Brother to the most successful Khan in Bollywood, Salman, and husband to one of the hottest women in the glamour business, Malaika Arora-Khan, Arbaaz Khan seems to have moved from the periphery of fame to the inner ring.
The actor is proof that dreams do come true, even though they take their own time. Arbaaz has finally found his calling in the film business, turning director with Dabangg 2 which hits theatres on 21 December, in which he retains his Makhi Pandey act alongside Chulbul Pandey played by Salman. You’d think the actor and director would be all frazzled with the film’s imminent release, but Arbaaz speaks to Firstpost about all things Khan and Pandey, with a confident, easy charm that belies his debutant director nerves.
1. From star brother to actor to producer to now, director with one of Indian cinema’s most successful franchises, Dabangg 2… How do you feel?
I feel great… it’s been an interesting ride. To turn director with one of India’s most successful franchise, Dabangg 2 has been great — to direct an iconic character like Chulbul Pandey played by my brother Salman — to carry forward the legacy of the film has been simply fantastic.
2. How did you decide to direct the film? It appears your dreams are finally coming true…
I got into production with Dabangg, which turned out to be an extremely successful film, to eventually get into direction and the sequel of the film presented an opportunity for me to test that ground. The opportunity was there for me to take control and make it mine and direct it. And here we are, nine months after we commenced filming for Dabangg 2 on 9 March 2012 to releasing it on 21 December. I wrapped the film in 100 days, which is pretty good. Dabangg 2 has been a very satisfying experience and I am very happy with the film. My dreams are definitely coming true and I hope Dabangg 2 leads me to making more films and entertaining more people.
3. Did you not feel intimidated with the giant success of the first enterprise as you turned director with the sequel?
There’s always a little anxiety or pressure with anything new and anyone who would have taken on Dabangg 2 would have felt the same. It is a challenging project for anybody and the pressures and demands of the directorial were going to be the same for anyone given the massive success of the film, so I was no different. I was mindful of the legacy of the film and worked towards delivering a film that the audience loves, with great caution and care.
4. Was Salman Khan more of a brother on set or the unparalleled superstar that he is, given that you brothers are very close?
Salman was definitely an actor on set and a superstar. That’s good. Shooting for the film was not the time to play brothers for us; we were professionals on the set. We have all the time in the world to play brothers outside of work. Salman’s a superstar and I’m a debutant director – the roles were clear. When you are working with a huge team of professionals, you have to maintain a disciplined environment on set so that workflow is not affected and productivity does not suffer. Of course we had arguments and fights during the course of filming — he would relent sometimes, sometimes I would back down, but the one who was most convincing in the argument always won. I could not play the card that “I’m your brother so you have to listen to me” and neither was I going to listen to Salman because he’s the giant star. It was very professional. There were certain elements, which caused a tug of war, but essentially, we agreed to each other’s convictions in a homogenous manner.
5. Your favourite part about directing Dabangg 2?
I started off as an actor in Daraar in 1996, directed by Abbas Mustan, alongside Juhi Chawla and Rishi Kapoor. In 2010, I turned producer with Dabangg and in 2012, I made my foray into direction — a long, cherished dream of mine. Direction is by far the most fulfilling, exciting and creative aspect in my film career. I hope to continue directing now. I am also acting in the same role as Makhi Pandey as the film is a continuation of the story where the original ended. Dabangg 2 is a progression on the story with a different premise, pace, ambience and conflict. I used to call “Cut” for my own shots, go to the monitor and check it and if I wasn’t happy with it, I would ask for one more take. It was funny in a way, as it was an entirely new aspect to my directorial persona to direct myself.
6. You are in a very enviable position right now with directing Salman — one of the most coveted Khans on the block… How does it feel that you directed India’s most loved and wanted actor at the peak of his career?
I feel absolutely fantastic! Salman is in an unbelievable space in his career right now. Directing Salman has been an opportunity of a lifetime, and that too, at the peak of this career. Even as his brother, to experience his persona and stardom at such close quarters as professionals, to synergise with him on the iconic character Chulbul where his inputs have been tremendously valuable, is another experience altogether.
Salman is an actor who is very interactive – he doesn’t sit around waiting to take instructions. He likes to explore different areas and aspects of the shoot and inspires you on the spot with his thoughts. He inspires the entire unit and himself when he’s in that frame of mind. Salman may seem casual and nonchalant about his phenomenal success — but behind that façade is a mind that is consistently working and thinking about his character on film. He likes to add certain mannerisms, gestures, style to his onscreen characters and it always works when the audience just loves it. There is a lot of Salman in Chulbul and a lot of Chulbul in him – I can tell which is which being his brother, but he plays the part so well that you wouldn’t know. He owns Chulbul and is just brilliant as him.
7. Five things about Salman that you learnt directing him in Dabangg 2?
a. Salman thinks about his character and works on it without you knowing at all.
b. He brings unique subtleties and nuances to the character, which hits\ bulls-eye with audiences.
c. Salman is very spontaneous whilst filming.
d. He enjoys the liberty of working in his own style and pace and the people who work with him just adjust to that. He is not a conventional actor who will report to set on a 7am shift. He says, ‘I am not a milkman who will go to work at 6am. I am an actor – let me sleep, go to the gym, have my coffee and then I will come at 10am and give you great stuff.” So, we make little adjustments for him and planned the shoots in such a way that we optimize his time on set.
e. Once he gets to the set, it’s a breeze. He reads the scene, discusses it with you and if need be, offers his suggestions or changes and then starts filming.