Ek Tha Tiger director Kabir Khan on Salman Khan, his upcoming film and more, interviewed by Roshmila Bhattacharya.Is it true that Shah Rukh Khan was your first choice for Ek Tha Tiger (ETT)?
I didn’t meet Shah Rukh, but yes, Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) did approach him. However, the script as it is today is meant for Salman.
Which other actor can you call Tiger without it sounding cheesy?
It’s about a legend, and with Salman you don’t have to spend screen time establishing one.
So did Katrina Kaif recommend Salman?
Katrina’s one of my closest friends and the only one who could play Zoya in ETT, but she didn’t recommend Salman. His name may have come up during discussions. He took an instant liking to me when we met years ago. I’d narrated Kabul Express (2006) to him without really intending to cast him. And when I approached Katrina for New York (2009), she was unsure since it wasn’t a typical Yashraj film. When Salman heard I was directing it, he told her, ‘I’ve seen Kabir’s work, you can close your eyes and do the film’."
Reportedly, you two didn’t see eye-to-eye during the shoot as he was too interfering. True?
If you have a star and he doesn’t bring anything to the table, it means he’s brain dead or disinterested. Salman’s never played a character like Tiger before so there were discussions. He had suggestions for every scene, but he doesn’t force anything. I’ve enjoyed working with him.
Now that your three-film contract with YRF is over, it’s said you’ll be directing a film with Hrithik Roshan...
I wish that was true, but it isn’t. It’s time to step out of YRF’s comfortable cocoon and experience the big bad world. I’ll never forget that when I was grappling with death threats from Afghanistan, Adi called to assure me that if I was forced to leave, I could shoot Kabul Express anywhere in the world irrespective of the cost. Thanks to him, I’ve grown as a filmmaker despite my unconventional approach. Even if I ventured out, I’d always return to YRF.
An action-packed love story, the first draft of which is almost ready. Once I cast the actors, I’ll tweak it to incorporate their traits. It’s my first script, written two years before Kabul Express, based on something I’ve seen and heard because of which I became a filmmaker. I needed to prove my credibility before I could get someone to back me on such a large project. The time is right now.