Actor-producer Saif Ali Khan spells out the challenges of making
zombies acceptable within mainstream cinema and why fear and fun make for natural companions.
Its been close to five years since actor Saif Ali Khan turned producer and as Illuminati Films steers its way with an intriguing array of films romcoms,thriller,and now a zomcom,it seems poised to carve an interesting position of its own among boutique production houses run by stars.
Lets begin at the beginning when Khan announced Love Aaj Kal,a contemporary love story with Imtiaz Ali in the directors seat,the perception was that most films under the banner would be romcoms or romantic dramas with Khan playing the lead role (remember Hum Tum,Salaam Namaste,Kal Ho Naa Ho,Parineeta).
Based on Khans success in the genre,the assumption appeared to be based on sound reasons.
However,his attempt to venture into the action-thriller space with Agent Vinod and now a zomcom hints at a roadmap that could stray far beyond into unchartered territories.
Slowly but surely,Khan seems to be emerging quite the hatke producer.
With Go Goa Gone,Khan is lending all the star power he can muster,to ensure a decent opening for the film,an unusual zomcom made at a modest ’10 crore.
What started out essentially as a platform to bolster Khans career has now expanded to supporting films of different kinds and Go Goa Gone seems a definitive step in that direction.
Future projects include a film with Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. in a film where he plays the lead and yet another flick starring wife Kareena Kapoors cousin Armaan Jain which will be helmed by Imtiaz Alis brother.
Besides,his date diary is choc-a-bloc with projects for banners outside his own there is Tigmanshu Dhulias Bullet Raja,a film for Sajid Nadiadwala being directed by Kabir Khan and yet another with Sajid Khan.
It does not hurt that Race 2 earlier in the year touched the 100 crore mark.
In a hurried conversation between film promotions,the star speaks of hits aaj kal.
Congratulations are in order what with Race 2 making it to the 100 crore club,but the fact that it did so well despite a weak story surprise you?
It feels great that Race 2 did well. Abbas- Mustan were wonderful in that they presented me like a hero,but I am not over the moon about it. We can learn a few things from it to have better VFX for instance. Its a great opportunity to understand that we dont have to shortsell ourselves creatively. So I would rather fix what was wrong about it than gloat about the commercial success. If we make a third part and there is talk of it I would hope that we work on these things.
You now have a zomcom Go Goa Gone coming up,what made you sign up for a film which is a departure from the tried and tested content?
Kunal (Khemu) had picked out the script and when Raj and D. K. narrated it to me,it sounded outlandish but when I read it,I found myself laughing. Personally I dont buy into the concept of a zombie,I have been more of a vampire fan,but I am expecting a very funny movie. And the fact that its got zombies in it will make it even more humorous. The lead actors in the film Anand (Tiwary),Kunal and Vir (Das) are anti-heroes,a part of the slacker generation. The film being a comedy,we feel a little protected.
How different are zombies from our homegrown daayans and bhoots?
Bhoots have been around in our films right from the time of Ramsay Brothers movies,so this is probably just another version of it with these monsters or zombies chasing you. I was given a handbook on zombies and I read up on them they are essentially infected by a virus and so they are kind of dead but can move around,and because this virus inside them is trying to grow,they tend to bite other people.
Arent zombies more of a western concept? Do you think the Indian auds will bite into it? Also does Go Goa Gone bear any similarity to Shaun of the Dead?
I havent seen Shaun of the Dead,but yes zombie films are in a culturally different space. At the end of the day Go Goa Gone is a horror comedy and both emotions fear and humour,are kind of related. When you are scared,you are a little hyper and can end up doing stuff which is funny.
Why cast yourself in a supporting role?
For my role as Boris,even when it was pitched to me it was mentioned as a guest appearance,but he is an integral part of the story. It was always a part of the plan.
Stars play the producer in different ways; how do you approach it?
Illuminati was created to consolidate my career as an actor,but now its about making different kinds of films. I like that every once in a while we can make a film with me as just the producer. Production is a bit like doing up an apartment,where detailing is important. With different films being made under the banner,Dinesh (Vijan) and I,now divide the work between us. There are some projects driven by him and others by me. Go Goa Gone was my responsibility.
Would you agree that Indian films are increasingly following western templates of film-making,a zombie film being an example?
We keep talking about crossing over,but as they say East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. My point is that we should not try to make the two meet. Hollywood controls the English speaking regions spread across the world,so we should look at the entire southern and Mediterranean belt like Asia,countries around the Mediterranean,Turkey,Gulf region and so on. I would love to make a film like this every year. I would think that a multiplex audience is developing nicely,but we dont have enough software to give out to them.
Bullet Raja and other films that you have taken on for other banners are they to offset the more urbane,multiplex films (like Go Goa Gone) being produced by your own production house?
Go Goa Gone is a small humble film because now the effort is also to enjoy the process of film-making as well. One has to maintain high standards,and if it can also be successful then it is very satisfying. Bullet Raja,meanwhile,has the potential to cater to the best of both multiplexes and single screens because its a good film.
Is a sequel to Agent Vinod on the anvil?
Agent Vinod was not successful enough to make a sequel.
I would love to play a special agent again but I dont know if that is likely to happen. Would you be making an appearance at Cannes this year (with the film) as has been reported?
I have been to Cannes for an endorsement before,but the best way to go there is with a film.