Anees Bazmee: ‘Comedy films, if well-made, have repeat value!’

Writer-director Anees Bazmee. Photo: Publicity Photo 

He accepts the Almighty’s wishes with humility. Eight of Anees Bazmee’s 16 movies so far as director have worked—some big-time like Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha, No Entry, Welcome and Ready. The first three, along with his thriller, Deewangee, and the TV and satellite hit Sandwich are considered classics as well. He has also written the blockbuster Aankhen (1993) and co-written over 40 others, including those directed by him.

As he puts it when we meet up for his latest film, Bhool Bhulaiya 2, “Sometimes the rewards, as in fame and money, do not come up to the hard work, dedication and honesty I put into my work. And sometimes they do. And there are those times when I genuinely feel the returns are beyond my expectations. So I accept His verdict and that of the audience!”

Anees began his career assisting Raj Kapoor in Prem Rog and was initially discouraged from directing films by well-wishers, especially because he was a good writer later. “When I directed Hulchul and it did not do well, they all said, ‘We told you so!’ giving me examples of great writers who could not direct a successful film.” With a poker face, he adds, “All that changed after Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha and Deewangee! But hard work has no shortcut, though God will always look after people who do such mehnat!”

Naturally humorous, Anees believes also in keeping the atmosphere fun-filled on his sets. “The journey of making a film is important, because the result cannot be predicted. But everyone should have good memories to look back on!”

Explains Anees, “I have earned a lot of love and respect, because making comedy films is never easy.” The director lets out more fundas about his successful innings, and goes on, “Come Ludhiana, London and pan-India, my film should be liked by all. I was once watching a film with my mom, who is illiterate, and she said that a particular fancy shot gave her a headache and she could not understand the rapid movements—it was a sequence in which the Jimmy Jib, then new to India, was used. Such technical aspects must be used with discretion, So when my Deewangee producer Nitin Manmohan hired a Jimmy Jib and I did not use it, I suggested that he rent it out! We are storytellers, and we must decide whether we need to narrate it simply or make it difficult!”

At the same time, Anees rarely takes a fix on what he is going to write. ““For me, a script is never a Bible, I keep improvising. My scripts also happen as they go along. Like when I began to write Welcome, it was a simple Akshay Kumar-Katrina Kaif love story. As I continued, Nana Patekar came in, then Feroz Khan and so on. It’s like making a dam. You decide how the water flows, or let the water take its own direction!”

About his yen for comedy, here’s another gem of a quote: “Comic films, if made properly, have repeat value, because though you know what is going to happen, you want to re-live it! With a thriller, romance or drama, you may not want to go through the material again. You know who is going to be slapped or killed and it can bore you!”

With Bhool Bhulaiya 2, Anees tells you that he knew exactly what to repeat from the original and what he should avoid. “It was my first horror comedy, so the excitement made me enjoy it more. The older film has a reputation, and mine is a separate story. I decide to retain the iconic name Manjulika for the spirit, a haveli, two songs, the title-track and Ami je tomar and Rajpal Yadav as one of the three pandits. But I used all of them differently. So there is my effort to re-create the older film’s memory, and yet make viewers realize it is all new. In fact,” he quips, “I always feel that I was given this assignment to put me under tension as I had to match the original’s iconic status!”

Anees is all praise for his cast, especially the lead trio. Kartik, he says, will go to great lengths to make his film better, while the equally hardworking Kiara Advani has shown a fast growth in her career. As for why he cast veteran Tabu, known for serious roles, in a comic film, he says, “If an actor is truly good, he or she can do anything. You just have to have the guts to laugh at yourself. I sensed Tabu’s comic potential (which has now been already seen in some films), the same way as I cast Nana Patekar when the character of Uday Shetty in Welcome was fleshed out. Or take even Irrfan Khan. These actors know not only what to do but also what not to do.”

Anees confesses that he turned writer as a shortcut to getting into direction. “I would have endless fights with my directors then, and now I fight with my writers! The poor guys here—Farhad Samji and Aakash Kaushik—have done a great job. But take it from me—no good film can be made without a lot of fights between the creators!”












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