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CIMA Gallary

Salman’s brother calls the shots

Has director and producer Arbaaz Khan done enough to keep Chulbul Pandey smug enough to deliver another member of the 100-crore club or will his decision to keep his brother company on screen boomerang? A t2 chatů

Were you always set on a sequel to Dabangg? Or did the film’s success push you in that direction?

When we started shooting Dabangg, there were no such plans. Sequels are usually made once a film gets accepted. But halfway through the shoot, we sensed a sequel. The climax was kept open-ended, just in case the film did well at the box-office. Thankfully it did.

What were your creative inputs while making Dabangg?

I was a very hands-on producer. When I started my production company (Arbaaz Khan Productions), I was clear that I’d want my films to reflect my taste and sensibilities. When Abhinav (Singh Kashyap, the director of Dabangg) narrated the script, it was very dark and hard-hitting. There was a huge difference between what he had narrated and what people saw on screen. It didn’t even have a song! But I saw the potential (of the script) and took it to Salman. When Salman came on board, we reworked the script, keeping his image in mind. That was my contribution. So, the basic idea of the film was Abhinav’s and the embellishments were Salman’s and mine.

Considering you were closely involved with the creative aspect of the film, did you, at any point, wish you had directed Dabangg?

Not at all. I didn’t even want to direct Dabangg 2. I was very happy with how Abhinav gave shape to Dabangg and that’s why I called him back. I had Salman’s dates, so I asked him to work on the script. We exchanged some ideas. I was under the impression that we had him on board (for the sequel) but then he SMSed, opting out of the project. But I still wanted to make the film.

Did you consider any other director before taking over?

I have always wanted to direct. If I didn’t think I could then I wouldn’t have decided (to direct). Yes, I did consider getting another director but then decided against it. I don’t think anyone else would have been as passionate towards the film as me.

Most directors are usually afraid of directing Salman. What were your fears?

There is always that anxiety before you start a new film. It’s normal. The biggest of actors and directors feel anxious and scared before the first day of shoot. As long as emotions don’t hamper one’s ability to work, it’s all right. So, yes I was scared and anxious but all that went away after the first shot was canned. I felt liberated when I shouted my first ‘cut’ (laughs).

How different is it to act alongside Salman than direct him?

As an actor, I don’t tell him what to do. He usually does what he wants to do. During this shoot, I had to tell him (what to do). The character of Chulbul Pandey was already there. If I wanted a retake, I didn’t hesitate asking him for another shot.

See, you can’t take away the fact that we are brothers. We were professional on the set but we couldn’t forget our relationship. We had our disagreements and discussions.

How would you compare his interactions with you vis-Ó-vis other directors?

I don’t think he believes in favouritism. If he wants to convey something, he does. He would have hated it if I played the ‘brother card’. He was the superstar and I was the debutant director.

There is talk that Salman ghost-directs his films.

There is nothing called ghost- directing. Why would someone want to ghost-direct? All actors have suggestions to offer. On my set everyone, from Prakash Raj (who plays the villain) to the DoP (Aseem Mishra), had suggestions, but that doesn’t mean that they have ghost-directed Dabangg 2. Being a director involves a lot more than just how a scene is shot. It starts from the story and includes overseeing every department of filmmaking.

You have directed, produced and acted in the film. Were you overwhelmed at any point?

Yes, absolutely. I did feel the pressure. I prioritised. During pre-production, I made sure that I had everything in place and then I wore the director’s hat. After we finished shooting and I looked at the production bills, I cried (laughs). As an actor, I used myself very sparingly. I had to be a part because the film is a continuation (of Dabangg). But I don’t think I’d want to act, direct and produce (all together) ever again. I can only handle two departments simultaneously! Towards the end of the film, I started feeling the pressure.

Are you going to direct a prequel to Dabangg?

There are ideas. Even when I was working on the script for Dabangg 2, we wondered if it should continue from Dabangg or if we should put Chulbul in a completely new situation, like Munnabhai. A sequel, in the true sense of the word, takes a story forward so that’s what we decided to do. We are still wondering whether Dabangg 3 should look at Chulbul’s early days or if we should completely change the story. It’s too early to say.

So, you’ll direct again?

Absolutely, I loved directing. If I ever have to choose between acting, direction and producing, I’d pick directing.

Karishma Upadhyay