He is the newest director to join the 200 Crore Club. He did make a good beginning with Mere Brother Ki Dulhan [57.4 crore], a clean Hit. This was followed by Gunday which saw one of the best opening for Yash Raj Films and went on to be a good Box Office earner [78 crore]. Now with Sultan, he has smashed it out of the park, what with the film hitting the 100 crore mark in three days flat and now touching 200 crore today on its seventh day. While a lot more is expected to come in for the Salman Khan starrer which is now poised to cross the 300 crore, director Ali Abbas Zafar has now stepped into the big league. Over to the young filmmaker who hails from Dehradun and is just 33 year old.
Sultan was an out and out Salman Khan film till the day of release. Now a lot is being said about your story and direction too which is fetching the film a good deal of love.
See, right now whatever has driven audience to theaters is Salman Khan. It is now that they are knowing what my work in the film is. Yes, my earlier two films have worked but still, I am a fairly new director. On the other hand Salman Khan has an experience of 25 years; he has done so many films. My learning from making Sultan is patience and experience. Since Salman comes with such rich body of work behind him, I got all the more confidence in making Sultan. The film has made me little more mature and look at things differently.
You just mentioned about Salman Khan being a good help. How?
A lot of credit for Sultan turning out the way it is goes to Salman. When such an experienced actor stands in front of you and questions you on everything, you need to have conviction in what you are making and what you believe in. That’s my learning. I have made films in the past but the work that you see of me here is different from those. Moreover, the genre of each of these three films (Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Gunday, Sultan) is very different. Just the sheer experience of handling a team, picturising songs, blocking a scene and putting things in the background has been totally different in case of Sultan.
Still, a certain ‘desi’ touch is common to each of your films, isn’t it? After all, there is this rustiness and earthy quality that you have brought in ever since your debut.
I think every filmmaker brings in his own personality in each of his films. There is a lot of yourself that comes in these stories. Since I come from Dehradun, my basic formative years have been very middle class from heartland of India. My family is spread all over these places, be it Delhi, Punjab or Haryana. Those are the memories that I have for all these years and hence when I am writing a story, these memories come over, hence leading to further creativity. That is the reason why you find this heartland ‘desi‘ feel in my films. I think the larger India still resides there in these very B-Towns. They connect us to real India.
Yes, in fact your Gunday too was quite connected to the heartland. Still, in retrospect, what could be the reason that it didn’t turn out to be as big a success as it seemed after the opening.
Guess I was trying to reinvent the retro genre by cutting through today’s crowds. Also, somewhere or the other my script and/or direction fell short as well. That’s a part of the learning experience. I am happy though that today, Arjun (Kapoor) and Ranveer‘s (Singh) identity has been accentuated after Gunday.