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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Anees Bazmee Talks Film Writing, Comedy & Pagalpanti

Anees Bazmee is a renowned Bollywood director whose films compelled us to laugh, fall in love and at times, bite our nails. 

But from a very young age, Anees began working in the film industry.

First as a child artist and after many years of hard work, an assistant director to Raj Kapoor in Prem Rog.

In 1990, the film Swarg starring superstars Rajesh Khanna and Govinda marked Bazmee’s debut as a screenplay writer.

A certified box-office hit, the film received critical acclaim for its spectacular writing.

He was soon occupied with writing projects and delivered consecutive hits, each one bigger than the last.

Some of these titles include:

Shola Aur Shabnam, Raja Babu, Aankhen, Deewana Mastana, Bol Radha Bol, Laadla and Mujhse Shaadi Karoge, to name a few.

He is the most renowned writer among his generation as he has written over 60 films in Hindi, Tamil and Marathi across varied genres including comedy, romance, suspense, thriller, action, etc.

After his successful directorial debut Hulchul, Anees has gone on to present an array of successful films like Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha, Deewangee, No Entry, Welcome, Singh Is Kinng, Ready and Mubarakan.

With a career that spans over decades of hard-work, Anees Bazmee has carved a niche for himself in the world of blockbuster and entertainment of Indian cinema.

 Filme Shilmy speaks with the filmmaker.

Welcome back to London. Your last film Mubarakan did very well at the box-office. Has this success motivated you to make Pagalpanti?

I wanted to make Pagalpanti for the last 2-3 years.

I was working on the script.

One day I felt the script was completed so I narrated it to people and then everyone was excited to start.

I enjoyed shooting in London last time, it’s such a beautiful city.

There are quite a few friends of mine who live here. It is so fun to soak in the weather and atmosphere here.

After shooting Mubarakan, there were a lot of locations where I couldn’t shoot at.

This time hoping at some of those places.

You’re working with John, Anil and Ileana once again. What are your expectations from them in this film?

All three of them are very good and professional actors. I’ve done at least 10-12 films with Anil Kapoor.

It was a beautiful experience working with Ileana D’Cruz in Mubarakan and lovely working with John Abraham in Welcome Back.

Pagalpanti is a completely new film where everyone is so excited because I feel it’s a great script with beautiful dialogues and hard-core commercial comedy film.

John was wanting to do a comedy so it is a fantastic role for him and I’m sure he’s going to do a wonderful job.

It was also very important for him to do something like this and he’s quite excited.

We had a great rapport in Welcome Back, he enjoyed very much and the film did well.

In that film, he did 2-3 small comedy scenes and I noted that he is very good at comedy and knew that we can do more fantastic jobs together.

Let’s talk a bit about your career. How challenging was the transition of being a dialogue writer to a director?

I always wanted to become a filmmaker, since I was an assistant director.

It is very difficult to get a chance to direct films so I thought why not write some films first, make a name for myself and hope that would give people confidence in me as a director.

I thought I’d do 5-6 films but all those movies were such big hits that people insisted I write more.

Subsequently, I started writing 15-30 films that did exceptionally well.

After that, I became a director.

Not only did I direct my films, but I also wrote to them and I even wrote films for my friends like David Dhawan amongst others.

In fact, when I was directing No Entry, I was writing Mujhse Shaadi Karogi at that time!

You’ve made rom-coms, suspense thrillers and action films. But you seem to be comfortable with comedies… Why is that?

My style of making comedy films is totally different (in comparison to others).

It is my forte and usually, when I’m on set, I say a few things here and there and that becomes a comedy.

But I work very hard.

People think that it is very easy to make a comedy film but I think it’s the most difficult genre.

Still, after writing and directing so many films, I’m working day and night with minimal sleep.

It’s very difficult to make people laugh.

It can be so easy for a filmmaker to go overboard with comedy and emotions. What do you do to maintain that balance?

With experience and audience reception, one gets the idea of what will (or will not) work.

There is a grammar and craft in screenplay writing… During this 2+2 isn’t always 4.

So I have an idea of what will work and won’t work.

Whilst people have acknowledged my writing and have claimed that it can relate to the general public, one has to be very careful to maintain that expectation each time.

The main point I believe in is hard work.

When I begin to write, it goes on forever, likewise for when I direct.

But from where does that energy come? We never really get tired.

As such, when I make films I’m in a different zone altogether.

I just enjoy working.

There is often a negative stereotype attached to comedies due to their larger-than-life aspect. Do you believe this impression is justified?

It all depends on how one approaches a film.

If we think about it, there are many cinematic aspects which don’t happen in real life.

For example, background music doesn’t play when we speak but it does within a film (laughs).

So it is important that if a larger-than-life aspect is being shown in a film then that must be shown in a believable way.

For instance, in the climax of Welcome, a cabin which is falling off a cliff, has so many actors inside it.

Whilst making the film, I was even told that a cabin cannot just survive off a chunk of wood.

However, I insisted it could.

See, when people start laughing, they don’t seem to worry too much about the realism aspect of it.

It is up to the director of how much they can convince the audience.

How do you feel your films can change this stereotype?

According to me, the most special point about my comedy is that I instruct the actors not to do comedy, but to be serious.

I write situations that are comical on the outside, but serious in the inside.

For example, in Welcome, there is a don whose sister is not being able to get married.

In No Entry, three men are having extra-marital affairs and their wives find out about it.

Really speaking, it is not a comedy, but a tragedy.

However, through my writing, I ensure that the style is not bookish.

There’s a bit of a flow to it and to write simply is the toughest thing ever.

You’ve witnessed failure as well as success. So how do you rise above defeat?

If a film or something doesn’t succeed, then I just realise that some mistakes have been made on that specific occasion.

But I don’t take those mistakes to heart and actually learn from those mistakes, as a person should.

Once is a mistake, but the second time is a blunder.

One can make new mistakes, but not repeat the same ones and I try each time to bear this in mind.

From a very young age I knew that if I work hard and pursue my passion for film with sincerity, I will be known.

I never have believed in taking short-cuts to be successful.

Finally, besides profit, what do you hope to achieve from Pagalpanti?

That feeling of satisfaction is important to me.

Even if a film does not do extraordinary well (in terms of money) but people say they enjoyed the film and wanted it to do well, is a big statement.

Rather than the film doing very well (financially) but people say that they didn’t enjoy it as much.

After so many years of making films, I still get calls from people about how they enjoy watching my films repeatedly – that for me is a big achievement.

I’m expecting people to also watch Pagalpanti again and again.

Whenever a person feels down or upset, I would like them to watch the film to cheer them up.

Filme Shilmy wishes Anees all the very best for Pagalpanti and all forthcoming projects.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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