Kabir Khan is such a knowledgeable man that you can sit with him and talk about so many things. The best part of the conversation is that is so on point with his material that you’re just sitting there listening to the man who has probably researched each and every bullet point there ever was. Tubelight is undoubtedly a hit and the collaboration of Kabir and Salman Khan has given the films something magical that all of us were waiting for a long time Having said that, he strongly feels that films these days are over promoted: “We over explore. We over do it. There is no empirical evidence for me that this leads to more ticket sales. I can tell you it doesn’t.” I sit down with the man who knows it all, KABIR KHAN.
Three blockbusters with Salman Khan consecutively. How have you seen him evolve in all these years?
I have seen an evolution in Salman from Tiger to now as he was a little blasé. He didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. From there to Bajrangi, I saw him getting involved with the character. He would start to look like the character but Bajrangi came very easily to him. We were basically dipping into his inherent charm, you know, Salman is a very charming person. Now, Tubelight was far more complicated. I think this is his toughest till date as he is a man-child in it. So he can never look normal or off. It is more difficult for him because he is the epitome of machismo in the country who is suddenly playing this vulnerable, sensitive boy-man. You know, now it is very important to me – what does the character stand for? What is the message he is sending out to the audience? Speaking of preparing for the part, this is the first time I saw him actually prepare. This is the first time, I saw him struggling to get a hold of this character. Also, he wouldn’t admit to it because it is not cool enough. (Laughs) He would call me in the middle of the night and ask for a reference. I didn’t have any references to give him. I came up with a film called, Forest Gump, but even in it, Tom Hanks takes an atonal approach which didn’t work for this part because I wanted him to be excitable, laugh, cry. Then, he met a person he knew of who somehow was close to this character and he met him.
I was a little cruel, but on the first day of the shoot, I made him do the climax scene. I told him that I am throwing him into the deep end. Let’s see if we drown, we’ll figure something out. On the first day of shoot in Ladakh right before our shot, he disappeared. We all are sitting there and I am wondering where has Salman gone. He came out after 40 minutes and pretty much in a zone, which I have never him in. He is someone who would be whistling and laughing and the minute I say action, he’ll start crying. So, he never prepares and enters a scene but that day I could see that he was trying to not have an interaction with anyone before the shot and we rolled. That is a single take scene which finally made it as is. I didn’t say anything to him and he performed something I didn’t tell him to. Then I realized where he was for the last 40 minutes. It was really heartening as a director.
How has Salman influenced you in all these years and vice versa?
Earlier, I would have given this credit to Adi Chopra (Aditya Chopra) but Salman has helped me to get out of a rut of finding logic and context to everything that is happening. Both Aditya and Salman have told me, “Just sometimes fly.” If you take cinematic liberty, don’t get so disturbed by it. He has helped me approach a scene with more flare. Earlier, I used to argue that logic in each and every scenario does matter but now haverealizedd that sometimes I can fly. I have contributed the reverse to Salman. I keep telling him that logic does matter after a point. I think, it is the blending of the two sensibilities that has worked. He allows me to fly a little, I don’t allow him to fly too much.
With the backdrop of an Indo- Sino war, did you consciously sketch out how it fits the times of today, or was it co-incidental?
It was not co-incidental. The reason why I got attracted to the story was that it was not limited to what happened in 1962. It’s a story from back then but it is so relevant today. Every issue that we are talking about in the film, which is not just about the war, are the ones we see today. I have dedicated this film to the families of the soldiers who fight another battle when their loved ones are off to fight.
Your next happens to be the web series about Azad Hind Fauj with Amazon. Have you embraced web being the future of entertainment?
It is the future. We tend to say that the’ web’ is not there but ultimately it is about content. It doesn’t make a difference. Our films are also being consumed by the web more. Let’s face it – through piracy unfortunately. The youth of today does not want appointment watching. If you see the west, they have changed the game. Hollywood now either makes a 2 million dollar film or a 200 million dollar film. The middle ground of drama story telling has completely shifted to the web platform between HBO, Amazon and Netflix and that is the future. I am basically a content creator as it doesn’t matter where you are watching it as 70% of my consumers are anyway on the web. I feel that the subject that I have of Azad Hind Fauj is better told as a mini series than a film. It is truly an international story and through Amazon it is going to release in 204 countries on day 1. There is a certain liberation of story telling as there is a certain Bollywood-ization you need to do in the story for our films. For the web-series, a Japanese character can speak in Japanese without figuring out how to make him talk in Hindi. Narcos is an American series but 80% of it is in Spanish. It became a runaway success from Japan and not from America six months after its release. I think I have a story appropriate for the platform and that is why I am doing it. Here, we keep feeling that web is between TV and films but honestly it is far bigger than films. My series is going to be bigger than two of my biggest films put together in terms of scale and budget and they don’t even need stars. That is the most refreshing thing about it.
Lastly, Tiger Zinda Hai– a sequel to your Ek Tha Tiger is in the making at the moment. Why didn’t you want to take the story forward?
I don’t do sequels and don’t react to them. Until I get excited about them, I won’t do it. I think all of the characters I created in my films, Tiger is probably the one character that should have a sequel. I am glad Ali (Abbas Zafar) is doing it. Whatever I am seeing from the film, is looking great.
This article was first published on Bollywood Film Fame Magazine.