Housefull 4 director Farhad Samji opens up on replacing Sajid Khan as director and the winning formula for commercial Hindi films
Farhad Samji replaced Sajid Khan as director after the latter was accused of sexual harassment last year.
Humour comes easy to Housefull 4 writer-director, Farhad Samji. “I have messaged Taapsee (Pannu) that Saand Ki Aankh will be Housefull and Housefull will hit the bull’s eye,” he guffaws. A prolific writer with about 50 films to his credit, Samji, in an exclusive chat with Firstpost spoke about taking over the directorial reins from Sajid Khan; his next film Bachchan Pandey with Akshay Kumar; Rohit Shetty’s big budget Sooryavanshi; Varun Dhawan’s Street Dancer 3D and Coolie No 1, and the success formula for commercial Hindi films.
Excerpts from the interview:
From writing Housefull 2 to directing the fourth instalment, you have come a long way. How did the Housefull franchise come to you?
I was working with my brother (Sajid Samji) back then and after the release of Golmaal 3 (2010), Sajid Nadiadwala (producer) asked us to write the dialogues of Housefull 2 (2012). When he approached us the film’s team was stuck at some point in the screenplay and we could come with a solution. Then we were asked to work on the screenplay as well as dialogue. So while working on Housefull 2, I could understand the zone of Housefull franchise.
You have had an interesting journey — from a songwriter-composer to screenplay-dialogue writer and then finally direction. How did it happen?
My struggle started as a songwriter-composer-singer. Salman (Khan) heard my songs and recommended me to David Dhawan who at that time was working on Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (2002) and he got me as lyricist on the film. Soon after, I wrote songs for Munna Bhai MBBS and Lage Raho Munna Bhai. Ram Gopal Varma suggested that I do screenplay writing. He felt that I should write stories and characters. I wrote Shiva (2006) for him, soon after joined Rohit Shetty and did 11 films with him in 11 years out of which 10 did Rs 100 crore business. Simultaneously, I wrote Ready (2011) for Anees Bazmee, followed by Judwaa 2 and Chashme Baddoor for David Dhawan. I got a break into direction with Akshay Kumar’s Entertainment followed by Housefull 3.
How did the concept of a reincarnation comedy come to you? How easy or difficult was it to execute?
One has to understand a simple formula that rather than good it is different concept that works. In the present times films like Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun have become more mainstream and such films are coming every two to three months. What is actually categorised under mainstream, such films are coming once in four to six months.
I remember there was a lot of struggle for Golmaal Again and it took seven years to make the fourth edition. It wasn’t difficult to create comedy but the challenge was what will be the USP and we brought in horror comedy, which was a new genre then.
For Housefull 4, we thought of reincarnation comedy, which was never done before. We have seen the genre in huge drama films like Karz and Karan Arjun. That drama becomes comedy when you make a spoof out of it. Indian audience still loves watching films on ghosts as many believe in it and in reincarnation as well. Even during weddings priest says that the couple will stay together for seven births. We had a very strong base of reincarnation and then we had to bring the craziness of Housefull series.
How challenging is it to direct a multi-starrer, where you have to see that justice is done to each actor's work?
I have worked with Rohit Shetty on 11 films and many of those were multi-starrers, for example Golmaal. We have to write several characters for such films. In Golmaal 3 we had to treat every character as a hero and characteristics of each actor was different, like Kareena’s (Kapoor) abusive, Ajay Devgn had a fetish of cracking fingers, Tusshar’s (Kapoor) mute and Shreyas (Talpade) stammers. Thus, each character graph gets a lift and the film becomes big. If you give specific characterisations, then the actors feel happy.
You took over the directorial reins from Sajid Khan after he was accused of sexual harassment last year. Was it difficult for you?
I (along with Sajid Samji) directed Housefull 3. After that several ideas were bounced and finally we locked on the theme of reincarnation comedy. Sajid Nadiadwala wrote the story and Sajid Khan was the director. I was already writing the screenplay and dialogues when the film started rolling. I don’t just write the dialogues, I also do stand-up act with music and sound effects so that one could see the whole film. So, it wasn’t shocking and I didn’t feel it was a big change when I was told to direct. We had to solve this crisis.
The set was ready and we had to start shooting the day after, so we decided upon the scene we had to start with and just went straight into work. We didn’t have the time to think and analyse what had happened. It was a pleasant burden which we sailed through. I used to have story sittings and scene narrations with Sajid Khan, so creative-wise we were on the same page. I knew the script in and out, we were not starting anything new. The actors, too, didn’t feel they were now being directed by some alien.
