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Dhoom 3 duo, Aamir Khan and director Vijay Krishna Acharya (aka Victor), in conversation with Box Office India

BOI: How did you manage to convince Aamir with your script?

Vijay Krishna Acharya (VKA): It was way back in October 2010 when I first narrated the script to him.

Aamir Khan (AK): Really? Was it that long ago?

VKA: Yeah. Adi had told me if you are going to Aamir you better have something that is really good. And this time the script was a little different so obviously I was a lot more nervous because it was really not following the Dhoom paradigm; but Adi and I were very clear that only Aamir would fit the character.

BOI: So you wrote the script keeping him in mind?

VKA: I really don’t know how to answer that. What I personally feel is that the process of writing should be as pure and clean as possible. An actor should never be the guiding force while writing. Also when you write clean, the actor finds something new in it otherwise if I write to what I think is Aamir’s strength he might find it boring. However by the time I wrote the interval point, Adi asked me who I think would fit this role. We were making a wish list and we thought for about 10 minutes…

AK: (Cuts in) Itna time laga tum log ko sochne mein (Laughs)…

VKA: (Laughs) Wish list bana rahe the

AK: Aapko bolna chahiye tha, wishlist mein koi aur naam hi nahi tha bhai…

VKA: Adi and I were both keen on having Aamir, but we were waiting to see who would take his name first. I told Adi to go and speak to Aamir but he told me to finish writing the script first. So we approached him in October 2010 which was the first time I met Aamir and there was not much interaction. He heard the script and agreed to do the film...

AK: (Cuts in) I heard the script and I loved it. But before hearing the script I told Adi that why are you giving the film to Victor. I asked Adi to direct the film instead. He declined and asked me to first listen to the script. He told me that Victor was the right guy to direct it. I had not seen his previous film Tashan but I had heard of it and the fact that it didn’t work at the box office and all that. A normal concern that anyone would have was that this person has made a film that had not worked, so I was little apprehensive. But when he narrated the script to me, I liked his narration and then I decided to go with Adi’s trust in him and would also like to trust him.

BOI: So it was an instant yes or..

AK: Instant yes!

BOI: It was a huge film, did you think that Victor will be able to pull it off?

AK: Well, I had seen some promos and songs of Tashan so I could see that visually he is strong and he has that understanding of scale. I told myself that; here is a script, which he has written and there should be no reason why he won’t be able to execute it. I also have to say that I trust Adi a lot so when Adi is so confident of him then it gives me a lot of comfort to know that if Adi had made a film with Victor which didn’t work, and still wants to give him another chance, then obviously Adi as a producer is no fool to pursue him. So the confidence that Adi showed in you Victor was a big comfort for me. I am also the kind of a person who goes a lot with his gut and instinct and it is very difficult to explain that.

BOI: Also Victor, you have written Dhoom and Dhoom 2, but Dhoom: 3 was not a typical Dhoom film. It had varied emotions. What was the idea behind it?

VKA: See the idea behind Dhoom was ke ek entertaining picture banate hain. And I think Dhoom worked because it was unconventional. It was still a Hindi film and in my head it has always been a bit of a Salim-Javed treatment. So Dhoom 2 of course became bigger but it is also a more conventional Hindi film. There is a love story, there were set pieces and that was the impact it had. The success of Dhoom 2 can be attributed to it being a caper film and a caper film is always heavier on pulling things off. As we go along, our audience is exposed to Hollywood films and if we start following the same trend then we will be shooting ourselves in the head. Like Fast & Furious is a very successful franchise. Their cars are fast and their stunts are great each time but now I am only waiting for the level to go up. So personally this time I wanted to do a Dhoom but I also wanted to reinvent it and because I had Adi behind me so I could go along with it. I think we got Aamir because we also reinvented. If we had gone to Aamir and said ‘ke tu ek motorcycle pe baitha hai chori kar raha hai aur ek chase hai’, he would surely replied that, ‘toh mere pass kyun aaye ho?’. I think what we managed to pull off is the love story of two brothers which is not something we have seen in a while. The boy is fighting for the dignity of his father. At heart it is a very emotional film and that’s why the audience liked it.

BOI: A lot of people thought that the actual robbery wasn’t shown in the film. So Aamir did you miss that in the story as an actor?

