Nikhil Advani says he is very tired. “The post production of two films - Hero and Katti Batti - has taken a toll on me,” he sighs. But he gets animated when he discusses his two ventures, his hero Irfan’s turnaround and the help he received from Salman and Aamir.
Two of your directorial ventures - Hero and Katti Batti - are releasing back to back. Aren’t you concerned that this will affect your audience?
To release both the films back to back was not the plan. I was like ‘Don’t release on the same date.’ But I was told ‘Don’t be arrogant and think anybody knows you as a director... only those who follow you on twitter know you.’ People are seeing Hero as a film with two newcomers which Salman is producing and singing a song in. And Katti Batti is Kangana Ranaut’s. Had Katti Batti not come the next week after Hero, some other film would have released; so it was ok with me.
You had directed Salman in Salaam-e-Ishq. Did that lead to him asking you to direct his production Hero?
Salman called me after watching my film D Day (2013) and asked if I would like to make Hero. I questioned him whether he was there in the film or not…and he said no. I said I will make the film. Six months later, he asked me why I had asked him if he was a part of Hero and I said that was because the film requires new actors. Salman told me he doesn’t want documentary style realism in Hero; he wanted the film to be larger than life like Salaam-E-Ishq.
What was Salman like as a producer?
I was the mid wife who gave the baby (Hero) to Salman. It is his vision. The eureka moment came to me when I decided to make the film: I had him (Salman) in the film so why not follow him? He is the proponent of this genre. I remember during Bajrangi Bhaijaan, I asked him to see the edit (of Hero) and he asked me why I was underestimating the audience and spoon-feeding them. We cut thirty minutes of the film and it is now two hours and four minutes because of Salman Khan. I did what he said.
He is the best producer…he told me there is no budget for the film. He is not making the film for money; he is making it because he feels strongly about giving back to the industry.
In which other areas was Salman involved with in Hero?
He was involved in choosing Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty. I only asked Salman if they can act…I put them into workshops for acting, dance, action, martial arts and showed them the technical details.
Did you ever feel Salman was interfering too much in the project?
No, I asked him to interfere … I don’t think he has interfered enough. I got him at times when he was busy with Kick, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. We feel fortunate for all his contributions and inputs.
Salman is Hero ... and it is everything that he wanted it to be.
Tell us about Aamir Khan’s involvement with Katti Batti?
He is very involved with Katti Batti. I had narrated Katti Batti to Aamir a year ago and he gave me 15 points for changes. He said that neither did he like the story nor did he like the film. I was disheartened. He called me after three days and said it was a good film and he asked me to change something. I made the change. He sat with me on the edit ... and in a week we did the changes. One year later when I showed him the film he cried and said that he had saved my film. The last 20 minutes of the film is dedicated to Aamir Khan. According to Aamir, this film is Imran’s best performance and he also called up Kangana and said she was outstanding.
When I am taking help of Salman and Aamir for a film, it doesn’t mean that I am demeaning myself as a director…it is a collaborative effort. Rishi Kapoor and Raj Kapoor used to show their films to the watchman too ... so who am I?
Do you think Katti Batti will bring Imran’s career on track again?
I hope so…I don’t think there was anything wrong for him to do a film with Vishal Bharadwaj (Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola) or Milan Luthria (Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara) or Karan Johar (Gori Tere Pyar Mein). One would obviously work with these people. What is his mistake? Why is the blame given to him? Shouldn’t everyone be accepting the blame? I do believe this film is Imran’s best performance till date.
You are currently interacting with Aamir and Salman. And Shah Rukh was the hero of your first film Kal Ho Na Ho. How do you differentiate between the three Khans?
Both Salman and Aamir sat on the edit table for Hero and Katti Batti respectively. Both say the same things - to present things in a clear way. I don’t know where Shah Rukh is at this point. He is very selfless as an actor.
Any plans to direct any of the three Khans?
They chose their directors…directors don’t chose them.