Suddenly, Ali Abbas Zafar who made Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Gunday has gone into a new league.Sultan places him alongside Bollywood’s biggest movie makers. It was pretty sure that Eid and Salman would ensure Sultan‘s success, but no one, not even director imagined the success of the film would hit the sky, and go beyond. Ali speaks to Subhash K Jha.
The success of Sultan is beyond all expectations. How have you reacted to the way the film has been received?
I am glad people have liked the film so much. I can finally sleep again. Before release I was constantly reminded of the responsibility to delivering an Eid blockbuster with Salman Khan in the lead. Luckily for me the response has been overwhelming. I would like to thank everyone who worked on the film, my crew, my team, my producers and the audience for the love they have given to the film. Finally “bal- bal bach gaye” until next time.
It just may turn out to be the biggest hit of Salman Khan’s career. Did you expect the film to do so well?
I had no idea of box office figures when we were making the film. The only thing that has remained constant from writing the film to directing it to seeing it in theatres is that we wanted to a make film with The Salman Khan-and we all know what that means– which we all would be proud of, and we knew if we make that film, the box office numbers will follow.
The reactions to your film are quite stunning. Many say it is the rebirth of Salman as an actor. What are the best reactions you’ve had to the film so far?
I would say I am happy that people are appreciating Salman Sir’s talent and hard work. The reaction from audience is phenomenal. In addition seniors and friends in the film industry have given the film lot of love and appreciation. Seeing the number of messages I am getting I feel it’s my birthday. It is a new birth for me. And my parents who live in Dehradun are the happiest.
What did your parents say when they saw the film?
Parents will always be parents. They will like what I do even if the whole world hates it. But when my dad told me, “You have grown as a person, you are now more evolved than you were as a director in your two other films” it was a proud moment for me.
How did you convince Salman to stop being ‘Salman Khan’ on screen, to get completely into character?
He IS Salman Khan!! How can we get away from that fact? In Sultan I showcased a new side of him. He always had this in him. It was just waiting for the right context to come out. My script and his character provided Salman with the context to show this side of his personality.
There are many moments in the narration where Salman expresses the bitter rage of a loser. Was it difficult for you to convince him to project defeat when his image is that of a superstar?
Not at all. He heard the script, loved it and he knew that it was the demand of the character. He was not hesitant to do anything that I asked him to do. He surrendered wholeheartedly to the character. That’s what worked.
The supporting cast is composed of faces not traditionally associated with a Salman Khan film. Was that deliberate?
Yes, it was a deliberate decision to get actors who have not worked with Salman before because that makes the film look fresh and new.
While Anushka has a powerful role some critics have seen her role to be regressive, as she sacrifices her own ambitions to be a dutiful wife. What do you have to say?
Well according to me Anushka’s character aspirational to begin with. But as the story moves forward andSultan and her character get married, her character moves from being aspirational to become emotional. When audiences are moved by her performance it is because of her emotions not for her aspirations. If I would have kept the aspirational angle then it would be a different film altogether. Having said that may I add, I didn’t make Sultan to fit any existent opinions on feminism.
How difficult was it for you to balance Salman Khan’s fans’ expectations with the needs and demands of your script?
I’ve to admit it was a difficult balance. But I think we kind of achieved it because we were constantly true to the character. All his fans think that he has never been presented like this before.
Are you looking at working with Salman again?
I would love to work with again if he gives me another chance to direct him. Even if he doesn’t, I know Salman and I now share a special bond that is far beyond the work space. We have a heart to heart connection.
I believe you are ready to tie the knot with the woman you love?
As the stars say, no personal questions please. Ha ha. Seriously I am still young and marriage is not on the cards as of now. Who can say about tomorrow?