Phir Hera Pheri (2006) is a favourite film of every Bollywood fan and the way it has acquired a numero uno status in the world of memes is legendary. As the Akshay Kumar-Suniel Shetty-Paresh Rawal starrer completed 16 years on June 9, Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke with its producer Firoz Nadiadwala about the film and a lot more. The producer, just like in his films, also likes to add a lot of entertainment and fun in his interviews. At the same time, it is heartening to see how he makes it clear that late writer-director Neeraj Vora is chiefly responsible for the film’s super-success.
16 Years Of Phir Hera Pheri EXCLUSIVE: “Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty and Paresh Rawal had found the concept of a sequel very alien. ‘Part 2 aaj tak kabhi bana hai kya?’, they asked me” – Firoz Nadiadwala
After how many years of Hera Pheri did you decide to make Phir Hera Pheri?
We released the first part in 2000. In the latter part of 2003, when we were through with Awara Paagal Deewana (2002) and Aan – Men At Work (2004) is when I spoke to Neeraj Vora ji. This was a time when the idea of a sequel was non-existent.
Nevertheless, I still asked Neeraj ji how we should take this story forward. He was kind enough to give me a patient hearing. We finalized the plot. Then we requested Akshay ji, Paresh bhai and Suniel. Even they found the concept of a sequel very alien. ‘Part 2 aaj tak kabhi bana hai kya?’, they asked me. We had our discussions, after which the trio put their total confidence in us. That’s how we started Phir Hera Pheri. By God’s grace, it turned out well.
So yes, it is India’s first sequel where a franchise was established. Pehli baar logon ko laga ki ek Bollywood film ka part 2 bhi ho sakta hai.
What do you think went in favour of the film? Even after 16 years, it continues to make waves…
What worked is Neeraj ji’s thought and belief. If you notice, this is a movie about innocent characters. Chahe Baburao ho ya Raju ho ya Shyam ho ya Totla Don ho, sab masoom hai. Sab hoshyari kar rahe hai aur ek dusre ko huul de rahe hai. Lekin phir bhi masoom hai. Hence, it became like a Disney kind of a movie. And people lapped it up.
Since you were stepping into an unknown territory, were you tensed or scared?
Darr ko overcome karne ka ek hi tarika hai. Mehnat karo. Moreover, we had full support from Paresh bhai and Akshay ji. We used to have proper dialogue rehearsals. The film rests on timing. Neeraj ji used to ensure that nothing is lost in translation. Often a writer hands over the dialogue sheet to the actor. And the actor ends up delivering the dialogue in a different rhythm. Neeraj ji ka hallmark yeh tha ki woh jis rhythm soch ke dialogue likhte the, wohi set pe actors se bulwate the. He used to even tell actors where they should take a pause. He used to enact them as well as he’s from theatre.
The other pathbreaking aspect of the film is the cliffhanger ending. This is something that’s become mainstream now thanks to the web series. But in 2006, it was quite novel for the viewers. What made you go for such a finale?
Woh isliye tha kyunki hamara budget khatam ho gaya tha! We wanted that when the audiences exit the theatre, they should ask the director and producer’s number, taaki audience unko puch sake ‘Ya toh yeh batao ki end mein kya hota hai ya fir refund do’ (laughs)! On a serious note, we intentionally wanted to keep an open ending. It was something we all mulled over. Akshay ji and Paresh bhai were all a part of this discussion and we all decided ki yeh film ko aise hi end karna hai. And it worked.
Aap part three mein dekhna kya kya daalne waale hai hum. Once Hera Pheri 3 releases, tab do-teen mahino ke liye main out of India jaane waala hoon! Usme toh aisi aisi cheezein hai ki public dhoondte hua aayegi mere office (laughs)!
A conversation on Phir Hera Pheri is not complete without mentioning the memes. How do you look at it?
Me, Paresh bhai and Akshay are also quite surprised that how (this film has become so big on social media). There’s no answer to this. Often, filmmakers or the marketing team come up with a strategy or they plant stuff online. We have not done anything of that sort. It’s all organic. I guess the innocence of the characters is what kept it rising. The innocence that was there in Padosan (1968), Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983), Pyaar Kiya Jaaye (1966), etc; it’s on similar lines.
Do you use any memes of the film while communicating online?
No, as I am not at all on social media. If someone sends me a meme, then I sent it to Paresh bhai and vice versa. I also sent to Akshay ji and he also keeps me posted. So, all three of us keep sharing Hera Pheri and Phir Hera Pheri memes with each other. However, personally, I don’t use the memes in my conversation like how others do.
Phir Hera Pheri clashed with Chup Chup Ke. Since both films were comic capers, was that a worry?
No. Main apni thali mein dhyaan deta hoon. Meri thali mein sukhi roti bhi ho na, main bismillah bol ke khushi se khaata hoon, chahe baaju waala pulav kha raha ho. I concentrate on my work rather than focusing on what others are doing. And I wished him equal success and still do.
You and Neeraj Vora had a very close bond. It’s heartening to see how you credit him for the success of Phir Hera Pheri…
There’s a difference between comedy and wit. The idea is that characters se comedy mat karwao. Don’t ask them to give funny expressions and don’t add crudity or double meaning dialogues. Yeh sab Neeraj ji humko seekha ke gaye. We were fortunate and blessed. He’s like my elder brother. Woh humein virasat mein deke gaye hai. Me, Mandeep bhai (Neeraj Vora’s manager who now works with Firoz Nadiadwala) and Neeraj used to spend hours together, to discuss script, dialogues, characters, mannerism etc. Neeraj ji at that time was one of the most sought after writers. I’ll not take anybody’s name but some of the top heroes wanted to work with him. Neeraj ji would not check his phone. So it became a saying in the industry that ‘agar Neeraj ko milna hai, toh Barkat chale jaao’. Barkat is my villa’s name.
What’s the status on your web series, Art Of War?
Art Of War is on money counterfeiting. It’ll be a grand web series. The work has started.
You had also announced a web series on the call centre-IRS scam…
We have named it Hotshots. That will also soon go on floors.
Is Welcome 3 happening?
Yes, we are working on it.
Anees Bazmee directed Welcome and Welcome Back. Will he direct Welcome 3?
The director is not locked yet. We’ll let you know.
Anees Bazmee had claimed that he had some issues with you…
It was a small issue.
Are you both on talking terms?
Yes, of course. We do. Woh hamare bhai hai.
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