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Farah Khan on Staying Relevant in Bollywood: Luckily, I Wasn't Actor So I Didn't Rely on My Beauty

By: Priyanka Kaul


Last Updated: September 03, 2019, 09:12 IST

Farah Khan on Staying Relevant in Bollywood: Luckily, I Wasn't Actor So I Didn't Rely on My Beauty

It was just by chance Farah Khan bagged her first choreography project for the movie 'Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar' after Saroj Khan opted out of the movie, and the rest, they say, is history.

A well-established choreographer, a gen next filmmaker, a successful producer and an occasional actor; that’s Farah Khan for you! It was just by chance Farah bagged her first choreography project for the movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar after Saroj Khan opted out of the movie, and the rest, they say, is history.

Since then, Farah has choreographed several iconic Bollywood dancing numbers, including Chaiyya Chaiyya, Ek Pal Ka Jeena and Wo Ladki Hain Kahan, among others. Entertaining her audience went beyond mediums after she became a part of the judging panels of various reality shows and also hosted a number of chat shows.

But she eventually rediscovered her true calling in direction after working as a choreographer in Bollywood for over a decade. She made her directorial debut with Main Hoon Na in 2004. The film was a huge commercial success. Later, she went on to helm Om Shanti Om and Happy New Year, which became one of the highest-grossing films of 2014.

Recently, at the Big Cine Expo 2019, where she was felicitated for the impact that her films made at the box office over the years, Farah got candid about her journey as a filmmaker, the challenges she faced while making her debut movie and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. You have been a successful choreographer who has given some of the most phenomenal dance moves to Bollywood. How did direction happen?

I’d joined the industry to become a director. I had no intention of being a choreographer. I used to do dance shows and choreograph for ads because I loved to dance. However, being a choreographer 27-28 years ago was not an option at all. But as they say, coincidences happen in real life anytime! I was assisting Mansoor Khan in direction because I wanted to learn to be a director. So that (Choreography) just happened, and because it happened, it just took off and for 10 years I only did that.

Q. How did the idea for your debut movie come about?

I definitely wanted to make a movie with Shah Rukh (Khan) and I was very clear about that. He had been just doing family drama-cum-love stories at the like 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' and 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham'. But I did not want to see him in a love story because I find them very pakaau (boring). The genre of the movies that I grew up watching in the '70s were the masala movies, which had gotten over. It actually came back with 'Main Hoon Na'. Of course, now people have done it to death. But that movie has the little bit of everything, like a complete Bollywood entertainer. And I also knew I wanted to make a young movie for college goers, so I actually wrote the script backwards. Shah Rukh was 30-35 years old then and he had just about passed in 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' because the movie was a flashback. So, I wrote the whole script in a way that made it flow for him, where he actually has to go back to college and then it developed from there.

Q. What was your biggest challenge while directing Main Hoon Na?

The first one week I was at a loss because I had not directed anything. So when it came to scenes, it took me some time as I was cutting them like I did with songs on a line to line basis. Later, I realised that you don’t need to do that and we can actually take longer shots. The first two-three days, we actually had the background music playing at the back so that I knew how long the trolley has to go. I was so used to cutting to beat. So that took some time.

Q. As a filmmaker, who do you think your audience is?

I consider myself as the audience. The plot should appeal to me. I never do something that does not appeal to me. For any project to have my nod, it needs to make me jump in joy and say, 'Hell, yeah! This is mind blowing.' I'm really the massy audience.

Q. You’ve a reputation of being very uptight and strict. How do you get the best out of people?

In fact, I am the opposite of uptight. I am too cool and chilled out. To get the best out of people, the strict reputation does help because they know that I mean business. My entire cast and crew knows that I can question them on anything, anytime and they need to know the answer to it. Someone was asking me, 'What is a director’s job?' It is to answer questions from morning to night and knowing the answers as well. 'What should my actor wear? Where should I place this glass? Where to put the camera? How will my character enter?' The same way, others who are working on the project should at least should know their own jobs. The Camera man should know his lighting; actors should know their lines. If they don’t know, then they are inefficient. I am not strict but I don’t like inefficacy. But, anyone who has worked with me will tell you that we have the most fun set. People are laughing, there has to be good food, etc. I am not the kind who is like I-am-a-genius-so-I-have-to-be-quiet.

Q. In an industry notorious for giving shorter shelf life to women, you’ve sustained your stardom for nearly three decades now. What is it that has made Farah Khan survive and kept her relevant for this long?

No, it’s not true that women have a short-shelf life. They used to say this for heroines. But now that has also changed. Look at Kareena (Kapoor Khan). She came 20 years ago and she is going strong. So, I don’t think that it's relevant anymore. Earlier, they used to consider 10 years being the shelf life for actresses but things have certainly changed. Luckily I was not an actor, so I did not rely on my beauty, which is good I guess. But if you have talent and you do hard work, it will surely take you to places.

Q. What kind of content does your production house- Three's Company-- look forward to backing? Will it also go beyond producing films?

Right now we are producing a movie for Netflix with Jacqueline (Fernandez), Manoj Bajpayee and Mohit Raina. It’s called 'Mrs. Serial Killer'. This is the type of content which you can’t normally do. It is thoda atrang (a little unusual), without having commercial stipulations on you like music, songs and all. Three's Company will be producing more stuff like TV shows and even concerts.

Q. Any advice for young filmmakers...

Young filmmakers are only giving us suggestions (laughs). In fact, we want suggestions from them. You should go for whatever works for you. I would surely want to send my kids a university and learn film-making. The whole experience of going there and watching great movies really works. I would have given my left arm to learn film-making back in my days, but we never got the opportunity. But, if it worked for me, does not mean that it will work for anyone. There are no set rules about film-making. Someone might just come as an assistant and pick up. If you can afford to go to a school, you should. I would love to go back right now and do a summer course and see the new age movies. I tell my kids, 'Abhi 7th grade mein school chorr do aur film school jaao' (laughs).

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