Sabbir Khan: The next level

Sabbir Khan: The next level

NEW-AGE FILMMAKERS

Sabbir Khan: The next level

Sylvester Stallone at the sets of the film ’Kambakkht Ishq.'

In our series on the dynamic new breed of filmmakers, we now look at Sabbir Khan, a small-time lyricist’s son who has taken Hindi cinema to the next level by shooting in Hollywood’s prestigious studios with the biggest of stars from there — that too in his debut film Kambakkht Ishq.  
Excerpts from an interview:
What made you think of such a concept that needed a mix of the biggest stars from India and Hollywood?
Well, I come from a middle-class Indian family. Our socio-economic level always made us mutually decide on that one film in a month that we had to spend money on to watch together. And like 90 per cent of India we chose spectacular cinema, larger than life and escapist enough to make a diversion from everyday stresses and dreariness. So it was natural that I want to give back that kind of cinema to the   people of India. My father, the late lyricist Noor Dewasi who was best known for his songs for O P Nayyarsaab, never made it very big but ensured that we got the best of English education. But thanks to his letting me accompany him for shoots and sittings, I remained in touch with Hindi and Urdu.

So what made you opt for a career in filmmaking?
Songwriting is inborn, but filmmaking can be learnt! I had watched the biggest directors at work. I always had a good imagination.

What is the USP of ‘Kambakkht Ishq’?
My story is out-of-the-box even as it is in the mainstream genre. My hero is a rough-and-tough stuntman in Hollywood, my heroine a very intelligent and moody surgeon who also models for pocket money. Neither believes in love, till their respective best friends, portrayed by Aftab Shivdasani and Amrita Arora in interesting cameos, get married to each other. It’s a simple romantic comedy with every box-office element added.

Few directors start as big as you do.
I struck an excellent rapport with Akshay Kumar when I was assisted David Dhawan — whom I assisted besides Mahesh Bhatt — on Sajid Nadiadwala’s Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. Since the character needed to be brawny and action-oriented, Akshay was the only choice. Kareena Kapoor was clinched for me the day I watched Jab We Met. I needed someone to match Akshay and the heroine’s character in my script is very strong. As for the dream of shooting in Hollywood, that too with names like the biggest action star Sylvester Stallone as well as Brandon Routh and Denise Richards as it happened, Sajid and I ourselves laughed at it first, but I guess when you are determined things do get possible. I went to live in Los Angeles for a year and started my groundwork. Arnold Schwarznegger was the governor of California and he helped us a lot in getting both the stars, and the shooting permissions which are very complicated procedures there.

So how was the entire experience?
Incredible! Our biggest studios must be no more than a tenth of what Universal Studios is and to shoot 80 per cent of the film there — with that indescribable aura around — as well as in California was a fantastic feeling.

How was their interaction with Akshay and Kareena, and your own feelings while directing them?
Akshay and Kareena had a great bonding with the three Hollywood stars and we all had a blast! We would read the scenes together before shooting and they were all director’s actors, completely at my disposal. But what must have helped was the fact that I had been seeing the biggest of stars since childhood and so I was never intimidated by any of them, especially since my job was to be their captain.

You chose an unusual music team — Anu Malik, who’s going through a low and today’s writer Anvita Dutt Guptan, and this is their first film together.
I wanted songs that were true to every specific situation in the film. I also wanted a variety of them and proper old-fashioned songs — by which I mean that they should be lip-synched and not be there in background snatches. And when the idea is a good, melodic composition that connects with you and is liked when you hear it, why should it matter that your market status is lower to some others. Anu Malik’s been around for 30 years — he’s the most versatile composer after the legends. Anvita had done a great job of the script and she was the right choice for the songs.

Who are your role-models as a director?
I have so many that I cannot mention only a few. Among those from Hollywood, it is definitely Steven Spielberg.

What next?
A holiday! But yes, my fundamental approach will always be — everyone tells an interesting story. So what extra can I give the audience from my side that will make them feel that their hard-earned money wasn’t wasted? After all, one has to in some way go beyond what one has done before!

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