Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin namumkin hai. Really? But he’s done the impossible. We’ve caught up with Don after almost 20 years. Okay so he’s in a remixed avatar. We wonder if he’ll be as effective two decades later? Only time and Farhan Akhtar can tell. Despite all the daunting expectations, Akhtar seems pretty cool. Maybe it’s the confidence of a director who knows his job. Maybe it stems from having done the job well or maybe he’s just adept at hiding his inner turmoil. Whatever it is, the third-time director is only too well aware of the expectations of a billion people. He’s full of surprises. Just when you thought he would make the regular run-of-the-mill debut, he came up with a coming-of-age movie in Dil Chahta Hai. He followed it up with Lakshya. And now he has gone and remade Don. Comparisons are odious but he knows they are inevitable too. With a Zen-like calmness, he prepares to face them. He knows the questions he will be asked post the release. And he has no qualms answering them. At the moment he’s only too happy to field my queries. Remember, you heard it here first. To begin with, why did you choose to remake Don? Don has been an integral part of my childhood memories. Memories of watching Hindi movies, of watching Amit Uncle’s movies and those that were written by Salim (Khan) Uncle and my father (Javed Akhtar). As a kid, I found it a lot more enjoyable than say a Deewaar or a Trishul. I found it an extremely cool movie. So whenever I got the chance, I would end up watching Don. I was traveling from Delhi to Dehradun for the recce of Lakshya. And I was listening to the background music of Don on my iPod. I loved the whole experience. And I started wondering why no one had remade this movie. And the more I thought about it, the more exciting the idea became. Does a remake denote that there’s a paucity of scripts going around? (Grins) No, not necessarily. Sanjay Leela Bhansali remade Devdas. I won’t even for a second think that he has a shortage of scripts or ideas. There are certain influences in your life, certain things that have excited you. And there comes a moment when you feel why shouldn’t I show the world my interpretation of something that I’ve really enjoyed watching. Was there a thought somewhere that you could better it? No, it was not a question of better or worse but that I could do it differently. Because if I do it the way it was done earlier, then you might as well see the original. You’ll find a lot of similarities with the old one but it’s in a new perspective. Or so I believe. I don’t think it’s about better or worse. It’s just about making it the way I would like to see the movie if it was remade. But you’ve added a lot of dark elements to the story. That’s because Don is a sinister character. He kills when he feels like killing. He does whatever he feels like doing. In that sense he’s very powerful and sinister. I didn’t want him to become glamorous. I didn’t foresee him as some hero. It’s stifling when you see him on screen. I liked that about the character even in the original film. But obviously the styling then was completely different, what with Don wearing big bow ties. That, I thought, somehow took away from the character. But I guess it worked for that time. Today it’s amazing what you can do with light, with costume, with hair. I feel cinema is now becoming a lot more visual as a medium than just being dialogue-oriented. It’s important to create the right atmosphere. But I’ve retained the essence of the movie. I’ve just dressed it up differently. Was your dad okay with changes you made in the original screenplay? He pretty much knew I wanted those changes. His stamp of approval was his readiness to get us the rights of the film. It’s very important for Ritesh (Sidhwani) and me that this movie be an official remake. It would have been easy to simply take the story and make it. But somehow it was important for it to be official and to be done with the consent and the blessing of people involved in the making of the original film. And I’m very grateful that the makers agreed to give us the rights. What about others like Salim Khan and Amitabh Bachchan? Did you ask them?
