'I can't direct more than one film every two years, but I didn't want to lose out on the Baaghi vibe.'
Heropanti 2 has barely just released in theatres but its Director Ahmed Khan has already moved on to his next production.
Om: The Battle Within stars Aditya Roy Kapur in a never-seen-before action role.
"Aditya is six feet two, with a big muscular body, and made for action. But the makers put a guitar and a daaru ka bottle in his hands. I took them away and gave him a gun instead," Ahmed tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya.
Your next production, Om: The Battle Within, was shot during the pandemic.
Yeah. It was tougher than Heropanti 2 because we started earlier, in December 2020, with plenty of COVID restrictions.
But being an action film, we could not avoid physical contact even during rehearsals because you have to block, punch, jump, grapple...
For one particular stunt, I barricaded eight-ten fighters in a hotel, with a car picking them up and driving them for rehearsals, where Aditya (Roy Kapur) would join them.
When the shoot started on a set in Film City, no one went home.
It was scary because if even one person tested positive, the schedule would go for a toss, I would suffer huge financial losses and coordinating dates would be a nightmare.
But the film is called Om and we were blessed.
We finished 50 per cent of the film by April 2021 after which I moved to Heropanti 2 since we couldn't shoot during the monsoon months.
We returned to Om in November and finished it by the end of the year.
It releases on July 1 and I roll with another production in June.
Aditya has always wanted to do a hardcore action film. What made you confident he could pull off Om?
Aditya is six feet two, with a big muscular body, and made for action.
But the makers put a guitar and a daaru ka bottle in his hands.
I took them away and gave him a gun instead.
He normally reads the full script before making a decision, but in the case of Om, he gave the nod after hearing my narration, saying, 'Sir, I will do it for you.'
What made you return to production?
I can't direct more than one film every two years, but I didn't want to lose out on the Baaghi vibe.
So I wrote this script and handed it to Kapil Verma, who comes from a family of action directors. He has been around for 20 years and was ready for the responsibility.
It's been a long journey for me, from choreographer to DoP (Director Of Photography) of 300 music videos to writer, producer, and director of action films which are the other end of the spectrum from music and dance.
But isn't action choreography too?
(Smiles) It is, which is why I shoot an action scene like a song... Glamorous and pretty.
You started your career as a child actor in Mr India. What do you remember of that experience?
Everything! It will always be in my heart and mind.
I was 11. My family was into horses; my father was a jockey.
My world did not extend beyond Mahalaxmi (where Mumbai's race course is situated) and Bandra (north west Mumbai).
The first time I saw Film City was through the window of a van that took me and the other kids to the Mr India shoot.
The studio grounds were scattered with huge umbrellas under which Mithun Chakraborty, Meenakshi Seshadri, Vinod Khanna, Sanjay Dutt and other stars I had only seen on screen, were sitting with their personal table fans.
This was back in the '80s and there were no vanity vans, entourage or security... Just a unit of 50 people and approachable stars.
I was going crazy as I moved from set to set... On the Hawaii set, there was Saroj Khanji and Sridevi aunty...
(Laughs) Yes, I called her 'aunty' and Anil 'uncle'. I was 11 then.
Over the years, he became Anil sir, Anil bhai and now AK because he just doesn't age.
AK calls me, 'Ahmed, my friend.' Imagine my mentor calling me a friend!
Ever want to face the camera again?
(Laughs) No. I have not grown in height, but I have aged.
Now, it's time for my 21-year-old son Azaan.
Khubsoorat ladka hai (he is a good looking boy), takes after his mother Shaira, and is technically sound, having learnt from his father.
He's doing the same training as Tiger.
Azaan wants to be an actor?
He's working hard towards it.
I keep telling him that he has to be capable.
God willing, we will see Azaan on screen.