Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

‘Sultan’ was one of the biggest hits this year. We speak to the man behind the film, Ali Abbas Zafar, about the film’s success and his learning from it!

“The audience is now seeing the merit that lies in the content, more than the faces that are there in the film, which is great”

After ‘Sultan’ released, you’d told me that its success has made you nervous, since the expectations from you will now be high. Is that nervousness still there, now that you’ll be getting into ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’?
Definitely, there’s still nervousness and also excitement. I’m going to start my next film with Salman Khan again, so the same pressure will kind of pile on to me. But ‘Sultan’ is done and over now so I feel, I’ve kind of moved away from it. That’s what I feel at this point of time.

What do you think worked for ‘Sultan’?
The honesty of the emotion that the film portrayed is what I think worked for it. That has what has connected with the audience. I think the most difficult films to make are the simplest ones and ‘Sultan’ was a very simple film. We were not trying to do something which was path-breaking. It was a sweet, simple, emotional story and we tried to show it in the simplest way. I feel that has what has worked for the film.

What did you learn from your experience on it? What has been your process of working with the actors?
I’ve actually learnt a lot by working on all the three films that I’ve made. Everyone grows and when you understand your work better, your craft gets more polished. Interacting with every actor is different, you understand the person, and the actor understands you. I always believe that the most important thing which exists between the actor and the director is the trust. No matter what happens, you have to trust each other. And then everyone has plus points, everyone has weaknesses so you then kind of work around those points. When it comes to ‘Sultan’, the whole idea was to break the image of what Salman Khan has in terms of his audience. To show him a little vulnerable, to show that he can be down and out, he could be human and he can lose. I would say the credit goes to him on this one, because he understood the character so well, the way he executed it without letting his star-power affect it. That is what a great actor can do when a good role is offered to him or written for him. He makes it his own. Anushka on the other hand, worked on her strength. Her body type was not of a wrestler but she worked hard to physically look a certain way, the way she spoke in the film. Her emotions were so under-stated, because as a sports-person, you go through so many ups and downs every day, when you win or lose – but when the same kind of emotion arises in your personal life, you hold them back. That doesn’t mean there is no depth of emotions, it is infact, the real depth of emotions, I’d say. Apart from her, Randeep Hooda, Amit Sadh, Kumud Mishra, all the actors have worked for the text only because they found enough merit on the paper, when they read their roles and thought what they could do with it.

And what do you have to say about the other films which came this year?
This year there have been great films. The content has been really good – from ‘Neerja’ to ‘Pink’, Akshay Kumar’s ‘Rustom’ or ‘Airlift’ – they’ve all been fabulous films. Slowly what is happening is that whether it’s a niche film or a mainstream film like ‘Sultan’ – content is becoming the riding force. Definitely, star power helps, a star can get you the first three opening days, but if the film doesn’t connect with the audience, it kind of subsides, loses its sheen at the box-office eventually. But the kind of films that have worked this year, all those films are strongly content-driven. Even ‘Kapoor & Sons’, I thought was a really good film; the way Shakun executed that film was brilliant. And I think it’s a good time that directors from different genres are making different kinds of films which the audience is receiving well. The audience is now seeing the merit that lies in the content, more than the faces that are there in the film, which is great.

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