Meet Bollywood's BLOCKBUSTER Team!
'Our intention is not just to make people laugh but to touch their hearts as well.'
Meet Sajid and Farhad Samji.
Brothers Sajid-Farhad have written a string of Rs 100 crore blockbuster movies like Housefull 2, Singham, Bol Bachchan, Golmaal 3 and Chennai Express.
Now, they will direct their first film, Entertainment, starring Akshay Kumar and Tamannaah, releasing August 8. Looking at the hilarious promos, they've probably got another winner on their hands.
Sajid and Farhad, who have a seven-year age gap between them, are the most sought-after writers in Bollywood today, thanks to their witty one-liners and hilarious dialogues.
In this exclusive interview with Sonil Dedhia, Sajid-Farhad tell us more about themselves, why they will never make serious films and why they are thankful to Salman Khan.
After being such successful writers, was direction the next step?
Farhad: The position of a director in our industry is bigger than a writer so we decided to take the plunge and let ourselves grow in the process.
Sajid: It was an easy transition because direction was the next step. We started off as lyricists, went on to write dialogues and later, screenplays. We thought we could visualise what we write and so we decided to direct.
Farhad: Also, we were never restricted ourselves to writing. When we would narrate the script to a director, we would perform the scenes with voice modulation and mimicry. Like if there is a scene where a door opens, we would actually make the sound of a door opening.
Once while Akshay was shooting, he called us to his van and told us, 'You are great writers and narrate the story so well, why don't you direct?' Entertainment happened only because of him.
Why didn’t you think of direction earlier?
Sajid: We did get an offer four years back but as they say, things happen at the right time. I’d like to quote my brother Farhad. He always says, ‘Aasmaan ko hum choona chahate hai lein pair zameen par hone chahiye' (we want to touch the sky but our feet should remain on the ground). We have no intention of flying high. We want to stay connected to our roots.
Plus, I am a little heavy so it’s not possible to fly anyway (laughs).
Farhad: After the initial promos of Entertainment, a lot of producers offered to give us a three-film deal or a five-film deal but we don’t want to do everything and anything that comes our way.
Sajid: Producers tell us to take the money and make films at our own pace. But that is not right. When we wrote our first song M Bole Toh in Munnabhai MBBS, we were paid only Rs 5,000. We were disappointed but our father encouraged and said, ‘Don’t worry, you will earn enough in the future.’ We have never chased money.
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Image: Farhad and Sajid
'Our intention is not just to make people laugh but to touch their hearts as well'
Films with children and animals are considered to be a risky proposition but Entertainment is a film based on a dog. Did you ever find it risky?
Farhad: No. The response to the trailers has been very positive. Akshay asked in his interviews, why directors have not tried this genre in the last 25 years.
Sajid: Films like Teri Meherbaniyan and Haathi Mere Saathi released many years back. In Hollywood, there is one film on animals every two or three months.
Yes, it wasn’t easy shooting with a dog. We needed a lot of patience and it was difficult. But the film started on a positive note. Every actor was co-operative. They would all be ready for the shot and the dog would arrive last, as if he was the superstar (laughs).
Farhad: Also, today people are interested in watching different films. Films like Vicky Donor and Queen have worked because they are different.
In Entertainment, too, we have tried to do something different. There is a lot of comedy in the film but what our actors liked in the film is that it has a soul.
Our intention is not just to make people laugh but to touch their hearts as well. When you have animals in the film, the emotion quotient kicks in.
Sajid: Humko public ko bolna hai ki aap apne brains leke aao yeh film dekhne (we want to tell people that they should bring their brains along to watch this film). This isn’t a no brainer film.
Mithun Chakraborty has around 60 dogs in real life. When he heard the narration of the film, he had a good laugh but he also got emotional.
There is a dialogue in the film where Akshay Kumar bonds with the dog and says ‘Aaj ke baad agar mujhe kisine kutta bola toh main gaali nahi taarif samjunga' (After today, if someone calls me a dog, I will take that as a compliment).’
Image: Sajid and Farhad
'We will never attempt sex or adult comedy'
Was Akshay Kumar always on your mind for Entertainment?
Sajid: We had struck a good rapport with Akshay when we worked together on Boss and Housefull 2. He pushed us and told us to direct a film. He has a superb sense of humour and an amazing comic timing.
Farhad: He is a very versatile actor. His last film Holiday showed him in a serious avatar and then he does our film, an out and out comedy.
