Siddharth Anand reveals which Pathaan scene made Salman Khan say 'you are not serious'
In an exclusive conversation with Hindustan Times, Pathaan director Siddharth Anand shared his future plans after the success of the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer.
Director Siddharth Anand is the man of the hour whose film Pathaan refuses to stop at the box office worldwide. Talking about the success, Siddharth opened up about his love for action films, making Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan come together, dealing with boycott trends and his production house. He also rubbished rumours of Dhoom 4, with Shah Rukh Khan.
Also read: Pathaan box office collection day 39: Shah Rukh Khan's film earns over ₹1033 cr worldwide
You are the man of the hour. Many have credited you for 'saving' Bollywood. How does it feel to become the number 1 director to cross Baahubali 2 Hindi collection?
Siddharth Anand: It’s an incredible feeling. It’s a lot of validation for all the hard work, effort and journey of filmmaking for 20 years. And, to finally make a film that's at the summit of all Hindi films. It’s humbling, moving and exciting, it’s all adjectives, rolled into one.
From Salaam Namaste to Pathaan. Tell us about your journey as a filmmaker.
Siddharth Anand: My journey as a filmmaker started out with something which was in my comfort zone, making rom-com and slice-of-life films. I knew that world was very tangible and relatable at that point in time. On stories that also were emotional yet had a flavour of commerce and a sense of commercial films, that was my comfort zone. I think by the time of Anjaana Anjaani, I became a little too comfortable. Those kinds of films just came out super naturally and I didn’t feel challenged enough.
Post that, I somewhere tried out stories to tell in that genre. I have a certain deficit disorder wherein I constantly need to stay engaged in my mind. Fortunately, I found a genre to shift into—action. At that time, the kind of action I wanted to do was not done in the country, they were not making action films like these flavour and fun. I kind of found my own niche in that. War cemented it and like Adi (Aditya Chopra) once said, found my voice, as a filmmaker with War. Pathaan just substantiated that. So here I am doing films I love. I am like a kid in a candy store right now.
You have delivered War pre-pandemic and Pathaan post. So basically you emerged pandemic-proof.
Siddharth Anand: In that sense, the audience has been gracious and has loved and embraced my films. I have stayed true to what I wanted to do consistently, and with that not tried to experiment or over-indulge even after a massive success like War. The idea is to just stay honest and true, and also evolve with the audience but not overindulge. That's the secret to it.
Pathaan also came out strong amid unprecedented times in Bollywood. Was there a plan to navigate your way? Especially with boycott trends
Siddharth Anand: The idea was to do nothing about the boycott trend. It was to just let the film answer them because we knew there was nothing offensive in the film. Nothing to offend them, in fact, they would enjoy the film. We were confident of that. We just wanted them to give us a chance and at least see the film. And that’s what happened. After the first two shows of Pathaan, all those voices died down, there was only love. Eventually, that is what matters. No matter how much we say ‘oh there’s nothing offensive,’ it would only create more noise.
You maintained that directing Shah Rukh Khan was a responsibility. You also worked with Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff in the same genre. How each has been different?
Siddharth Anand: Extremely different. Each has its own personality and strength. As a director one has to become a counsellor as well. In the sense, you need to adapt to the actor, and cater to that personality, ensuring you get the best of him in the way that works. Sometimes you have to specialise when working with these kinds of stars. Because they are set and they have been here much longer than you have been.
All of them have their own school of thought and process. It’s been a dream to direct them, and now I am back (with Hrithik). It’s like coming home.
Yes with Fighter. You just finished a schedule right? Give us an update
Siddharth Anand: We have wrapped three schedules actually. We just finished the Hyderabad one. We are done with 25% of the film, it’s till, still many days to go. But yeah, the journey of a fighter has begun.
Talking about Pathaan, you ended up reuniting Salman Khan with Shah Rukh Khan in a film after years. Many called it the best thing about the film.
Siddharth Anand: Yeah, it was nostalgic for me also. Especially for the last running on the train scene. I told Salman to shout ‘bhaag Pathaan bhaag’ and told him to do it like ‘bhaag Arjun bhaag (from Karan Arjun).’ It wasn’t in the script. It was funny and I had to convince Salman to do it. It was so much fun.
What was Salman’s reaction to the scene when you narrated it?
Siddharth Anand: He laughed. He said ‘You are not serious.’ I said ‘yes I want you to do it’. He did it so well. He is like clay. He is so sweet and just needs love and pampering. He got a lot of that from me. He did exactly what I told him to do.
So far zero flops to be blunt. Any hesitation before the film releases?
Siddharth Anand: Lots of it (laughs). It’s a record, I hope and pray now that we talking about it, it sustains. Releasing films and maintaining a 100% track record is a blessing and thought to keep. I hope it continues for the next 8-9 years. Fingers crossed.
Would you like to share a specific anecdote from the making of Pathaan?
Siddharth Anand: There are so many. It’s only memories now. Let me enjoy the success now.
Will we get to see more Hollywood stars in your future projects? You roped in Tom Cruise’s action director for Pathaan
Siddharth Anand: We looked up Casey O’Neil’s work and liked it. We reached out to him and he was gracious enough to come down. We worked quite closely and he’s been quite a huge asset on the sets of Pathaan.
How was Shah Rukh Khan working with him?
Siddharth Anand: He took it like fish in the water. He actually has a great prototype as an actor, his body is great. He was very comfortable and no one has done that with him before. I am just lucky to do it with him.
Even I read that Shah Rukh felt shy about flaunting his abs…
Siddharth Anand: He is a very shy person. He isn’t as flamboyant as it seems. He likes intimate gatherings and conversations. Showing off his body is the last thing he likes to do he is very shy that way. I think it took quite a lot of convincing for us to do it.
You are still not on social media. Why so?
Siddharth Anand: Consciously I’m not. It allows me time to work. Social media is like a fridge, you keep opening it to check what’s inside it. If I get that much time, I work or spend time with my family for recreation. I think I have nothing to share with people that much; I like my anonymity and a personal life to remain on my own.
I think people have a lot to share with you
Siddharth Anand: Through my films, I get that. I am very happy about it.
You might not be on social media but you do have a fake account on Twitter now…
Siddharth Anand: Yeah, I read about it. I have heard the news that I have announced Dhoom 4. That too with Shah Rukh, I congratulated him that day (laughs), it’s funny. Fans have taken it a bit too far. I hope that account comes down.
Now that you have made your place in the action genre, do you think we can see you behind a rom-com like Anjaana Anjaani again? What’s next?
Siddharth Anand: I would love to do that if I get a script but I think my effort is to establish my production house, Marflix Pictures Private Limited as a premium action production house. With Rambo starring Tiger and Rohit Dhawan as the director, and now Fighter, under it.