AK: I remember asking this very same question to Victor and Adi at the time of the narration. I don’t know if you remember that…

VKA: Yes, I remember.

AK: So Victor said that it is not relevant to the story because how he robs is not relevant to the plot how he escapes is more relevant. And I instantly agreed. But since there are two of them (Samar and Sahir) what is important is how they escape after the heist.

BOI: Victor, you narrated and he said yes but when it actually came to filming, were there any apprehensions on your part due to Aamir Khan’s stature and his perfectionist tag?

VKA: Most of these things are a lot like surround sound as that’s what you hear. But when you meet somebody and interact with them, it engages you as people. And what I found with Aamir was that at the end of the day we are all making the same film. It cannot be made in a hierarchy and I never ever saw myself following his lead or him leading even though he has been in the industry for 25 years. I think interactions between us were very easy and for that the credit must go to him. He put me at ease which allowed me to be as free as I needed to be.

BOI: Aamir, did you ever feel Victor was nervous while shooting?

AK: I think one of my strengths is that I don’t consider myself better than anyone. So when Victor has written a script and he is the one who is directing it I automatically look up to him to guide me. It is a natural stand that I take. But the only time I had to work on it was when we were filming Lagaan. Ashu (Ashutosh Gowariker) had made two films earlier which had not worked. And I had the faith in him as I had worked with him before. It’s like Adi having faith in Victor. So during Lagaan, Rahman would often call me to Chennai for music sittings. I felt that he did not trust Ashu and expected me to work on the music with him. Likewise, the other actors on the set would ask me how to enact a scene. And I used to wonder why they were asking me especially when the director was around. So very early during the prep of Lagaan, I realised that people were actually not seeing Ashu as the captain of the ship and they were doing it out of their own insecurity or maybe because of his past films. I sensed it very early in the proceedings so I did a few things. And these were very physical things that I implemented. The moment I spoke to Rahman I said that I just want you to know that I will not be coming for a single music sitting and the person you are going to be dealing with is Ashu and if you have any faith in my music sense Ashu’s is 10 times better. So usko toh maine saaf bol diya ke bhaiya Ashu is the boss and music tu uske saath hi create karega. But if you both have to bounce off a tune or two with me, I’m there for that. I am a producer so I am there for that. With actors, I realised that I need to go on a low angle. When someone used to ask me ke Aamir bhai ye scene ko kaise karna chahiye? I would not tell him why are you asking me and not Ashu because by saying those words I was making that person feel small and I was also making my director feel small. So if someone would ask me about a scene I would just go to Ashu and say this is a good question how should this scene be done. So within 10 to 15 days it became very clear that Ashu is the boss but if I had not done that it would have caused a problem. If I don’t have faith on the director then I should just not work with him. Also whenever we used to have a meeting, I would sit on the floor next to Ashu. Ashu chair pe baithta tha aur main zameen pe uske charno ke pass jaa ke baith jaata tha. So sabko ek jhatke mein samajh aagaya that Ashu is the boss. I had to think of something which conveys that in an instant. That was the only time I remember in my career that I had to do a something specific.

BOI: What preparations went into Dhoom: 3 preceding the shoot?

AK: For me as an actor there were a lot of physical preparation and also the readings I did with Victor on the two characters. So we went to Panchgani and we began reading the script, the scenes and how the characters would be.

VKA: Well, once the discussions start then it leads to discovering the ways. How a character will say a certain thing. A same line can be said in a 1000 different ways. But what we figured was that there was a certain boundary that can be pushed. The creation of the two characters was very important for us. In fact, Aamir would often tell me that tu mujhe torture kar raha hai. So we decided to shoot the toughest parts in our first schedule...

AK: (Cuts In) My first schedule was all the double role scenes.

VKA: And that is also the most complicated parts technically. I think we were in Marina when we got Samar’s walk which was really important - the physicality of the characters. These are small details which become big only when you see them on the screen. Like the way Samar walks with a bounce.

AK: Yes it is a happy child’s walk. And I don’t like to discover, I like to do it. It’s much better that way. Instead of verbalising that Samar should be like this or that, I would rather act it out and show you than just talking about it. VKA: And that is what it is all about - translating.

BOI: Victor, as an audience you like Samar more or Sahir?