Except for Shiva (2006), you haven’t done any serious movies. Was one film experience enough to know what people want?
Sajid: We respect films like Gangs Of Wasseypur and even like such films but we wouldn’t be able to write such films. We don’t understand that genre, and are incapable of doing it. It’s easy to make people cry but difficult to make them laugh.
And you never attempted to write sex comedies.
Farhad: A vulgar joke might evoke laughter, but it doesn’t have a life. We will never attempt sex or adult comedy. We feel uneasy in that space.
Image: Sajid and Farhad with the cast of Entertainment
'Critics have double standards'
Critics have always panned your work.
Sajid: Critics ke liye Singham likhi thi jo unko aur public dono ko pasand aayi (We wrote Singham for the critics and they liked the film and so did the audience). But believe me, you have to write the film for the audience, not for the critics.
Yes, we feel great when our films get a good rating but we don’t want the hard-earned money that people spend on tickets to go waste. Picture dekhne ke baad paisa vasool hona chaiye (The film would be well worth the money).
Critics have double standards. I don’t understand why comedy films are looked down upon. It is the most difficult genre to write and make. A film that has a girl using foul language and two sex scenes get four stars but when an actor says a fantastic comic line, critics give that film one star.
Farhad: Today most films that critics love show the lead actor living in poverty, wearing torn clothes and an unshaven look.
Sajid: Going by that, our film should do great because Akshay poore film main fatte haal main ghoom raha hai (laughs) (Akshay is in a bad state in the entire film). He should get a National award!
Image: Sajid and Farhad
'Family entertainers are safe bets and guarantee a good opening at the box office'
How long do you think the genre of slapstick humour will work? A film like Humshakals was considered as one of the worst films.
Farhad: It’s interesting that you ask this. It’s not about a particular genre. It’s about a film. A good film irrespective of the genre will always work and a bad film will never work.
Sajid: When you talk about Humshakals, we are no one to decide what went wrong with the film. We haven’t even seen it. We read that people didn’t like the film, so it would be wrong to make a comment.
We do feel bad when our film gets panned. I think critics should watch films with the general public instead of watching them in preview shows. With due respect, some journalists don’t know anything about films and still become critics.
Also aaj film ki kadar nahi rahi hai hai (Today, no one respects films). People just want to get entertained. You sit at home and book a ticket with a cold drink and pop corn combo. During our time, we had to wait in the queue for two hours to book tickets.
People call the comedy genre a safe bet to make films.
Sajid: Which is true. A regular person works the entire day and goes through a lot of tension in life. So it is important for us to make our audience tension free. We always say comedy is a serious business but at the end of the day, the audience feels entertained.
Family entertainers are safe bets and guarantee a good opening at the box office.
Farhad: Today, the youth doesn’t want a preachy film. If I explain certain things to my daughter, she immediately tells me that she knows about it.
We write the lines what the youth speaks today. I cannot write a dialogue for Akshay where he says, ‘Yeh kutta mera dost hai, meri jaan hai (The dog is my friend, my life).’ People will laugh because this is too old for them.
Image: Sajid and Farhad with Akshay Kumar on the sets of Entertainment
'The thought of remaking Himmatwala was wrong'
Do you think this was the reason why Himmatwala flopped?
Farhad: The thought of remaking Himmatwala was wrong. You cannot have the same story today.
Sajid: Also, the original Himmatwala wasn’t a big hit in its time. Sajid had already written the story and screenplay. We just had to write the dialogues. Somewhere, we couldn’t do justice to it.
Do you ever feel a creativity block?
Sajid: Yes, it happens almost everyday with us. For example, we wrote the first half of Entertainment but couldn’t think about the second half. The script was lying in the cupboard for almost a year.
When you write a dialogue, how do you know it would make the audience laugh?
Farhad: We don’t need to go to Switzerland or Lonavala for inspiration to write. Woh sab chochlebaazi nahi karte hum log (We don’t get into all that gimmicks). Till the time my kid doesn’t come and disturb me, I cannot write.
Also, we aren’t biased towards each other. So if Sajid writes a scene, doesn’t mean I have to approve it. We keep on bouncing our ideas off each other.
Sajid: He gets all his ideas in the loo. If the flush sound is loud, I know he has an idea (laughs).
