means there is a positive buzz about the film. I started this positivity by writing the letter to my star cast and crew members saying this will be the biggest hit.
No movie is a hit till the audience appreciates it. Why will an audience appreciate a film or make it a hit? Is the audience mad? The audience will make a film a hit only if they enjoy it; that is what cinema is about. Isn't it about enjoying yourself, about going out and having a good time?
The last film on which I saw a houseful board was 3 Idiots. 3 idiots was a hit right from the first show and, Inshallah, I hope Housefull will be hit from the first show itself. When a person walks into a theatre, he expects to see a hit film. A film is a hit only when your audience enjoys it; remember that.
How much does criticism about your film affect you?
Not at all.
A critic's opinion matter to only small films that depend on reviews. I think if 100 people watch a film all over India from all strata of society, from villages and big cities, only 5-7 of them decide to watch it depending on the reviews.
I recently made fun of critics on Star Gold awards. I am not expecting very good reviews from those critics whom I made fun of. Which I think is fair enough.
What difference do critics make? I will show you the review of a critic who gave three-and-a-half stars to Aladin and two-and-a-half stars to 3 Idiots. So, in the eyes of that critic, the biggest of the flop of the century is better then the biggest hit of the century.
Who are critics? Only ten per cent of film critics know what they are talking about. They are my good friends. I respect them because they know what they speak and they know what cinema is. But 90 per cent of the critics don't know understand cinema.
You are so full of humour and crack jokes all the time. You must be like this on the sets too. Has it ever happened that you are saying something to someone very seriously and they have taken you lightly?
It is very important to be friendly.
My actors see two faces of me one, which is that you are doing a film with me so it is my duty to entertain you and keep you happy. The other face is of a dedicated and hardworking director.
If I make a film like a host and dost, I will never be able to direct a film, filmmaking is serious business.
Heyy Babyy was a very simple and serious film. It had a serious climax, unlike Three Men and a Baby and Rob-B-Hood [sarcastically].
You cannot make a film if you are just joking and having fun. At the same time, you are not curing cancer, you are not a rocket scientist, you are not splitting the atom.
A film set should be a happy place; it should not look like a funeral. I know many egoistic directors who like to ill-treat their actors just to show them who is in command. I am not one of them.
Image: A scene from Housefull
'I have not copied in my entire life and I will never copy'
There is a scene in the movie where Lara had to crawl in front of a tiger. Why did you need a tiger in a scene?
Yes, there is a tiger in the film. Now, say, it is copied from Hangover. Hangover is the first film on the earth with a tiger in it.
Hangover released in March 2009 (Hangover actually released in June 2009). I will send you a mail in some time from my id. I will send my scene draft which will have all the details as to when I had written the scene. I wrote that scene in November 2007 (The promised mail did not reach us).
When I was a kid, I saw a film in 1980 called Nishaan directed by K Raghavendra Rao. In that film, Asrani saab brought a tiger into the house. I have been a fan of that scene ever since I was a kid. I wanted to pay homage to K Raghavendra by doing such a scene, but everybody says it is a copy of Hangover [laughs].
I did not saying anything about Hangover.
But you said about Three Men and a Baby. So either you are mad or you are blind or you don't have the sense to understand what is copied and what is not.
Do you think if I copy something I will not be honest enough to admit it? Think about it. I create and what I create, others copy. I have not copied in my entire life and I will never copy.
Are you planning your next film with Akshay and Shah Rukh Khan?
I am not going to speak about what I am planning to make.
Right now I am thinking about Housefull. I am looking forward to its release. I have waited for three years to go inside a theatre to see the film with the audience. I am going to travel everywhere and stand in the last row of the theatre and see the audience's reaction. I did this almost for 10 days for Heyy Babyy.
To see the audience's reaction to see a full house enjoying your film -- is the most satisfying thing.
What if the audience comes out and they are unhappy?
I am sure there will be few people who will not like the film which is absolutely all right.
I feel any big film should hit the target audience of 70 to 80 per cent. Twenty per cent of the audience will not like your film. They like realistic films, which 80 per cent of the audience does not like.
I am not saying I have made the greatest film in the history of the Indian film Industry. Films are not supposed to be the greatest thing; films are not supposed to be taken seriously. Films are like going to restaurant and having good time.
Do you think six months later Housefull is going to change the lives of people? I don't think so. No film can. Rang De Basanti didn't do it, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Chak De India did not do it. Anybody who says films have changed society is lying, they are mad.
Films are supposed to be a mode of entertainment. I promise you one thing -- entertainment is the one thing you will find in every minute of Housefull.
Image: A scene from Housefull