VKA: I feel that there is a little bit of Samar and Sahir in each one of us. Samar is obviously the one who is innocent and who is uncorrupted. Thus he is the one who is going to walk away with your heart. But Sahir is the man who is brutalised. There is a confrontational scene in the film where Sahir ends up slapping Samar. When I wrote that scene I had damp eyes and a lump in my throat. When you are writing something you do feel the emotion in it as well. But to me that scene shows me what Sahir’s path is. But for me it is very tough to say which I liked more. Samar is the kind of guy you can cuddle up with and with Sahir you better not! (Laughs)

BOI: Aamir, how about you? Who did you enjoy portraying, Samar or Sahir?

AK: Both.

BOI: So how close is the final film to the narration that you heard for the first time?

AK: Fairly close, in fact except a track in the film which Adi and Victor removed at the script level itself. And that is a track that I loved so I will never forgive them for that. When we are 80 years old I will still remind them about Sweety.

BOI: Sweety?

AK: There was a character in the film called Sweety who played Abhishek’s wife. And there was an entire track on Abhishek and his wife which was not connected to the main story and because it was not connected to the main plot when you remove it you don’t come to know that it was ever there. Victor and Adi said that we would rather do away with that or it would have increased the runtime of the film by 10 minutes. But I had a solution for that as well. I told them that itne lambe chases hain. Do ya teen minute har chase se nikal do. So that was my solution for what it’s worth. But I loved that track even though it wasn’t mine. I thought it brought a certain colour to the film but of course I was over-ruled.

BOI: So why didn’t you listen to him?

VKA: Woh agle part mein hai. But there are few things honestly. (Laughs)

AK: I am not saying anything I am just saying as when you asked me how close is it to the narration. Other than that track everything is exactly how you narrated. Everything is exactly or even better than how you narrated. Except for that track and I personally miss that track.

VKA: There were couple of reasons I agree with Aamir that it brings a different colour to the film. However sometimes things start to go towards the exit door. And by the time I came back from Chicago and thought about it Sweety was already standing near the exit. So that is what happened.

AK: I kept pushing for that even two months before the release of the film. Abhi bhi time hai abhi bhi dal sakte ho.

VKA: In fact on the day of the release he said let’s shoot that and we will put it in the DVD. But my promise to Aamir is that I will have her in the next Dhoom.

AK: Ek dialogue hai Muqaddar Ka Sikandar mein jo Dilawar Zohra ko bolta hai ‘Tu agar Dilawar ki na ho saki toh kissi aur ki naa ho sakegi’. Toh woh sweety ka jo track hai woh agar mera na ho saka toh kisi aur ka bhi na ho payega. (Laughs)

BOI: Victor, how happy are you with the collections?

VKA: I am very happy and it has been a dream run. There is a saying that lalach ka koi anth nahi. But seriously we have truly been shown a very warm appraisal by the audience. And at some point we should say that we are satisfied. I think we have broken records which were needed to be broken. And like Aamir says that records kisi ki jagir nahi hai. We have done something and I feel tomorrow our record will also be broken which is better for our film industry. Now we know that this can happen in 14 days so the attempt should be to make things which will go out and call the audience into the theatre. Dhoom: 3’s success is not just for Aamir or Yash Raj or Adi or me but I feel it is a success for our industry that there is a film out there which has done so well.

BOI: Victor, were you ever scared with the failure of Tashan behind you and then doing Dhoom on this huge scale with Aamir Khan?

VKA: See I think if you are scared then you should not come into films. I have no qualms because I am not from the film industry. I think of myself as an outsider from a very normal Delhi University background. I love films and at the end of the day we are all human beings and we do stuff. When people say that Tashan flopped, I tell them that when you have two children and one scores less marks you don’t stop loving him. I do think Dhoom: 3 is big but now I think it is my most personal film till now amongst whatever I have written or directed. The only fear was that whatever is in my head I should be able to get it out with my team and with the talent that I have. And I think I was fortunate. A lot of things fell in place. All I need is tolerance with my way of working I don’t like to be rushed.  And luckily I had Aamir who is not in a hurry himself. The pressure should be on what we are producing not on external things.

BOI: So what’s next for both of you?

VKA: I am going to watch Satyamev Jayate.

BOI: Aamir, are you going to watch Tashan now since he will watch Satyamev Jayate?

AK: (Laughs) Haan dekh lunga, kabhi na kabhi toh dekh hi lunga.

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