'Writing comedy is no funny business.'
When Sajid-Farhad were struggling in Bollywood as lyricists, the brothers would visit producers and present their songs, using a tub as a tabla. They called themselves 'tub ne bana di jodi.'
More than a decade later, the duo are the names behind the biggest comedy hits of recent times and Farhad Samji says writing humour, just like their success, isn't a cakewalk.
Farhad belongs to a business family from Bengaluru and used to run a restaurant in the city, before he moved to Mumbai to give Bollywood a try.
The writer recalls how his supportive family -- they booked three rooms for nine people in a city hotel when the brothers came to struggle -- would always laugh at their 'comical songs', which boosted their confidence.
"I had keen interest in music, singing and lyric writing. We were avid first-day first-show Govinda film fans and used to compose music as well as write lyrics," Farhad told PTI.
"With that attitude, confidence and arrogance, I came to struggle. We visited studio to studio, called up every producer who we could."
The story goes that the brothers would visit studios and surprise everyone --including Salman Khan -- by pulling out a bucket from their bag before presenting a tune.
"We used to take a tub along with us for presentations. Your wrist has to be strong when you play the tabla, but my knuckle was strong so I could play music easily on a tub! Everyone used to wonder, are they here to play music or wash clothes?"
"There was no apprehension that 'Oh my God, can we really use a tub in front of Salman?' Even he thought what are we taking out from a branded bag. We played some songs, he liked them and our journey started."
Salman recommended the duo to David Dhawan who got them as lyricists for Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.
Their career, however, would get another turnaround when they wrote lyrics for the title track of Munna Bhai MBBS, for which Shah Rukh Khan was attached to play the leading role.
"Anu Malik had called me saying Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod want to hear a mukhada for the title track. We were writing it for Shah Rukh Khan back then. So we thought to keep some English words because out and out tapori might not suit him."
"So I was trying to work out a full form of 'MBBS' according to what the character might think. That's how I wrote M Bole Toh."
Impressed by their talent of creating a character in a song, Farhad says Ram Gopal Varma encouraged them to develop scripts and hired them for his directorial, Shiva.
"Then we got out from the gully and jumped on the highway of Rohit Shetty. Since then, in 11 years we have done 11 films with him. There's no looking back."
Farhad, along with his brother, has writing credits in film franchises like Golmaal, Housefull, Singham and projects like Chennai Express, Simmba, among others.
Farhad is currently geared up for his Web series directorial, Booo... Sabki Phategi. The ALTBalaji horror-comedy comes on the heels of several film announcements on the same genre after the massive success of Stree.
Farhad says both Stree and Golmaal Again re-ignited interest in the genre, but he didn't have any temptation to prove a point by attempting something new just because horror comedies are in vogue now.
"If a batsman is good at the cover drive and is getting to play the shot, why will he try the reverse sweep? What I learnt from Rohit Shetty and David Dhawan was play to your strengths."
When Booo came my way, I didn't even take a second to think. This was right up my alley."
"This has horror too, and I'm writing the Bhool Bhulaiyaa sequel and Laxmmi Bomb as well so I know how to approach the genre. I am most wanted and most haunted now!"
Though he has been behind some of the biggest comedy hits, Farhad says writing jokes comes easy to him, but the key to a successful script, including a comedy, is to have memorable characters.
"Writing jokes is not a struggle. My task is to build characters. Like Golmaal 3 had six diverse characters, and now Housefull 4 has six characters and then we have the angle of past life as well."
Even the most accomplished writers today, Farhad says, face the challenge of surprising the audience.
"Today the audience is so smart they can predict. How to surprise them is a challenge. Even the big writers will says it's not a cakewalk. So screenplay is of great importance."
"I'm confident in my dialogue writing. Once I get my characters, I know I have an open field. If your screenplay isn't on target, there's no point even if you have strong dialogues."
"Writing comedy is no funny business," he adds.