The Tiger franchise continues to be popular, even a decade after the release of the first film in 2012. Who do you attribute this success to?
It has to be (director) Kabir Khan, because he came up with Ek Tha Tiger, which was a huge success. You can’t make a franchise unless the first film is a blockbuster. Then Ali Abbas Zafar took it forward with another hit, Tiger Zinda Hai. Now Maneesh Sharma has given Tiger’s story his own spin, and turned it into one of the best films of the year.
Why did you keep a gap of three to four years between the release of the three films?
You make a film only when you have a good script.
This year, Shah Rukh Khan and you had cameos in each other’s films Pathaan and Tiger 3 respectively, something you used to do in the early days of your careers. Tell us about your working relationship.
Shah Rukh and I know each other really well. All we have to do is look at each other and we understand what is going on in the other person’s mind. The reason is that we have done many films together. That is true for Sanjay Dutt, too. Besides, bonding between co-actors is essential. Without it, there is no chemistry on screen. Today’s generation of actors doesn’t want to do films with multiple heroes, but we didn’t mind that. We were secure enough to understand that when two actors do a project together, the number of fans increases for both, as do the box-office numbers. Hence, the chance of the film being a hit is more.
Can the audience expect a full feature film starring you and SRK?
Yes, we will be doing a patriotic film together. The announcement will be made soon.
How do you deal with success and failure?
I don’t. Once I wrap up a film, it’s for the audience to like or dislike it. I, of course, feel happy when my films are appreciated, and bad when they aren’t. But, it is important to remember that when a film does well, especially beyond the opening weekend, the credit goes to the writers, DOPs and the rest of the crew. But, when it bombs, both actors and directors must take the blame. Either way, the aim should always
be to work harder on the next project.
You have played a character called Prem in over 15 films. It has become synonymous with your filmography. What is it about the name that you keep revisiting?
I have always felt close to the character of Prem. The first time was in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). I’ve had an emotional connection with the name since then, probably because they have mostly been family-oriented films. I am doing a project along similar lines with Sooraj Barjatya next. I think he’s the only director who can make movies about a large clan, where everybody comes together; even for the smallest of reasons.
Your niece Alizeh Agnihotri’s debut film, Farrey, which you bankrolled, also did well at the box office.
Alizeh had received several offers before Farrey, but initially she didn’t want to become an actor. I am glad she changed her mind, and we were able to convince her to start her career with this film. I liked the fact that she didn’t mind starring in a production with an ensemble cast. She worked hard, and her personality shines through. Let’s see what the future holds for her.
What’s your next project?
I am doing Karan Johar’s The Bull. It’s an inspired film, and there will be lots of action.