Ali Abbas Zafar is an Indian film director & screenwriter. His debut film was “Mere brother ki Dulhan” which achieved moderate success. He also directed films like GUNDEY, SULTAN and TIGER ZINDA HAI which ranks among the highest grossing film. His next most awaited film starring Salman Khan & Katrina Kaif is BHARAT.
Q. You have a perfect blend of content and commercial cinema, so how do you try to manage that?
Ali Abbas- I always feel that there is nothing than a story in a film. The story is the biggest hero. When you have a good strong powerful story and on top of it there is Salman than the film is more amplified among the audience. Always the 1st try is to look for the story which has its resonance with India and our motherland. In this case, Salman asked me to watch a Korean film Owe to my Father before I had never thought of making a remake I always wanted to write my own story. But when I watched that Korean film I understood why Salman asked to me watch it because it has a very simple and sweet story of a disgraced family where a family is separated due to India and Pakistan partition and during that a son made a promise to his dad. Now what this guy will do to keep that promise is the story. I came to Salman and said to bring this story to India we need to do a complete rewrite, so now Bharat is very different from “owe to my father”. When I knew the story the very important thing was the character name about a guy who has spanned from 1940-2010. And he has lived as long as this country after independence, so it was very important to find a character name which can be parallel between 2 things and then came the word, Bharat, with this I was very clear about the film I was making. When Salman is there then there has to be action, emotion, songs which we call as Salman’s best Thali.
Q. Was it easy to get the title?
Ali Abbas – No, the title was the most difficult thing and we were not finding a title. I was confused and wondering what to name it, the movie is about a hero so should it be ram, Arjun, or Karan because they are the heroes from mythology, but then I thought it should be named after the country because the film is about the evolution of the country. One day I was tossing in bed and I thought there could not be a better title than Bharat and that is how the word Bharat came in.
Q. Was it difficult to present Salman Khan in different eras and how much research did you do?
Ali Abbas– A lot of research, it took one and an hour for scripting. In 2hrs 30mins film there are 7 different films because every chapter of his life is like one small film.
Q. How was it difficult to create different looks of Salman in the film?
Ali Abbas – Oh well, again looks went into severe research. We went through albums of people’s family and we saw how grandfathers and parents have evolved with time. There is not only looks but we have prosthetics and VFX support, so all those things were done over a period of test that we did with him. We did a test on him and the entire family which is aging with him, so its been a long and tough process.
Q. During experimenting looks was there a double thought that fans might not expect this kind of look?
Ali Abbas – I personally think that fans relate to Salman in the context of the story. Everyone knew that Salman is going aged with the time in the film so my only aim was not to disappoint fans thinking that ohh the old man is not looking like a very gracefully aged Salman Khan. Also, we were very cleary that when we see old man we think that the person has 70years experience and have had faced a lot of things.
Q. In your first interview you had mentioned that tried to recreate “Maine Pyaar Kiya” look so was that successful?
Ali Abbas– Well, that time he was san till younger, we have actually started his first look when he looking closer to how he was looking in Karan Arjun” and we went back to that look.
Q. How did Salman Khan react to the film and the different looks?
Ali Abbas – He complains but he also understands the demand of the script.
Q. Can we say this as the most challenging film of your career considering the fact that it has a huge star cast?
Ali Abbas – It is not only about the star cast, it is just very ambitious project and because somewhere or the other you would see 70yrs of a man’s life also see a parallel journey of the country. What the film is talking at heart is a relevant question. There is one line in the trailer “desh logo se banta hai aur logo ki pehchan unke parivaar se hoti hai”. In a nutshell, the film questions the fact we are one big family and what we need is to co-exist with a lot of love and harmony which I think the pillar of this country has been over a period of a time. The whole idea when you travel outside the country people asks who are you don’t tell about your religion, first you say I am an Indian. So the film, in a nutshell, is talking about love and togetherness and all that love starts from the family that you belong so that’s the byline of the film. How Sultan was his fight within, this is basically his fight to keep everything together and what he does over those 70 years of living is only the parallel context with the country.
Q. Along with the content and music which are used in your film one more thing is the female protagonist, they have a very strong character in your film. Like in Sultan there was Anushka, though the length might be short but it was the finest character. So how is it with Katrina?
Ali Abbas – Actually it is as strong as Sultan, even in Tiger Zoya was very strong. Same is here that’s the reason why he calls her madam because she is stronger than Salman’s character is the film because she is her boss, then that equation carries forward for next 40years that they are together. She is the person who is almost like a mirror to Bharat’s character, she is the person who always tells reality that’s going in her life. At times when you are so, self-occupied you become selfish but then you need a person who tells what you are doing might be right but now you are sounding selfish and when that comes from a very important character in the film, that character becomes the soul of the film. Bharat is his life journey but somewhere or the other his soul is Kumud which is Katrina’s character. I am very happy the way Katrina has pulled it through because it is very new for her.
Q. As a filmmaker do box office numbers play on your mind also before you start the film the budget of the film or how much might make, is it all predecided?
Ali Abbas – See on a film like this budget is very important because you can’t make a film like this until and unless you have a budget luckily I was fortunate enough to have a producer who backed my vision. Talking about box office numbers yes at the time they bother you. But then I say if the film is good it will automatically make numbers. So I only see there is a certain expectation now when Salman and I do a film together people would say that they will do something which is worth their time. And if you are happy that if they sit two and a half hour ta hey will get what we are promising them than the number follows. I never expected “Tiger” to do so much business but I was very happy with the film and the film did more than expected numbers.
Q. When the trailer came out we got a glimpse of all the characters except Tabbu and there was a lot of speculation around it, so was that a conscious decision from your end to keep a character hidden?
Ali Abbas – Yes its a very conscious decision because Tabu is a very important part of the film which I want to keep it for the cinema hall. And not only Tabu there are a lot of other characters, its a very packed film when in theaters you will say ohh my god there are so many stories in here but I couldn’t compress it in 3 mins. Ideally I did not want to do a trailer of this film I was like let’s just release songs because how will we manage to tell a story of a 70 years man journey in 3 mins. But luckily with my trailer cutter, we cracked the story and we thought let’s tell a story of an old man who just had a great time in his life. And that’s how the structure of the film came through. But when you will see the film within 15-20 mins you would say oh my god we have already seen half of the film because there is so much happening and as I said there are 7 films of Salman Khan in 1 film.
Interview By Rupal Purohit