Ahmed Khan: It is tough to analyse what will work, make whatever you decide to with all your heart – Times of India

As a choreographer-turned-director who has now branched out as a producer, Ahmed Khan has come a long way in his journey in showbiz. After curating some slick maar-dhaad projects in Hindi cinema, his first film as a producer, Rashtra Kavach OM, further demonstrates his love for the action genre. Debutant director Kapil Verma, who comes from a family of action directors, sat down with Ahmed to take us through their journey with this film. Excerpts from our chat with them:

Your film, Rashtra Kavach OM, will be in the theatres tomorrow. Are you both anxious about the audience’s reception to the film, especially given that the industry is finally getting back on its feet?

Kapil: Our film’s copies have been delivered over the weekend. It’s my first film as a director and I am a bundle of nerves right now.

Ahmed: It’s a big production for me. Today, we can’t talk about business anticipation, ki picture itni chalni chahiye and so on. I am simply hoping that people like it because it has been made well. The team has put together a good product. It was envisioned as a full-blown emotion-led action thriller, weaving in all the elements of an entertainer while staying within the boundaries of the story we had on hand. We should take this moment to just be proud of what we have made. We had a brilliant journey together. And irrespective of how the film fares, I am working with Kapil again on another action entertainer.

Ahmed, as a producer, what drove you to pick Aditya Roy Kapur to play the male protagonist, given that he hasn’t been seen as a full-blown action hero before this?

Ever since I started choreographing songs, I’ve worked on one principle. It’s no big deal to make Govinda dance. It’s an achievement if you make Sunny Deol and Suniel Shetty groove to a song. I’ve done it quite a few times. I’ve enjoyed doing this. When something is tough to imagine or manage and you do it, don’t you feel like an achiever? I’ve believed that working with a legit action hero is fine, like I’ve worked with Tiger Shroff who can spoil you for life. He can pull off anything you imagine. But when we had a chance here, I felt we should bring in someone who has not done it before but has the makings of a perfect action star. Adi has the height, the personality and the build of a macho action star. When he performs those scenes in the film, some of which you see in the trailer, you realise that he looks believable and great while doing it. He was so comfortable in the space that it never felt like it was his first brush with a full-blown action film. Also, for this film, I didn’t want an action director friend or an assistant for this movie. I have known Kapil and his work with the steady cam and his ability to control a set while shooting action. So, when Adi met him and they connected, I took a few steps back and let them be. I was there to hold them if they ever tripped, but they just went all out.

Today, it has become more difficult to predict the fate of a film than it was earlier, and as you mentioned earlier, the audience’s taste is
changing rapidly. What are your thoughts about that?

Kapil: It’s a phase! Even the audience is trying to figure out what they could watch in a theatre and what they really should wait for at home. The audience has many options and so much to watch at home. They’ve come around the idea of waiting for most theatrical films to come on OTT platforms. So, honestly, we don’t know where we are standing today and what genre works. Gangubai Kathiawadi and Bhool Bhulaiyya 2 weren’t of the same genre. So, maybe a few more months to analyse, and we should be able to understand what’s bringing people into theatres.

Ahmed: We’re Indians aur hum kitna OTT pe international content dekh lenge? In the last two years, I must have watched at least 5o dubbed films from the South; safe to say, the audience saw at least 200 such movies. That exposure, especially for the theatre-crazy audience, has mentally prepared them to watch that kind of stuff in cinemas. Bollywood, on the contrary, chose to believe that the audience has become that much slicker in its choices with all the OTT exposure, which we have tried doing with some of our films. We didn’t study what the theatre-going audience wants too clearly. The South Indian films are good. They juice all the emotions to the fullest. They don’t leave things half-baked. Toh hamari audience ne unke content ko zyada pasand kiya. By the time we wake up to this, the trend will have changed. So, it is tough to analyse what will work and it is foolish to keep thinking too hard. Make whatever you decide to with all your heart, pulling out all stops. Whether you have Tiger, Salman Khan or Aditya Roy Kapur, do justice to the material you have on hand. Don’t downsize its scale. If it doesn’t work at the theatre, you apologise and move on. Dil se apna karo, aur baaki public pe chhod do.

The film went on the floors between the first and the second wave of the pandemic. Would it have helped if you had waited for a safer period to start an action-heavy film like this?

Kapil: Two years is a long waiting period, especially at a time when the audience’s taste is changing every few months. If you have a script that you’re perfectly in sync with, you shouldn’t sit on it. Chances are that it gets dated by the time you make the film. So, even though we had our plans in place, we waited for the first wave to subside. We shot the film with all the precautionary measures in place. Barring one Armenian schedule, we didn’t have any COVID cases on our sets. What kept us going was a strong pre-production set-up and the enthusiasm of the entire team. Everyone was so passionately driven that we could hit the finish line well within our deadline.

Kapil, as someone from a family of action directors, were you nervous to show your content to them, especially your father, Tinu Verma?

My dad was always there for me. Since I have so many gifted action directors right at home, I had a thought about them assessing what I’m doing with my film, especially since it belongs to their pet genre. Eventually, when they saw it, they loved it. Dad was overwhelmed with the scale and the intensity of the action. A lot of people had asked me why he wasn’t part of my first film. I would have loved that, but he believed that his presence would stress me out. So, he supported me in every way a parent does.


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