There are times when we are writing and suddenly our mother comes and says, ‘Aaj kaamwali nahi aayi hai (Our domestic help has come today).’ I tell her, ‘Mom we are renowned writers’ (laughs).
But we enjoy these things. We have a healthy environment at home.
So you’ll take a lot of inspiration from home.
Sajid: There are three things which are needed to be successful -- talent, luck and your family’s support. We are fortunate to have all three.
Our family has always been supportive of whatever we have done. Thankfully, we are earning good money and respect.
That wasn’t the case five years ago. Writers don’t get their due. There was time when the name of Salim-Javed (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar) would be written in bold letters on the posters without even the mention of the actor’s name. Hopefully, we will bring that time back.
Image: Sajid and Farhad
'We are thankful to Salman for what we are today'
Tell us about your family.
Farhad: We always had films in our DNA. Watching movies was always a big family outing. We lived in Bangalore for 12 years and ran a restaurant named after the famous English film, The Party. The business was good.
Sajid: It was Farhad who was inclined towards writing. He would write poems and songs for birthday parties and various occasions. One day, our father told Farhad, ‘You have so much talent, why don’t you go to Mumbai and write films?
So Farhad and I decided to pack our bags and go to Mumbai. And our entire family (wife, one-year-old daughter and our parents) also packed their bags to come with us. We explained to them that it would be tough for everyone to survive but they were adamant.
We rented a place on top of Lucky restaurant in Bandra (in suburban Mumbai) and stayed there for eight months.
And from there the struggle period started.
Sajid: Yes, it was a long struggle.
Farhad had written a lot of songs. We used to carry a plastic tub to give music to our lyrics but no music director was ready to hear them. We would be dejected but our family kept us going.
Our restaurant was run by a manager but as aapko toh pata hai eb baar manager ke haath main kuch diya toh who damager ban jata hai (When you hand over things to a manager, he becomes a damager) (laughs). So we decided to shut it down.
Our struggle continued until Salman Khan heard us at Kamalistan Studio in 2000. He was shooting for Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega. He looked at us and asked if we were real brothers. I told him, ‘Yes and both of us have confirmed it with our parents separately!’
Salman started laughing and told us to recite some songs in five minutes. He said, ‘If I leave midway, it means I don’t like them but don’t feel insulted.’
He was called for a shot but he refused and continued listening to us. He heard 18 songs and told us that he would use four songs in his future films. He made us meet David Dhawan. Our song was selected and David Dhawan took us to meet the Anu Malik. That’s how things changed for us.
The song was Munna Mobile, Papu Pager for the film Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (2002). Initially Salman was going to do the film but the role was done by Sanjay Dutt. We are thankful to Salman for what we are today.
Where do you get your sense of humour from?
Sajid: The entire credit goes to our father, who passed away seven years back. He had a superb sense of humour. I guess he did an excellent job with our mother and passed his genes to us (laughs). I remember the three of us would have bath together and crack silly jokes and our mother would get angry.
Farhad: Kya Bath hai! (laughs)
Image: Sajid and Farhad with the cast and crew of Entertainment
'Whatever we have learnt is because of Rohit Shetty'
Who have been your influences?
Sajid: We always look up to Manmohan Desai and Kader Khan. We also look up to Rajkumar Hirani. All of them know how to emotionally connect with the audience, and still instil humour.
Farhad: I’ll give you an example. Almost all Manmohan Desai films had a Hindu-Muslim angle. Remember the scene in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), in which all the three heroes (Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna) give blood at the same time to one lady (Nirupa Roy). Technically, it’s wrong but the audience loved it.
Also in 3 Idiots (2009), a baby is delivered through a vacuum cleaner. It’s not possible but the director made an emotional connect with the audience.
Tell us about your association with Rohit Shetty.
Sajid: Whatever we have learnt is because of Rohit Shetty. He always wanted us on the sets. You can call it his condition or request but he always asked us to narrate the film to the actors. So if Rohit shot a particular film for 100 days, we would be on the sets on all the days. During that process, we learnt a lot about direction and camera placements.
Farhad: He is the boss on the sets but we do give our suggestions. Sometimes he implements them and sometimes he doesn’t.
Which actors do you think have a good sense of comic timing?
Sajid: Akshay Kumar, definitely. Also, Ranbir Kapoor. You can see brilliant coming timing in Barfi! (2012)
Farhad: A film like Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani (2009) didn’t have a great script but it worked only because of Ranbir.
Image: Akshay Kumar in Entertainment