It’s the day before the crew of Happy New Year begins shooting the fifth schedule of the film and chaos reigns in the Red Chillies office in Mumbai. Farah Khan has just walked in after the New Year break and every member is vying for her attention. Actor Vivaan Shah is in the house for costume trials, eyeing the black-and-florescent outfit suspiciously while Boman Irani, also due for costume trials, is awaited. “Why isn’t Boman in yet? I’ve made a mistake casting him. On the sets I’m slogging to make the film while he is busy charming the girls in my crew,” says Farah. But the director’s tone, with no more than a hint of annoyance, gives away her evident fondness for Irani.
Anyone who has been in the film industry for longer than five years will say that Farah — famous for being short tempered and caustic — has since mellowed down. The feisty director doesn’t deny it either, she instead smiles and says, “It’s my children. Now I think three times before I say anything that can be perceived as rude to anyone.” However, she is also quick to add that the change in demeanour does not imply that she won’t be as brutally honest as she earlier was. “I still call a spade a spade, only now I do so a
The quicksilver temper and acid tongue is what, says Farah, has also got her this far in the industry because “then in the long run, people know you won’t bullshit them”. The goodwill the choreographer-director enjoys is evident in the casting of her films where she often manages to bring together an ensemble of stars, case in point being her latest, with Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Sonu Sood, Irani, Shah and Deepika Padukone in key roles. “Every time I make a film, I think the next will be a small film with just two people, perhaps a love story. But then my masala sensibilities get the better of me each time,” she says, with a laugh.
The director says she enjoys thrillers, especially capers but confesses that her USP is the drama in her films. “Revenge drama was at the heart of both Main Hoon Na (2004) as well as Om Shanti Om (2007),” she points out, and believes that it’s the lack of this factor that resulted in the debacle of the comic caper Tees Maar Khan (2010), which she last directed. “Besides, it wasn’t my script, but I still believe it was funny. I failed at executing it well,” she says. The industry, however, believes that casting may have played a role too — unlike her earlier films with good friend Shah Rukh in the lead, Tees Maar Khan had Akshay Kumar. It was the period when Farah and Shah Rukh had fallen out.
The two, however, have since patched up following Shah Rukh’s public fracas with Farah’s husband Shirish Kunder, and Red Chillies is now producing Happy New Year. “Sometimes you need to fall out with your best friend to know how much you actually value them. That is what happened with both Shah Rukh and me. Now I cannot ever imagine making a film without him,” she muses, adding, “We became friends on the sets of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994). We share our sense of humour, working hard and also the addiction to games.”
In keeping with her preference for genres, Happy New Year is a heist film, but one with a huge dose of music and dance — an element that the team has not yet unveiled in the first look of the film. So, the poster, released on January 2, shows the cast against the backdrop of a massive locker that they may have broken into. “The first look was unveiled early because this is the only New Year we had. And we opted for January 2 over the first day of 2014 because we knew everyone, including us, would be too hungover to even glance at the poster,” says the director, laughing out loud. The digital poster, with the graphic novel finish, however, has received tremendous response with over 10 billion people having accessed the official Twitter handle of the film.
Amid the hustle and bustle of making a film, Farah seems at peace. Although she continues to choreograph occasionally, the 49-year-old would prefer to give it up entirely now. “I’d much rather do films or judge television shows where I can make big bucks without having to worry about the production,” she explains. Farah isn’t too keen to attempt acting again — after her debut in Shirin Farhad Ki Nikal Padi opposite Irani failed to impress. “But
I got to understand the insecurities of actors, what they go through and how they may feel because nothing is in their hand. The experience helped me become a better filmmaker,” she says.