We have it straight from the horse’s mouth. There’s a good chance that actor John Abraham -- who played the formidably stylish and lethal villain Jim in Shah Rukh Khan’s spy bonanza ‘Pathaan’ -- will get an origin story.
Just a day ago, Shah Rukh Khan had dropped subtle hints that its sequel ‘Pathaan 2’ in which he plays the titular swashbuckling spy might be in the offing. But that was expected since Khan is now the paragon of box-office invincibility and star-power, however, no one imagined that its villain Abraham will also get its own fan following clamouring to see more of this dapper agent gone rogue.
“It was really brave of John to take up this role … He must feel vindicated and validated for playing the role of a baddie in a film called ‘Pathaan’ … It completely warrants that we see Jim’s origin … Maybe Jim is not even dead,” said director Siddharth Anand in an interview with Gulf News. Conspiracy theories aren't far away.
“Maybe some shepherd grazing sheep finds him,” said Anand with a laugh, taking a swipe at how several Bollywood heroes who have seemingly plunged to their deaths were resurrected by unsuspecting villagers and their magical herbs in several iconic films.
Speaking of a panacea that can bring back an ailing specimen, director Anand should ideally wear the crown for injecting life and verve back into the Bollywood box-office that was being overshadowed by a spate of South Indian films doing relatively more robust business. So, does he feel like Superman?
“I just feel vindicated! My film ‘War’ was the last film that was a big success that crossed the threshold of Rs300 crores … And South Indian films were recently reaching those big numbers. When will we bounce back to those golden? Thankfully, ‘Pathaan’ has done that and reaffirmed our faith in Bollywood films,” said Anand.
‘Pathaan’ is one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of all times and has made over Rs5 billion worldwide nudging movie-mad Indians to head back into the cinemas instead of waiting for a streaming release. The film is a heady star-driven mocktail of spy adventures, stunts, and spectacular action sequences.
Partly shot in Dubai, Anand – who has earlier filmed ‘Bang Bang’ in Abu Dhabi’ – chose the Downtown Dubai and other key areas for its key stunt sequences.
“It’s a whole different ballgame to shoot in the UAE now. They have sound studios, equipment that are comparable to anywhere in the world. It was a delight to shoot in Dubai. Dubai was the perfect city to shoot those kind of sequences,” said Anand.
In the scenes set in Dubai, Khan, the hero Pathaan - played by a superb in-form Khan, and Abraham, the dishy antagonist, have a fierce face-off that involves car-chase sequences and gravity-defying stunts in the bustling metropolis.
“Dubai as a city offers the scope and infrastructure, logistics to support a film like ‘Pathaan’. Even their know-how on how to manage crowds, traffic at a place filled with tourists, they know it … Dubai has mastered that,” said Anand.
Produced by Aditya Chopra’s Yash Raj Films, ‘Pathaan’ had a lot riding on it. Firstly, it was the proverbial litmus test for Shah Rukh Khan, 57, who was making a comeback in films after his four-year-plus sabbatical from the big screen. If ‘Pathaan’ failed, then the superstar’s star power would be exponentially dimmed.
Plus, Bollywood industry – which was going through a slump in the post COVID-19 era -- was desperate for a hit and wanted their box-office mojo back. And who better than Anand, with an impeccable track record of delivering hit action spectacles, to be on call to pump things up.
“As a filmmaker, we crave for both – love from the audiences and the money. Money has a direct co-relation with the love that audience gives.”
So what’s his process like as a director and what was it directing the formidable trio – Khan, Padukone, and Abraham?
“Directing Shah Rukh Khan was a privilege … And each one of them has such swag. When you walk into a room, you can feel it!” said Anand, who has earlier directed actors like Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, and Saif Ali Khan.
Incidentally, Anand – who is known for his high-octane, star-driven bombastic films – isn’t a fan of superhero films.
“I have to admit that I haven’t watched more than two MCU films. I am not a fan of that genre as such as a viewer. But my son is a huge fan and he’s like an encyclopedia,” said Anand. Apparently, he ran his action sequences past his 16-year-old son before it made the cut in ‘Pathaan’. Very often, he shot a few sequences down because it was done before in a Hollywood film.
“Maybe I should watch them closely so there is no overlap,” said Anand.
Funnily enough, Anand – who has also directed romantic comedies like ‘Hum Tum’ and ‘Anjana Anjaani’ – has a weird conundrum. Every producer out there places faith in him for pulling off big action spectacles, but are now suspicious of his ability to pull of an intimate, modest-budget film.
“I have nurtured this script which is a courtroom drama for the last 14 or 15 years, but nobody has shown the faith to do it with me. It’s a true story which I just love and has a big heart. Now, all want me to big tent-pole action films,” said Anand.
As far as gripes go, it’s not a bad thing.
“I agree,” said Anand with a laugh.
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‘Pathaan’ is out in UAE cinemas now