Kabir Khan Interview on Ek Tha Tiger

Kabir Khan is the man of the moment. For, on the shoulders of the maker of films like Kabul Express and New York rests the mantle of the year’s most hyped film. t2 caught up with Khan on all things Ek Tha Tiger and working with the other Khan, Salman.

We can’t wait to watch Ek Tha Tiger!

Ever since the first teaser came out, followed by the full-length promo and then the songs, the feedback has been nothing short of overwhelming. That’s very exciting for a filmmaker, but at the same time I think we are bordering on the danger of being over-hyped. It’s just going out of hand at the moment because people have already started projecting figures. I really don’t understand all this because I have never really been a numbers person. I almost feel like a funds manager of a company that is coming out with its IPO (laughs out loud). Today everyone, from the producers to the distributors, has become very numbers conscious and this thing called the Rs 100-crore club is hovering over everyone’s heads. Of course, money is one of the parameters for the success of a commercial film, but our films need to go beyond just numbers.

But the pressure must be huge, considering it’s a Salman Khan Id release…

And not to forget Katrina Kaif who is the queen of the box office! But there is absolutely no pressure because I have learnt to enjoy myself. For me, the pressure is only when I am making a film… struggling to put together a scene or when I am syncing the background score. Once the film is made and if I am happy and confident with it, then the pressure ends for me. As long as the money earned is enough for people who have backed my film to make profits and a large section of the audience likes the film, I am happy with it.

How did Ek Tha Tiger happen?

The evolution of the story has been a process. If you look at my previous films, I always like to add a real look-and-feel to the stories that I tell. Like it was for New York, for Ek Tha Tiger too, it was actually a one-line story idea that Adi (Aditya Chopra, the film’s producer) had given me and he wanted me to put it into my world. I have had a lot of experience researching RAW and the Intelligence, specially while making documentaries in Kabul. My co-writer Neelesh (Mishra) has been a journalist and he tempered the story with his own experiences. All these elements came together and though we are not claiming Ek Tha Tiger is a true story, bits and parts of it do derive from real-life incidents and people.

Was Salman your first choice as Tiger?

Salman was always my first choice. How many of our heroes can you address as Tiger and not feel cheesy about it? (Laughs) Salman is the only guy on whom Tiger rests so naturally and beautifully. I don’t think anyone apart from Salman could have done justice to Tiger. Tiger is a legend… he’s a guy who is supposed to be a super agent. Salman is a legend too. I didn’t want to spend screen time establishing that fact. From the moment he walks on to the screen, you know he is larger than life. No one else apart from Salman could have established that.

But there has been talk of major interference from him on the Ek Tha Tiger sets…

See, I very honestly believe that every director should seek suggestions from his actors. As a filmmaker, I feel that if your actor is not giving you suggestions then you are in danger because either he is brain-dead or he isn’t interested in your film! Of course, there is a line between suggestions and interference, and I am more than open to suggestions from everyone on my set, not only from my superstar. But ultimately, it’s up to me what I want to use and what I want to discard. Salman would definitely have his opinion about certain things on set and I would hear him as well as all my other actors, but in the end, it was up to me to decide what fitted with my vision. And Salman would never get upset if I discarded some of his suggestions.

A major curiosity factor about your film is the fact that this is Salman and Katrina’s first film together after their break-up…

I cast them for their individual talent as actors. The only thing I had in mind was what Salman would bring to Tiger and what Katrina would bring to Zoya. I was never burdened by the baggage of their off-screen equation, which is just a marketing point for the film. If people are eager and curious to see Salman and Katrina together, then that’s all the better for my film. Working with them was a dream because they have a very comfortable relationship, having known each other for so many years. They are obviously good friends. They understand each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

How have you seen Katrina grow as an actress from New York to Ek Tha Tiger?

Earlier Katrina was known as this actress who would give these fantastic song-and-dance numbers, but she has grown with every film that she’s been a part of. She has proved that she’s a performer who can deliver. She’s probably the closest friend I have in the industry today. I wrote Zoya keeping Katrina in mind because after New York, I was aware of her strengths and weaknesses as an actor. She was perfect for the role, which you will realise when you watch the film… from her physicality to her attitude, Katrina is all Zoya.

Shooting in nine cities across five countries must have been a logistical nightmare…

We’ve actually shot on real locations. For a mainstream film with such a huge crew, it was definitely a task. Also, we have shot in many countries like Ireland, Cuba and the border towns of Iraq which have not really been explored in our cinema. We needed a strong infrastructure, but if you want the audience to sit up and say ‘Hey, we haven’t seen something like this before’, then you definitely have to go that extra mile.

Pakistan still hasn’t okayed the release of Ek Tha Tiger…

All that the Pakistani electronic media regulatory body has said is that they will basically take a call on the film once they see it. The initial teaser did mention the ISI and alarm bells must have rung and therefore, they have taken this decision which I think is fair enough. Also, they are apprehensive because our industry in the past has made films that haven’t really been flattering to Pakistani characters or the country’s government. They have sometimes been derogatory even to the point of being vulgar. We will show them the film and leave it to them whether they want to screen it in their country or not.

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