Decoding Sajid Khan
April 09, 2013
Believe it or not, Sajid is a lot more intelligent than the films he makes. So why does he make them?
Last week Ajay Devgn, Sajid Khan and actress Tamannaah Bhatia visited Dubai to promote Himmatwala. Being part of a Bollywood magazine, I got a chance to meet and interview them. It was an assignment I had mixed feelings about. What do you ask a director whose repertoire includes some of the most tasteless, ridiculous, cringe-worthy creations of recent times? What do you ask an actor who, it seemed had bid goodbye to the serious, sensible cinema he was known for? What do you ask an actress who… umm, who was she? But a job was a job; it had to be done!
I had no interest in the film for the obvious reason – it was a Sajid Khan film! But I was definitely interested in Sajid. And the only questions I wanted to ask him were – why, just why did he make SUCH mind-numbingly dumb films? More importantly, just how did his films work at the box office? Are Indian audiences still stuck in a time-warp seeking mindless entertainment despite all the talk of ‘new-age’ cinema taking over Bollywood? Or is the number of people who love the ‘leave your brains behind’ genre of comedy significantly higher than those who crave some sense even in nonsense?
Perhaps Sajid preempted the questions, for right from the beginning of the press conference, he defended his choice. He talked at length about how tacky the 80s were, explained his strange fascination for Himmatwala (which inspired the remake) and gave that ultimate excuse filmmakers did for making bad films – his movies are entertainers and the masses want to watch them.
Really? Did the modern audience actually want to watch the trashy, puerile comedy he passed off as cinema (agreed, the box office figures prove otherwise, but still…)? “An entertaining film is an entertaining film. A great book written in 1957 will be considered great in 2017 too, won’t it? Besides, what you consider ‘good’ now may be considered cheesy 20 years down the line,” he defended.
His philosophy was clear: as he has reiterated time and again, he wasn’t making a film for critics. The stars next to a review didn’t bother him. What mattered was box office success. “I don’t make films, I design hits,” he had once said. Fair enough. After all, Sajid isn’t the only member of this ‘a hit is all that matters’ school of thought – he is in good company with Rohit Shetty, Prabhu Deva, Aneez Bazmee, Arbaaz Khan and others. Yet Sajid is a bit different.
In fact, during my one-on-one interview session, we had a rather nice chat about the tacky 80s, the changed filmmaking scene and box office rules. That he had a fantastic knowledge of Bollywood and was truly in love with the movies, even the bad ones, was evident. Here was a man who was actually much better than his films and whose cinematic sensibilities were pretty refined! So why did he make such bad films? Perhaps it had something to do with his background.
An industry child, he was literally and figuratively, the poorer cousin of Farhan and Zoya Akhtar. His childhood wasn’t easy and as a Tehelka story on Farah and Sajid had once revealed, his only outlet was watching movies. Unlike many kids of the ‘80s he didn’t consider Bollywood uncool which sort of explains his fascination for the colours, drama and lack of logic of that era’s films. Sister Farah made a name for herself as a fine choreographer and a hit, entertaining filmmaker (let’s forget Tees Maar Khan, her Main Hoon Naa and Om Shanti Om were definitely fun to watch). If Sajid had to be taken seriously, he had to deliver big hits. And when he turned director, that’s exactly what he did – understand the average Indian psyche and made films that appeased it; aesthetics be damned!
It may sound strange but I find Sajid Khan quite fascinating. The earliest memories I have of him are from television shows of the late 90s when he used to present some genuinely funny shows like Ikke Pe Ikka and Kehne Mein Kya Harz Hai. He also used to do hilarious spoofs on cricket commentators (especially during the time Mandira Bedi had been roped in to anchor a World Cup Cricket show). These programmes were irreverent, spoofy yet most of the time, genuinely funny revealing a wild, wacky sense of humour.
When he switched to cinema, believe it or not, he actually began his career with a rather sensible film – a segment in the intelligently-made Ram Gopal Varma horror-thriller, Darna Mana Hai. His first full-fledged film was Heyy Babyy . Ever since it has been a downhill journey (in terms of quality) with Himmatwala, arguably, hitting the lowest point. At the packed theatre where I watched the film a couple of days ago, several people walked out midway. That would be quite a shock to Sajid who had claimed he would refund ticket money if anyone could watch it in the first weekend without advance booking.
It actually makes you wonder what makes filmmakers like him so cocky? Sajid’s attention-grabbing headlines and tall claims and brutal honesty about the kind of films he makes don’t exactly endear him to people. It worked until his films worked. So far, he had taken the critics for granted. Now, with Himmatwala, it appears he has taken the audience for granted too. This, for any director, is bad news!
The ironic part is, his sense of humour is actually much better than the comedy in his films. Strictly going by his sensibilities, his past television shows, his passion for Hindi films, one can assume that somewhere beneath the 100-crore arrogance, there is a decent director. Perhaps if he can discover that funny bone, he may be able a film that gets more than one or two stars and also makes money.
Simply because, we the audience are spoilt for choice – we don’t need a Sajid Khan entertainer. There is always Anurag Kashyap and Shoojit Sarkar and Zoya Akhtar entertainer to turn to. What’s more they don’t mind us taking our brains with us.