Excitement, disbelief, hugging each other but not talking because you didn't want to jinx it... the first few days after the release of "Pathaan" were a mix of it all, says director Siddharth Anand, basking in the success of his film that beat back boycott calls to smash box office records.
“Pathaan”, Shah Rukh Khan’s first film as a hero after four years, has crossed Rs 700 crore in gross earnings in the nine days since its release on January 25.
“We actually could not believe it. We thought this can’t be true, the level of collection, the level of love. We did not anticipate any of this. Honestly, who does? Every day, we are smashing records, no one can anticipate that no matter how good you think your film is,” the director told PTI in a virtual interview.
“We were a little numb also, like ‘what’s happening?’ We were happy, we would hug each other but we did not want to jinx it by talking,” he added.
“Pathaan”, which also stars John Abraham and Deepika Padukone, is an important step in YRF's spy franchise where characters from different films will cross paths at some point.
And if Salman Khan’s wildly popular cameo as Tiger in “Pathaan” is an indication, it may happen sooner than later.
“We are on the path to something really special and historic with the YRF spy universe. We have the biggest stars of the country being the part of the massive successes.
"We are at the cusp of something really special and exciting in a genre that not everyone is doing and we are doing it well and the audiences are loving it. This is still growing so I don't want to speak much and jinx it but the next few years will be very exciting,” Anand said.
Known for films such as “Salaam Namaste”, “Ta Ra Rum Pum”, “Bachna Ae Haseeno”, “Anjaana Anjaani”, “Bang Bang!” and “War”, the 44-year-old said he's had no break and is already shooting his next, “Fighter”.
Any plans for “Pathaan 2”?
“Too early for that. My next film ‘Fighter’ is also larger than life. It is a massive scale action film with top stars in Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor… It is very ambitious. That’s what I want to do. I want to do things that give me sleepless nights.”
And there were plenty of sleepless nights on “Pathaan”, right from the pressure of it being a Shah Rukh Khan film in four years, filming large scale action sequences during the pandemic to the 'BoycottBollywood' hashtags that followed in the wake of a controversy over the colour of Deepika’s outfit in the song "Besharam Rang".
The advance booking numbers had proved that the audience saw through the boycott noise, Anand said.
“There was a worry because there was so much at stake. You don’t know where it will go. But we were sure that there’s nothing wrong in our film. We were very confident that once people see it, they will realise that there is no merit in what others are saying.
“But yes you feel irritated, ‘Ye kyun kar rahe hai? (Why are they doing this?)’ When there’s so much at stake with people’s careers, livelihoods. They should see the larger picture before making a comment like that, something that’s so frivolous,” the director said.
Anand said he just did not want to let Shah Rukh down.
“If SRK has decided to take a break for four years, and he's chosen your film to come after four years. Let's say for a couple of years he's not liked the films that have come his way. It’s not deliberate like ‘main break loonga’ (I will take a break).
"He is like, ‘I will choose the film that really works for me’. He has chosen your film after saying no to so many films, then that's the responsibility, that's the pressure that a legend like Shah Rukh has put in that belief in you. I did not want to let him down.”
Having grown up on a diet of SRK films, Anand said he was in awe of the superstar. Shah Rukh has already spoken about how his desire to do an action film was fulfilled by “Pathaan”.
“I just facilitated that and Shah Rukh has done everything. He is the man. He is an enigma. We have grown up or, at least, I have grown up in awe of the work that he has done whether it was ‘Baazigar’, ‘Darr’, ‘DDLJ’ or ‘Chak De’.
"Just the fact that I could direct him, it just became such a huge responsibility… It's him who takes you forward, propels you to excellence and then you deliver so it's all teamwork that comes together.”
Salman Khan’s entry scene as Tiger has been one of the most appreciated sequences in “Pathaan” with fans sharing the clip on social media. Anand said the team was equally thrilled with the sequence.
“It's actually a sequence that is a little larger-than-life than the rest of the film. It’s something very unique visually. To have that kind of fast-moving train in Russia, Salman on top of it, the burning train, there's so much going on… chopper, firing. It is, by itself, so busy. And in that, you have these two people who are doing comedy. It’s inherently so cool and so entertaining,” he said.
The director said he wanted to put these two superstars in a busy scene but keep the humour intact.
“I was very clear that I didn’t want the action to be serious. You have this character who has had a very intense situation... There is a tendency to make it very serious when two action superstars are fighting. I wanted to break that and bring comedy. I wanted smart one liners and fortunately Abbas Tyrewala (dialogue writer) understood the tone. It took a lot of time, lots of rewrites to get there.”
The scene eventually evolved into a post-credit sequence, which Anand said was Aditya Chopra's idea.
“He knows Shah Rukh and Salman so well, he understands the pulse of what they should be speaking."