Renowned Bollywood director Farah Khan was invited as a guest speaker to the recently-concluded London Asian Film Festival where she conducted choreography and directing masterclasses.
The events provided a fascinating insight into the life of one of Bollywood’s most enigmatic figures.
Her easy-going manner and approachability is, at first, at odds with the remarkable success she has enjoyed in Bollywood – first as a choreographer, a filmmaker and a no-nonsense Reality TV star, her latest incarnation.
What makes Farah Khan tick? I sat down with her for a chat to find out.
Sana Nooruddin: Farah, dance has always been a passion for you. Tell us how that passion translated into your amazing career in Bollywood?
Farah Khan: It took a while for people in the industry to accept me as a choreographer. Because I was not like any of the “typical” choreographers back then who were there for so long, you know choreographers earlier used to be pretty old because by the time they would get a break to do choreography, they would have assisted the dance masters for years and when I came people were really wary because I was this college kid who was wearing jeans and t-shirts and not a shalwar kameez and a dupatta. So it definitely took quite a lot of time for people to accept me, but luckily there was also this whole new generation of directors and actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar, and Aditya Chopra starting out and who were open to a newcomer coming in. I first choreographed Shah Rukh for the romantic comedy movie “Khabhi Haan, Kabhi Naa” and then we worked together several times. So we were all this young lot and now we are all old. (Laughs)
SN: And so everything just fell into place right, as you never intended to become a choreographer?
FK: No, no I didn’t.
SN: How has your journey been from a choreographer to a director?
FK: It took me about 10 years to become a director although I would have liked it to have happened earlier. I guess everything happens for the best and all good things take their time. When I was choreographing it was also pretty much directing the songs, so when I would come on the sets the director would take it easy and some of them would even go home or they would then go to do some editing and tell me to take over. So it wasn’t that difficult for me to make the transition. But I had to give up a lot to make my first movie because you have to stop doing songs and stop working for others, you have to have that confidence that ‘I’m going to make my own movie’ and put a stop to something that is doing so well.
SN: You have also made a name for giving opportunities to young new talent.
FK: See, there is anyways Shah Rukh in the movie, so it is also nice to put in some “fresh faces” and new people.
SN: One of the first people you did that with was Deepika Padukone in ‘Om Shanti Om’.
FK: Yeah she was a model, I had met her and then she did a screen test for me which was really terrible, she was literally trembling in that test but what I did was, I put the sound off because her voice and diction was very bad and parts of ‘Om Shanti Om’ of hers were also dubbed. But now she has really worked hard on that and it’s really incredible to see that. So I think just when I saw her, I knew she was right for the film. She had that star quality and she was lovely to look at and the minute I would put the sound off she would just look so wonderful and photogenic. But the minute her voice would come everything would go for a toss! (Bursts out laughing) But I think we managed everything in the end and she’s done rather well hasn’t she?
SN: You have achieved equal success as film director, what advice would you like to give to an aspiring filmmaker, especially females?
FK: Whatever you want to do, you need to have a passion for it. And you have to make the movies that you want to make; don’t make movies to please other people. Don’t say “Oh the critics will like this, so I will make it like this”. I have seen a lot of directors who do films that I love, and then suddenly they start making films for critics because they’re so desperate to get that critical acclaim and that award that they decide to give up the core of their own personalities. I think you should make a movie that is within you and I only like making happy movies; I know happy movies are not critically acclaimed because critics like dark/sad movies, but I want to be entertained when I go to watch a movie in a theatre. When I make a film I want the audience to be happy as well.
SN: What’s the best thing about being a director?
FK: I think going on sets every day, and not only creating something but also I also like shouting at 200 people! It feels lovely (laughs). But to just go through the whole experience of making something weather its good or bad, it’s like a world you create for that many days and that becomes like your family and you have no idea what is happening in the outside world. All the happiness and stress is within that movie. I think each movie is a little small life that you live.
SN: Now you’ve moved into reality TV – what was it about the medium that was appealing for you?
FK: Big boss I didn’t chose, actually they chose me and I was like wow! I am standing in now for Salman. But it all turned out well. And now ‘Farah Ki Dawaat’ is doing very well too. I enjoy doing TV it pays very well and I think I’m good on TV in the sense that I am what I am and that works. It also doesn’t take out as much of my time as movie-making does. TV is a nice way of de-stressing and connecting with my audience between films!