My 'Himmatwala' and the 1983 film are poles apart: Sajid Khan

What are you feeling currently — excitement at seeing one of your favourite films, Himmatwala, come alive onscreen once again or anxiety over whether your version of the film will be able to recreate the same magic 30 years later?
March 29 is going to be an emotional day for me. Not every filmmaker gets the opportunity to relive his childhood 30 years later. I am anxious but more as an viewer than as a filmmaker — Himmatwala is more than enough to satisfy the filmmaker in me, who wants to make entertaining family films free of bloodshed and sexuality. I am more amazed because in the last five years, every second film is a remake either of a hit Bollywood film or a South movie, yet everyone is talking about my official remake.

Sajid Khan and Ajay Devgn share a light moment on the sets of Himmatwala

Why did you want to direct a remake?
It is a remake only in name. I would call it a rewrite. My Himmatwala and the 1983 film are poles apart. Why direct a remake — the question is very valid... but I don’t know the answer. By the time I had finished my first draft of Himmatwala, I realised we didn't need to buy the rights of the film.

The early response to the hit songs Ta thaiya and Taaki O Taaki is mixed. A section of people feel that the singers have not been able to match the verve of the earlier vocalists. Also, Ajay Devgn is not as dexterous a dancer as Jeetendra was in the original.
But understand this — it is not the same film. And it is unfair to compare Jeetendra’s and Ajay Devgn’s dancing. Jeetuji was always a dancing hero. Ajay is known more for his intense acting. When you see the film you will realise, no other actor, and I mean no other actor, could have done my Himmatwala, except Ajay.

In all of your three hits till date, Akshay was a constant ... what made you choose Ajay when Himmatwala involved dancing, which Akshay is more comfortable with?
I will work with Akshay in the future. I am making my next film with Saif. One must come across a subject, which I think will work for the audience and decide who is the correct actor to fit into that subject. I couldn't imagine Himmatwala without Ajay.

You have claimed that the film will surpass Rs 100 crore at the BO. Have your expectations from the film determined the movie's budget?
I have made an entertaining film and the audiences will enjoy the film. When I know my film, it does determine the kind of budget it will have. But Himmatwala has been made on a modest budget of Rs 72 crore. And with the satellite rights etc we have got a lot of money already. But the real test is whether the film entertains the audiences.

What was the experience of working with two producers, Vashu Bhagnani and UTV simultaneously?
This is not the first time two producers have come together. This is a trend and it will continue.

Between Farah and you, who is more Himmatwala/Himmatwali?
I'm first a brother and then a filmmaker. And as a brother, I will always want my sister to do 10 times better than me in anything she does. She will always be anything greater and higher than me. She is a mother of three and a role model for a lot of people in the country.

After Farah’s marriage and kids, how did life change for you?
I am extremely fond of her kids like any mama would be. I have been an uncle to many of my friends’ kids. In fact, I am very fond of Yug, Ajay’s two-year-old son, and not because he is Ajay’s son.

After your success you seem to be an eligible bachelor in B-town. Why have you been resisting marriage?
I have been in a steady relationship for two years now. For the next two years, I am extremely busy with two of my films. I will settle down after that.

There was a time when you reviewed films for a TV show. As a filmmaker now how do you view critics? On hindsight, do you find some of your earlier reviews over the top?
Every actor who works with me knows that I do not even read the reviews of my films. On the Friday, Himmatwala releases I will not check out whether Himmatwala has got one or half a star. My last three releases didn’t earn many stars, but the audiences watched the film and liked them.
My show was more a comedy show. I would not review a film or declare its box office chances. And I was never very offensive about any film I talked about on my show.

You tried your hand at acting in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate. Is the acting bug still alive inside you?
It was thanks to the legendary director Hrishikesh Mukherjee that I acted in the film. I never had that bug in me.

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