It was a cold and rainy Wednesday in London on the 15th of December 2010. As I made my way to a central London five-star hotel on the London Underground, I was writing up some questions that I could ask Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif and director Farah Khan (Om Shanti Om).
I arrived at the Hotel and found out that Katrina, who was in Dubai promoting Tees Maar Khan, will arrive later. I did not have to wait long and soon found myself in a room with the man himself; Akshay Kumar and the fabulous director Farah Khan.
I introduced myself to both and Farah asked me if I am “The Sunny” from Twitter. I quickly responded with a wide smile and a yes. The interview was arranged via Twitter as they initially had no time for all the interviews.
What is the USP of Tees Maar Khan?
Akshay: I have never done this kind of role.The title itself is a very unique title. Also, that I am working with Farah for the first time and on top we have Sheila is the USP of the film.
There are already talks about a sequel before the release. Is that confirmed?
Akshay: If we get the right story for a sequel which can continue with a part of whatever this story is about, but also at the same time it depends on how successful this film becomes and if they like the character. Only then, there is a point of making a part two.
Farah: I think it’s a great franchise. It’s a character based film, like you have genres like Pink Panther and Austin Powers. I think Tees Maar Khan can be the first Indian film with a character based caper comedy.
How was your experience working with Akshay Kumar?
Farah: He is absolutely fabulous to work with and he is sitting right next to me, so I won’t say anything else (laughs). As an actor, as a star there is no one better to have in your film.He is bang on time and if I need him at six in the morning, He will be there at 5:30. Other than that, He will do anything that you ask him to do, he gives 200% and he improvises and will give you two to three variations of every shot. In fact, we always did one shot my way and one his way.
Your film Main Hoon Na was a commercial entertainer, yet had a bit of a message woven in there with Project Milap and that at a time before Veer Zaara was a huge success. Is Tees Maar Khan just an entertainer or more than that in some way?
Farah: I don’t really think we have any social massages.“Do we have any ?”
Akshay: No, I don’t think so. Do movies like Pink Panther and Austin Powers have social messages? No, so it’s the same kind of genre. It’s releasing during Christmas and we want people to come and enjoy themselves.
Farah: But it’s a cleverly written film.
Akshay: Let me tell you something about the film. This guy Tees Maar Khan has been given a job to remove 10 thousand kilos of antiques from a moving train and he has to do it alone. That is what the film is about and Shirish has cleverly written this film but in a funny way.
You have been collaborating with many International Artists like RDB, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris. But for TMK you didn’t. Is there any specific reason for this decision?
Farah: I am an International artist Sunny, I take offence at that (laughs).
Akshay: This film does not demand it and we don’t have to bring in someone just for the sake of it.
Farah: We have Katrina Kaif and she is an International artist, she is from London. (laughs)”
Tees Maar Khan came into trouble with the censor board because of some words, the name Sheila and a bare midriff. I thought the censor board had become more relaxed, what happened?
Farah: Yeah, what is that? We were actually quite baffled by that too, because I swear, I thought this is a children’s movie. I did not even go for the censor screening because I thought that we are definitely going to get through.
Akshay: And you know in London we got PG and not even a single cut.
So we don’t have the cut here?
Akshay and Farah: No.
Akshay: No, No wait a minute, there is no cut in India. The only cut is “Beep ki Jawaani”.
Farah: No, Its “Beep Ki Lutti Izzat.”
Akshay: Yeah (repeats the line).
Farah: So you can put in anything you want instead of beep (laughs). Also, the new censor board is not relaxed. The earlier censor board was, but from the last two months…
Akshay interrupts: But when they saw “Sheila Ki Jawaani”they were relaxed (laughs).
Farah: (Laughs) No, when they saw Sheila they said you have to remove the name and then I was not relaxed at all. There were some unusual requests that her stomach can be seen etc.
Akshay: But then she explained that when we wear a Saree, then it’s obvious that you see the stomach.
Farah: and half the country wears Sarees, so yes it was quite unusual. The chairman of the censor board is very sensible and the revising committee was more than fair.”
This is the first time Akshay is playing a Muslim character.
Farah Khan: Yes.
