Just for laughs

The  mind behind laugh riots like No Entry, Welcome and Singh Is King, Anees Bazmee completed 38 years in the film industry in 2015. Known primarily for his <g data-gr-id="114">multi</g>-<g data-gr-id="115">starrer</g> comedies, the director of the upcoming release Welcome Back, chats with <g data-gr-id="116">Soumita</g> Sengupta about his journey thus far. Excerpts:

Your film Welcome still airs on television and is a huge hit. There must have been considerable pressure on you to make a sequel?
AB: Welcome drew a huge response and, as you said, a decade later, I still receive appreciation for the film. So Welcome is a cult film. Judging from the response the film received after it released, Firoz <g data-gr-id="112">bhai</g> ( producer Firoz Nadiadwala) told me that we should make a sequel but neither did he <g data-gr-id="136">pressurise</g> me nor did I take any pressure. Welcome became a household name and I knew that a sequel should do justice to the earlier film and be better than the first part. That’s why it took me more than eight years to think of an idea.

It appears from the Welcome Back promos that you are banking on Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar’s characters. Was that deliberate?
AB: Welcome was a <g data-gr-id="109">multi</g>-<g data-gr-id="110">starrer</g> where every character stood out but what people remember most even today <g data-gr-id="106">is</g> Majnu and Uday <g data-gr-id="111">bhai’s</g> character. I may have written the <g data-gr-id="105">characters</g> but it was their acting that took their characters to another level. So the sequel obviously demanded their presence.

Why did you release a second trailer of the film? Wasn’t one trailer enough to attract the audience?
AB: I have mounted the film on such a massive scale that I would have cut a third trailer of the film if I was allowed to! There are so many characters and each one has a significant part to play. I decided to cut a second trailer to show the rest of the characters.

Your films like No Entry, Welcome, Singh Is Kinng, all are comedies. How do you make sure the jokes don’t get stale?
AB: That’s because I never watch my own films after they release. I only watch them on the edit table. Even today, when my films run on television, I never watch them because I know if I do, the scenes will stick in my mind and I might reuse them. Why only directorial films? I have written more than 55 films, from Gopi Kishan, Eena Meena Deeka, Raja Babu to Aankhen and have not repeated a single scene from them.

You directed Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha, Hulchul and then Deewangee, each one of a different genre. What made you turn to comedy for good?
AB: After I made those films, which were critically acclaimed, especially Deewangee, I had no work for three years. The industry thought ‘Anees can only make love stories’, then they thought ‘Anees can only make thrillers’. That’s why I was not offered any work. My team told me I should break that notion and that’s when I cracked No Entry, after which there was no looking back. I kept on making back-to-back films, which by God’s grace, became hits. As a director, I am confident that I can make films of all genres but the industry took notice of only my comedy films and that’s why I continue doing them.

Welcome released with Taare Zameen Par in 2007 while Welcome Back was scheduled to release with PK in 2014. Why did you postpone the film’s release?
AB: We couldn’t shoot the last schedule in September because of permission issues abroad so we had to shoot that schedule in December, which is why we postponed it. Also, Welcome Back is a big film and it needed a clear window to release.

Your career graph shows that you have always made <g data-gr-id="103">multi</g>-<g data-gr-id="104">starrers</g> and all the characters have stood out very well.
AB: You’re right. I guess being a writer helps me sketch each character perfectly. My films might have a leading <g data-gr-id="119">pair</g> but every <g data-gr-id="101">artiste</g> is important. This trend is not only prevalent my directed films but also films which I have written. Filmmaking is not one person’s job, it’s a team effort. Similarly, when you make a film. While one person might be the focal point in the film, the story moves forward with other actors too.

You have always repeated your actors. Like your initial films were with Ajay Devgn, then Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan. Will we see you teaming up with them again?
AB: Yes, I forge a special bond with whoever I work. I never leave my friends. Ajay obviously holds a special place in my life as I started my career as a director with him. All my hits are with Akshay and Salman. So all these actors are very special to me. Even my producers, like Firoz <g data-gr-id="113">bhai</g> and Boney Kapoor ji, hold a special place in my life. I believe in relationships more than anything else. I have completed 38 years in this industry and this is what I have <g data-gr-id="126">learnt</g>, work will come to you if you have talent but once you lose a friend, no one can replace that.

You have spent 38 years in the industry. How have things changed over the years?
AB: Things have changed drastically. I started with Raj Kapoor, as an assistant director with Prem Rog. Then I worked in the editing department, art department and finally as an AD in many films. Then I started ghost writing and when I watched those films in cinema halls, I could see the audience laughing, clapping and crying. That gave me the confidence that I could become a writer. So I started writing Swarg, my first film as a writer, after which I wrote more than 50 films. Then the day came when I thought I must direct my own stories. Today, after doing so many films, I believe it’s time to turn producer and give newcomers a chance to showcase their talents. BOX office India
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