Edited: 24th August, 2017
“Hi Vaibhav, this is Sajid”, I heard a voice which sounded familiar, as I picked up an unknown number. AND. Then. I panicked.
I had just written this piece on Sajid Khan which had kind of gone viral, and while it was not a scathing review or some such on the man, it still was critical of some of his films and my disappointment with him and his movies as a fan. I had no visible reasons to panic. Social media has given us a lot of bravado. We can say whatever to whoever, all-empowered, brash and brazen that we have become. There is no fanboyism anymore. Plus, I was sure of what I had written. Yet, I was hit by a sense of unease when I heard the voice on my phone. I could see him asking some pointed questions, going all caustic on me, giving me a piece of his mind. I definitely could imagine him being overbearing, bombastic and cocky. As I quickly started preparing myself with counter-arguments and opinions in my head, evoking the gods that had invented Ashutosh Gowarikar once upon a time in India, ready to disagree and dispute, and envisaging a ruckus already, the following words enter my auditory canals and their tributaries.
“I loved what you wrote!”
Uhm. So here was Sajid Khan. The man whose witticism and eccentricities we have literally grown up on. The man who taught us how to laugh at our cinema while being extremely in love with it. The man who redefined humour on television as we saw it. The man who could and would take pangas with anybody and everybody, and not be sorry about it. The man who I had written a semi-critical post on. And the man whose voice was ringing in my ears with a lot of unexpected warmth.
Not only had he read this piece written by somebody who would not really matter in his scheme of things, he also had figured out my contact details, and had actually actually taken the pains to call and tell me that he had, hell, loved the article that was fairly loud about where and how the audience felt betrayed by him. Okay then.
This was not the Sajid Khan I thought I knew from them gossip columns. I was expecting him to be arrogant, obnoxious and petty. In fact, I would be honest, I was disappointed that he did not come across as an asshole. Fucking paid media.
“Come home na, let’s have chai”, he said. I diligently took the address. I love free chai. Also, I wanted to check if all this was a façade, though I don’t think he had any reasons to create one.
I was right.
The man LOVES cinema. Including his own. I had my points to make. I was prepared. And this time, I actually was scathing. He heard me out. He was honest, candid and real. Fairly loud about where he had gone wrong, and as vociferous, almost raucous, with the defence of his movies. He was fighting me. He was fighting the world. With extreme determination. And zero bitterness.
That, for me, was the biggest discovery and learning of that evening. Not the quirks of the man that Sajid Khan is. I could see glimpses beyond the obvious. That you can fail, falter and flounder. That you can be hit by flops. That you can get affected by the world and its turnarounds. But that you need to keep the passion alive. And kicking. That you can introspect and change. That you need to love what you do. With a spirited, almost childlike, intensity and honesty. And zero bitterness.
Revisiting my piece since I have been told Sajid Khan completes 10 years in Bollywood today. Here’s to more passion in all our combined lives. Including a lot of unabashed, audacious and unapologetic humour. Plus, a Housefull of Cocaine Ke Parathe. :)
And here’s the original post.
Sajid Khan is an intelligent man.
Not everybody will agree with the statement, I know, and you will throw Himmatwala and Hamshakals at me. And you will not miss. Having said that, while I am still not sermonising that he is more sinned against than sinning, I don’t think half the world has seen either of the two movies. I have, and I have suffered them. BUT I also have picked up gems from both that are quintessentially Sajid Khan. Quirky, funny and fun. Wonder how many of us are aware of the random tribute – in black & white, no less – he has given to Alfred Hitchcock in Himmatwala, with Mahesh Manjrekar duplicating Marion Crane from the famous shower scene of Psycho! Of course, I yearned for more, and, of course, I felt disappointed. However, my faith in the man stays. He is not an auteur, and I don’t think he aspires to become one either. But he certainly gets humor better than most of his contemporaries. (I’m looking at you, Rohit Shetty.) The problem, and I say it only from a regular viewer’s perspective, is that he doesn’t know where and when to stop.