Akshay Kumar:No it’s not the first time. But that film was not successful so you don’t know about it (laughs).
Farah Khan: Ok that means, that it’s the first time (laughs)
Akshay Kumar: Ok, I take my words back (laughs).”
How did Akshay’s character Tabrez Mirza Khan become Tees Maar Khan?
Farah: Both have the same acronyms;TMK. Tees Maar Khan is a title given to Tabrez by his fans and by his cronies. Tees Maar Khan actually means a smart aleck, somebody who is very smart and very good at what he does.For example; you think you are a Tees Maar Khan means like you think, you are over smart.”
I hope you don’t take offence at this but I have to ask you…
Farah: What went wrong with Shah Rukh Khan and me and why is he not in my film? I am actually giving out crowns for this question (laughs).”
Akshay, were you affected by how the media has tried to make this all a feud between you and Shah Rukh with all the rumours that the film was rejected by him in the first place?
Farah:Let me just put this rumour to rest as the first person I called was Akshay.
Akshay: I will tell you why she called me by the way. She called me because I am the only person, who is awake in the morning at 6 o’clock and if anyone else would have been awake the role would have gone to him. (Laughs) I am just joking…
Farah: When my husband Shirish was directing it, the script went around to certain producers but when we decided that we will produce it and I will direct, Akshay Kumar was the only choice.
You have only given super hits so far and secondly this is the first film for your own production house so how did you deal with the pressure?
Farah: Actually Sunny, I didn’t have to deal with the production pressures. Shirish looked after the production. Akshay was a fabulous co-producer, the money was always on time and so was he. Sometimes the money would come before him (laughs).
There was also news about Katrina being constantly late on the sets.
Farah and Akshay: No, No..
Farah: Katrina is very hardworking. There were times when she was late and that was because the costume had not arrived on time or the costume designer was not there. Especially in Sheila Ki Jawaani, we stitched the clothes onto her so that nothing would give away while she was dancing. She is late today for your interview that I can’t handle (laughs). But she was bang on time for the shooting.
How did Salman Khan come into the film for Wallah Re?
Farah: It was the simplest thing on earth. I asked him that everyone is going on about, that you are doing a song in my movie so why not do it. And He said okay, when do you want me to come and do it? It was that simple.
Khan asked me whether I want to take a picture with her and then tweet it. She also said that she would have taken it on her phone but doesn’t know where it is, probably dead of battery lying around.After this very fun and friendly interview, I waited in the Hotel lobby for Katrina Kaif to arrive from the airport, so that I can get an Interview with her too. Just after half an hour, I saw Katrina Kaif in a beautiful white dress, walking towards the press room. She was more beautiful and taller than I imagined her to be. And the wait continued
When you were shooting Sheila Ki Jawaani, did you realize that it is going to be so big?
I don’t have any thoughts in my mind to fight anyone or compare it with any other song. It’s about doing the best that I can do. In my opinion, Sheila Ki Jawaani is very very different to Munni Badnaam which it is being compared to,which coincidentally Farah Khan has choreographed anyway.
Do you think there is too much emphasis placed on sexuality rather than beauty nowadays in films?
I would still like to think that it’s about beauty and not sexuality. That’s what I have in my mind. I am the one performing on the song. Farah has conceptualised it. The words she has described to me are loving and enjoying the dance, energy and confidence.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
The song (laughs). All her (Farah Khan) movies have that one special song with the girl. I was not going to let her down but I was really nervous about it. I put in a lot of hours to make sure, I look and dance well.
What was the first thing that attracted you to do TMK ?
It was Farah Khan. It was like Farah Khan is directing her next film and I would like to work with her. Then, luckily for me there were a lot of things that I found challenging and then in terms of the character, I thought it is a very funny look.
Playing a wannabe actress in the film, did you draw any inspirations from any real life actresses for your role?
I hope not (laughs). My character’s problem is that she is obsessed with cinema and acting, for all the wrong reasons. She is obsessed with the glamour, make up, costumes, people looking at her and not in the acting or scenes.
So it’s a fun look at it. But I will ask Farah: Were you inspired by anyone?
Farah: I don’t think I am going to answer that question.
This interview was first published in Ishq Magazine.