Writer-director Farhad Samji is cool and relaxed even though his directorial debut Housefull 4, starring Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Riteish Deshmukh and Kriti Sanon, and produced by Sajid Nadiadwala, releases today. Apart from his earlier releases, currently he has written Street Dancer, Bhool Bhulaiya, Laxmmi Bomb, Sooryavanshi and will direct Bachchan Pandey which stars Akshay Kumar again. He talks about how Akshay has honed himself into a fine actor and shares what makes him so.
Farhad says Housefull 4 was a challenging script for him to write but Akshay loved the character of Bala he immediately said yes. “The story idea was given by Sajid Nadiadwala who said why don’t we do Housefull 4 as a reincarnation comedy? But that is easier said than done as we had to develop it into a mad script and a real world. Indians believe in sprits, reincarnation etc and while we were doing the character sketches of Bala and Harry (both played by Akshay) had developed the concept of reincarnation and getting married to the wrong girls. The second stage started when we started sketching out scenes. Akshay sir loved the Bala character because he is an evil prince. He feels the youth of today want the opposite of everything and they could click with it. He felt that such a character could never go wrong. It was challenging but exciting for him to play such a cruel, mean and negative role. He has done over 150 films and most of them glorify the hero. But for the first time we have shown Akshay playing such an evil and rude character who wants to kill his father.”
The writer-director says that Akshay has played one of the most comic scenes ever in Housefull 4 which will make the audience will roll with laughter. “There is a scene where he tries to execute his father but he cannot. It’s how he throws him out of his kingdom. It’s a visual treat and I tell people watching it ‘Bhai dekho aur mazey lo!’ Akshay was too good in that scene. My AD’s and I have seen the scene many times, but we cannot resist watching it over and again as we fall down laughing. It’s an iconic scene. In some comedies, there is one scene which becomes one of the highlights of the movie. This one will be that. I write songs too so I have sketched out characters in my songs like in Munnabhai MBBS, I had written Boley toh master mein master and Rajkumar Hirani and Vinod Vinod Chopra had told me, ‘Aapne toh character likh diya’. I had that inspiration in mind when the Bala song was created and that he should be introduced through the lyrics of the song. It has clicked with youth big time.”
Farhad has shot with Akshay in Sooryavanshi, Laxmmi Bomb and Housefull 4 and says the actor shoots effortlessly, switching from one character to another with ease. “I don’t think it is challenging for Akshay sir. He does four or five films in a year. Whether I write his films or not, he keeps shifting gears from one film to another and even I write for others too. That is talent, his attitude or way of working so it is up to Akshay how he handles or switches roles. He is very hard-working and definitely somebody to learn from. His planning is impeccable – he gets up at 5 am, he hears the script by 8 am and is fresh and bright in the morning.”
Farhad shares an interesting observation of Akshay. “I have observed that Akshay is the only star who keeps listening to the script again and again. Like if we locked a script for Sooryavanshi, after three days when we meet again, he will invite me over to his office to narrate the script once more. It’s not that he wants to make changes, but he does it to just to refresh and recharge his mind. That is why he is very alert when he comes on the sets – like he knows that ‘today I will wear a saree on Laxmmi Bomb sets, today I will wear a cop uniform on Sooryavanshi sets and today I a balding man in Housefull 4’.
Farhad is recently working with Akshay in Housefull 4, Sooryavanshi and Laxmmi Bomb. “Yes and I feel Akshay has evolved wonderfully as an actor over the years. Earlier, he used to get roles as an action hero who could also dance well but then a cult comedy film like Hera Pheri changed everybody’s perception of him. When he started doing comedy, it proved to the audience that this guy could do more than just action or song-and-dance numbers. After that he’s done some performance-oriented movies including Airlift which really touched our hearts. I have written over 50 films till now and for a writer, sometimes what we want to express doesn’t come across and the actor cannot catch the essence or soul of his role. I have written six to seven movies for Akshay, including Housefull 2 and 4 but we have such a tuning, faith and trust in each other that he can ask me if something suits him or not and I can tell him that he can definitely pull it off. In comedy it’s a gamble like in Housefull 3 how Akshay pulled off a Sandy-Sundi character so successfully and now in Housefull 4 he plays a barber in this life and a bald king in his past life.”
For Farhad the toughest scene was the climax sequence. “I always have the pressure of the climax because that is what the audience goes out with when the film gets over and is extremely important for any film to work. I knew we had a very good climax on paper but then we had to execute, edit and add background music and VFX to it. But I was happy when we had a cast and crew trial on Wednesday night and people present there said that the climax leaves you enthralled. We planned it very well and apart from the climax, shot major scenes and songs too for shot it over a month at Chitrakot Studios in Mumbai. When I was asked to direct, the set was standing and was a grand one from the reincarnate on period. After that we shot in London, Rajasthan, Jaisalmer and Mumbai. I have shot 60 per cent of the film and was there for the screenplay, dialogues and narrations from first on sets. I had to get coordinate with 500 dancers for a song, work on action with Shyamji (Kaushal), do my story boards, and even post production was tough as there is a lot of VFX but it’s part and parcel of every big film and God has been kind that we sailed through that.”