The nostalgic eighties/ nineties cheese make the cinema of Sajid Khan, coupled with a micro-focus on the audiences who get his references. Getting Shabbir Kumar to sing I Don’t Know What To Do in Houseful 2 was a masterstroke. It may not have been even registered by half the world, but for legions of Shabbir Kumar fans, it was an emotional reunion with the hamming hummer. Way different from, say, an Altaf Raja being experimented with, and made a mess of, in Ghanchakkar or Hunterrr. This was unadulterated Shabbir Kumar for the unadulterated Shabbir Kumar fans. And getting Ranjeet to play Papa Ranjeet, again, in Housefull 2, was, well, a very Papa Ranjeet thing to do. Only Sajid could get Ranjeet to give a homage to Ranjeet! And I am still not talking about the random Jeevan, Shatrughan Sinha, Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna moments that he inserts (I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is done unknowingly!) in scenes and scenarios which also double up as his narratives.
But Sajid is not just about nostalgia or talking only to the hardcore fans of nostalgia. He also gives the identifiable Tom & Jerry cartoonish coloration to his characters and situations to appeal to the sensibilities of the newer, younger viewers. (Who, I suspect, are sometimes as young as five. Days, that is.) Crocodiles and pythons attack the crotches of his heroes, diapers fly, and cute slap-fests, including one with a monkey, are integral parts of his movie-making. Some people find these funny, others like me find these unfunny. But the theatres get the laughs, sometimes louder than normal. Purpose served. Then there are the cringeworthy prejudices, some subtle and some not-so-subtle. The bimbetteness of the womenfolk is glorified, the lecherousness of the mankind is glamorised. Oh, and an occasional repulsive appearance of a dwarf maid cavorting with Mithun Chakraborty also makes inroads. But I would still refrain from donning the judicial robes here. History will evaluate and appraise Sajid Khan – and David Dhawan plus a few more directors for that matter – for the kind of films that they have made and the kind of laughter their humor has elicited. But they sure will make it to History, even if as post-scripts. Purpose served.
Last, Sajid Khan knows how to get his audiences to have some random, mindless fun with confusions and conundrums galore in all his outings. Yes, these are random, and yes, they are mindless. But, hell, some of us enter that big dark room to let go! The climax of Housefull had Queen Elizabeth talking in Marathi and yelling the “Jai Maharashtra” war cry, arbit Russian folk dancers forming the backdrop in a strictly British set up, Boman Irani LOLing and saying “Tu toh homos hai” to Arjun Rampal and a roomfull of Brits laughing uproariously and behaving demented because of a Nitrous oxide leak. Do the math already.
The Sajid Khan formula – if there is one – doesn’t always work, of course. It did not, for sure, in the Saif Ali Khan-Riteish Deshmukh starrer Hamshakals. It was a universally panned film, and for all the right reasons. As his loyalist, I felt cheated when I saw the film. While I had not gone expecting any high art, my biggest grouse was that Sajid Khan failed his audiences as Sajid Khan, the director. The film was loud, alright, but not ludicrous. And THAT was its failing. It isn’t easy making his kind of movies, and I am sure Sajid figured it himself while making Hamshakals. I hope his next one, whenever it happens, gives him back to us. Meanwhile, Sajid-Farhad tried being him in Housefull 3, and, well, didn’t really succeed. “Sirf bhaunkne se koi kutta kameena nahin ho jaata“, Papa Ranjeet had predicted in Housefull 2. And rightly so, despite my disagreement with the kutta-kameena analogy.
Hamshakals had one redeeming thing, though. The Cocaine Ke Paraathe song. It is as moronic as it can get and it is not funny when seen in isolation. But it was the high point of the film. Vintage Sajid Khan. Ridiculous to the core, and giving you those laughter trips you know you would eventually feel extremely guilty about. You can switch directly to 2:08 if you do not want to see the set up.
And why am I remembering the man now? The entire #BREXIT noise took me to the climax scene of Housefull 2, obviously! (Stupid Brits, no, really.) And I actually came across an article on drug laced parathas being sold in Chandigarh. Like, for real.
Guess I am not the only one who gets enamored by the genius of Sajid Khan!