A Minute With: Sajid Khan on ‘Himmatwala'

MUMBAI Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:58pm IST

1 of 2. A still from the movie 'Himmatwala'.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Sajid Khan's films rarely get good reviews but the Bollywood film-maker doesn't mind. Most critics have panned his movies but audiences ensured his slapstick comedies made a killing at the box office.

Khan is breaking out of his usual genre to attempt an action comedy with "Himmatwala", his new film that opens in cinemas in March.

The film, about a man's mission to avenge his father, is a different spin on a 1983 blockbuster of the same name.

The 2013 version stars Ajay Devgn and Tamannaah in the lead.

Khan spoke to Reuters about revisiting the 30-year-old film and why he thinks "Himmatwala" would be one of the year's biggest hits.

Q: Is your film a remake of "Himmatwala"? A: "It's 20 percent. They are two different films. The old ‘Himmatwala' didn't have a city or a discotheque; mine does. I don't even want to call it a remake, I would call it a rewrite."

Q: Why did you want to ‘rewrite' this film? A: "I have been an ardent fan of ‘Himmatwala' growing up and even now. It's one of those movies I would take to an island. So I wanted to make something that was in that zone. But then I thought why a similar zone, just make that film. Ajay (Devgn) was very kicked about it. The response in the industry was ‘How can you make Himmatwala? It's not a classic'. But for me a classic is a film you can watch again and again. ‘Gone with the Wind' is not a classic for me. I don't think I can sit through it more than once."

Q: What is it about the 80s and that era that made you want to make a film based in that time? A: "I saw the entire 80s first-hand. My teens were in the 80s and I was a city child, so right from video games to the advent of the compact disc, to VHS, Hindi cinema, break-dancing, gaudy clothes, Michael Jackson and Madonna … the 80s to me was a mixture of the worst and best decade. For me it will always be the most special decade, so I didn't need to do any research for this film."

Q: What do you remember about the movies of the 80s? A: "Right until 1984 was a great period because maximum movies worked at the box office. Big budget films like ‘Shaan', ‘Dostana', ‘Kranti' -- these were all big-budget movies. But when ‘Himmatwala' hit screens in 1983 and Sridevi became a household name and Jeetendra, Kader Khan and Shakti Kapoor became a gang, they started calling them the south factory. They were churning out movies every month and till 1986/87, 90 percent of them worked at the box office. So ‘Himmatwala' started the trend of over-the-top cinema, but (also) very entertaining."

Q: So has the concept of larger-than-life hero and film caught on? A: "It never went away … But if you do it with conviction, like I do a lot of inane, over-the-top stuff in my film, but I do it with so much conviction that I convince my actors to do it. I live on my conviction. The day my conviction is shaken, I'll be destroyed as a film-maker. And it is my conviction which is telling me today, two months before the release of my film, that it will be one of the top three biggest hits of 2013 … I am not good at sports, I don't cook, I don't look good, but I am good at movies and I won't go wrong with that."

Q: Do you think you know the Indian audience and what it wants? A: "1000 percent. Cinema is not going to change. Indian audiences have changed, but in a minor way. Today's kids weren't born in the 80s so their upbringing, so their view of certain things in life, so one must keep up with them. So my films are cool, they have a little tongue-in-cheek humour … All my screenplays have been written keeping the thali (assortment of dishes) audience in mind. I have to do something for kids, I have to do something for teenagers, I have to make sure that the film appeals to ladies … If you hit a target audience of 70 percent, your film will be a super-duper hit."

Q: Does this come from being a dedicated audience for Indian films? A: "I am not a great director. There are many other directors who are far more technically skilled, but I am the greatest audience member. I am thousands of miles ahead of them as the audience. That's why I will never make a film that I am half unsure about. I will always choose ideas which I feel will be universally accepted."

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