Nana Patekar also walked out of Housefull 4 amid sexual harassment allegations and he was replaced by Rana Daggubati. Aren't these two very different in their experience and acting style?
I am first a writer and then director. As a writer, I had written this character called Raja Gama, who was the head of an African tribe about 600 years ago. He is reborn as a qawwal singer, Pappu Rangeela and he remembers his past that he was a junglee ruler. So, for me the character is more important than the actor and I have to justify only that.
Earlier, Munna Bhai was offered to Shah Rukh Khan. I had written the Munna Bhai song 'M Bole Toh'. Keeping Shah Rukh in mind, we had recorded the song. Later, Shah Rukh opted out because of his back condition and Sanjay Dutt came in. Today when people tell me that what an apt song I wrote for Sanjay, I tell them that I had actually written it for Shah Rukh. So, when you watch the film you will see that Rana fits into the film and you won’t miss Nana.
Housefull 4 is your third time collaboration with Akshay Kumar.
My rapport with Akshay is great. I have spent a lot of time with him on sets, right from Entertainment to Housefull 3. I had written Boss and I recently wrote Laxmmi Bomb and Sooryavanshi. I like his style of working. He wants to be with all his co-stars and build rapport with each one of them, which translates on screen. It’s because of their chemistry that Akshay-Riteish (Deshmukh) pair has been so successful in the Housefull series.
Actors have to understand each other especially when they are doing comedies. Before the film starts Akshay follows this process where he spends lot of time with his co-stars. He did the same during Housefull 3, which had Abhishek Bachchan. Three days before shoot he wants to have lunch with everyone, meet them in the evening and have lot of interaction with them. Even on set he gives strict instructions that nobody will have their meal alone in their vanity. He wants the chemistry to translate on screen.
Tell us something about Bachchan Pandey, your next directorial with Akshay.
We plan to start shooting in April next. As soon as I will get free from Housefull 4, we will start work on recce and casting. It is a very difficult film because it is an action film and there are many outdoor locations, there is no constant location. Also, it is a North-South story, so there is lot of work.
Akshay plays the star and his name is Bachchan Pandey. It is a love story with a South Indian girl. It is based on culture comedy and it’s a proper action love story. It is quite massy. He will be doing an action film after a long time. It will be a good change for his fans and for Akshay himself. Action is something he is passionate about.
Why do you think projects featuring two male leads have become such a rarity today?
There could be many reasons for that. One is insecurity; secondly, they worry about who will walk away with the credit; thirdly, it could be the budget. More and more factors have added up but otherwise in the past Manmohan Desai had locked the stars for Amar Akbar Anthony over a phone call.
As writers we have so many stories for two-hero films but we know that it will never happen. Our wish doesn’t get fulfilled because our actors today think too much. War is the perfect example, the film’s success can be attributed to the fact that it is a two-hero project. That is its USP. So, if I make a film with Akshay and Ajay, or Varun and Tiger (Shroff), then that would have a completely different charm and opening at the box office. But heroes at the same level are not coming together. I don’t understand why they think so much.
You seem to have a huge line-up of films as writer, would you like to talk about them?
I have written dialogues for Varun’s Street Dancer 3D. Varun felt that it should not just be a dance film, he wanted it to be a full-fledged entertainer, so we have put some emotion and drama into it. The film is complete and we are into post production. Then there is Baaghi 3 followed by Sooryavanshi, which is Rohit Shetty’s one of the biggest films. The film is mounted on a big scale. The climax will have three huge stars – Simba, Singham and Sooryavanshi. Coolie No 1 with Varun and Sara Ali Khan releases on the Labour Day on 1 May. We will try and create the same magic that we saw in David Dhawan’s film in the 90s. The film’s basic premise is the same, just that it’s more contemporary this time. There is also horror-comedy Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, it will hit the screens in July next year.
Is there any success formula for masala entertainers?
When we try to give a logical explanation, then masala becomes bland. My understanding is either you hit a sixer or become out. Playing with one run is of no use, so we always try to hit a sixer. If you want to go all out in mainstream cinema, for instance, in Housefull 4, even 600 years back the characters are doing masti that they would do now, they are speaking English. So, we have to go all out. If we try to control that then we will have to sacrifice upon humour and situation will become flat. Like we say, magic goes away if we try to save upon logic.
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