Baaghi is a classic retelling of a story – Sabbir Khan
His last film Heropanti launched 21 new faces but director Sabbir Khan considers “launch” to be a completely wrong word. Instead, he prefers “discovering” new talent. In his upcoming film Baaghi, that stars Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor, not only has he made Tiger do Kalaripayattu, which is the origin of all martial arts, but also made Shraddha perform some intense action stunts. Sabbir will also be introducing Telugu actor Sudheer Babu and several other new faces in this film. Here are excerpts from a chat with the filmmaker where he talks about Baaghi, his equation with Tiger Shroff and his expectations from the film.
What is Baaghi all about? How did the idea originate?
It is a classic retelling of a story. Most importantly it is a love story shown cinematically through the medium of action. It has a lot of human drama. It is a reflection of Ramayana and I wanted to tell this classic story in a new way – how it would look like in today’s time. So I thought it would be very interesting to recreate that. Post Heropanti, I was working on a couple of ideas until this one struck and I found it really interesting.
Were Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor the original choices for the film?
I was impressed with Tiger’s stand when he said that he wasn’t signing any and every film. He wanted to wait for the right script. I was developing the story in my mind and when I bounced it off him, he was really excited about it. That was how it was organically initiated. With Shraddha, I wanted to push the envelope a little bit. I wanted to cast an actor who doesn’t have an image similar to the character in the film. Shraddha has always had this sweet girl – next – door image and it will be a treat for her fans to see her in a different avatar.
You launched Tiger in Heropanti. How has your association with him evolved from then to Baaghi?
A lot of people tell me that I ‘launched’ him. But I think that ‘launch’ is a really big word. I would instead say that I discovered him. And I sort of made sure that while telling my story, I brought forward his set of skills and abilities. The equation we share is extremely friendly. He treats me like a big brother and I never make him feel that he is being directed on the sets. We share a very brotherly bond.
Action forms an intricate part of the film. How and why did you choose the martial art form of Kalaripayattu?
The entire first half of the film is shot in Kerala where their love story begins. While we were researching on how to bring the cultural influences of Kerala into the film, we learnt that Kalaripayattu is a very strong aspect, which is a big thing in the South and there are various ashrams teaching it. We also found out that Kalaripayattu is the origin of all martial arts. It originated in India and that is such a proud thing for us. Once that came into the script, we wanted to make it the defining point.
Was it easy to convince Shraddha to perform the action sequences? How did you prepare her for the character?
When I narrated the idea to Shraddha, I told her that I’m looking at her doing equal action like Tiger. I told that I didn’t want the heroine to be a damsel in distress. This is the story about two Baaghis – two characters who have a rebellious streak. The character is a sweet girl – next – door, with whom the guy falls in love, but if someone pushes her around, she will turn back and slap them in the face. That’s the element that I wanted to bring out. And when she got to know about the action, she got really excited. Her enthusiasm also helped.
We took her to a lot of camps for training. Being fit in life and being fit to perform action are two different things. So all the credit goes to her to go through all the training camps. She was trained for a month in India where she learned the basics of Kalaripayattu, though she doesn’t do Kalaripayattu in the film. She also had a month and a half long training camp in Bangkok with international action director Kecha Khamphakdee who was designing and choreographing the film and has a team called Jaika Stunt. She went through extensive practice before every single shot that we had to shoot.
In Heropanti, you discovered 21 newcomers and in Baaghi you are launching Telugu actor Sudheer Babu. What encourages you to launch newcomers?
It’s not just Sudheer. You’ll see seven fresh faces in the film. I feel that as a filmmaker I have reached a place where fortunately I can tell stories through films. And I think that someone has to take the onus of trying to discover and push newcomers to the forefront. Otherwise, there will be stagnation of the same talent. Like Heropanti, I have tried to come up with a good mix of as many new faces as I could even in this film. There was a very important role of a seventy-year-old who plays Tiger’s guru. And I always felt that if an actor played this role, he wouldn’t be able to get into the form of Kalaripayattu and it would look fake. So the personal trainer, Shifuji, that we had in India to train Tiger and Shraddha eventually played the role. Shifuji is India’s best commando and trains commandos too. Initially, he was skeptical but once he understood the theme of the film, he was comfortable doing it. I want to continue discovering talent in the future as well – even in the technical aspect.
Have you given an opportunity to new technicians as well in this film?
In Heropanti, 90% of the crew was new. Even in Baaghi a lot of the technical crew is new.
Producer Guneet Monga filed an injunction against the makers of Baaghi stating that it resembled the Indonesian movie Raid: The Redemption, whose remake rights are with her. But Tiger recently denied it being a remake. What do you have to say?
I would love to talk at length about it but the matter is in Court. But I just feel that the industry is so small and had Guneet picked up the phone and said that she feels that way, I would have shown her the film and cleared that it has nothing to do with the other film. I have confidence in that. To put it on record, the two films have no similarity at all.
Did it upset you?
No, it didn’t. Because everybody has the right to protect what they think is right or wrong. If she did feel that it had any resemblance, she has the right to take it up and stand by it. So I didn’t feel upset about that part. But I probably felt that in such a close-knit industry one should clear things on a personal level. But the truth will eventually come out.
With Baaghi all set to release, are you nervous about the box office collection?
I don’t really bother about the box office collection. My only mantra is to pick a story that you find interesting and tell it in the most honest way. If you find a film to be good, you’ll go and tell the next bunch of friends and they’ll go and watch it. And that will add to the numbers. So I’m the last person to care about collections. I don’t even believe that I have to make a film in every six months or a year. I am very secure.
Any other projects that you are working on?
There are a couple of ideas that I’m excited about. But Baaghi is completely in my system right now. So once Baaghi releases, I’ll take one idea which I feel is worth living for, for the next two years.