4863e611eff3ec634da9643742582f3d-3Salim Uncle was extremely generous. And was quite happy about his work being remade. I didn’t directly speak to Amit Uncle. Dad spoke to him. From my experience on Lakshya, he’s an extremely easy person. And he’s very supportive of young people making movies. It shows when you see him in their movies. He was quite happy that this movie was being remade. I don’t know whether he’ll still be happy after he sees it though. You do realize that comparisons with the old Don are bound to be there. Of course. Despite Lakshya being an original film, people compared it to Dil Chahta Hai. Your work will always be compared to either your previous work or to somebody else’s film that’s releasing on the same day as yours. The important thing for us was to focus and make the best possible film we could. The minute you say, “Oh, that film had this so let us do this,” you lend yourself to comparisons. There are certain reasons why I wanted to make this movie and those reasons I’ve retained in the script. For instance, for me “yeh mera dil” and “khaike paan” are an important part of wanting to do this film. So it would have been a crime not to have these songs. I’ve retained what was crucial. The rest has been dispensed with. Would it be fair to compare Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan? I wouldn’t compare them at all. In my mind, I see Don as a re-creation of a character by an actor coming from a completely different perspective. For instance, so many actors have done Shakespeare’s Hamlet with their own vision. I somehow put the remake of a classic film in the same category. People keep asking how would you compare Dilip Kumar’s Devdas with Shah Rukh Khan’s Devdas. You don’t do that. You just judge the performance for what it is. We all know that Amit Uncle is legendary in the original film. And I’m very happy with what Shah Rukh has done. He has internalized the part. But I wouldn’t get down to comparing them. The biggest point of comparison, if there’s going to be one, is the khaike song. But not one of the people who’ve seen the film thought about the original song while they were watching Shah Rukh. That’s when I realized that when you enjoy something, you don’t compare. Wasn’t Hrithik Roshan your first choice? First choice is a very loaded term. I wouldn’t say first choice. I had approached him in the sense that I’d spoken to him about remaking Don. And had told him that if at all it works out well, then I’d meet him with the script. As I started writing it, the character became slightly older than Hrithik. For me, when I’m writing there are two things that influence me in casting. One is the way the dialogue is spoken, then you start imagining the actor saying the dialogue. That creates a kind of face for the character. And the other is the character’s eyes. When you’re writing a scene where he’s supposed to be angry or has to say something romantic, the eyes are really important. So I wondered who could express it better. And it always was Shah Rukh. So I met Hrithik and told him that though I was doing the film, I couldn’t visualize him in the role at all. And he was like, “It’s your film, please do whatever you want.” It’s your third film as a director, how would you evaluate yourself? It’s weird to say but I’ve been very comfortable with both writing and directing since Dil Chahta Hai. Maybe this was my natural calling. So it’s difficult to say whether I’ve come of age as a director. That only time will tell. But there’s definitely been a bit of growth in terms of understanding the medium and preparing myself emotionally, physically, and mentally. As you do more work, you also realize what else goes into making a film. I don’t know whether you’ll know enough. Because there are so many different ways of writing and creating a scene. And that, in a sense, is the most exciting part. That the next project is going to hold something different from the previous three. Today when you look back, are you disappointed with Lakshya? Y
4863e611eff3ec634da9643742582f3d-4es and no. Yes, because if you’ve worked so hard on something and you’re really proud of it, it feels sad when people don’t understand or appreciate it. Face it, you want your work to be appreciated. (Laughs) Here of course, appreciation is directly proportional to box-office collections. No, because there must have been some faults with that movie. It gave me a good enough reason to sit back and think about what it is that people could not understand. And if you can realize what was missing or what was unnecessarily in there, it helps you with your subsequent work. It helps you understand what it is that you can do better or that you should not do. I couldn’t see anything wrong. I loved the film. (Laughs) Oh, what a coincidence. So did I. Seriously, people felt it was lengthy. This I’m saying from the feedback I got. Secondly, on a storytelling level, I feel now that I should have just focused a little more on Hrithik in terms of his personal development and the development of his relationship with Preity. Because that was what the first half really promised you. But somewhere the Kargil angle overtook his personal story. So people were confused as to whether the movie was about war or about Hrithik and Preity. It’s important to understand what people didn’t like because it helps you get a clearer voice. It leaves you with a little less space for ambiguity in future. Does it excite you that the industry thinks of you as one of the most exciting directors to work with today? (Laughs) When you put it like that, yes it sure does. But it’s not something you sit back and think about. Yet I consider myself extremely fortunate that every time I’ve approached actors for my film, they’ve said yes. It’s quite an amazing thing when you desire a certain cast and they agree to work with you. The same is true for my crewmembers too. I find something somewhere working in my favor on that level and I don’t want to question it. If people think it’s exciting to work with me, then I’m flattered by that and also extremely humbled. Because the bigger the star, the more frightening it is for you to justify why you want him in your film in the first place. So every time I work with somebody who has an amazing reputation, the pressure is that much more on me. Because I feel they should be happy when they see the film. For me, one of the most amazing things was when everyone across the board told me that Lakshya was Hrithik’s finest performance. It was truly a weight off my shoulders. Probably it’s such stuff that makes people excited about working with me or any other director for that matter. Source: Filmfare

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