•  Punam Mohandas
    •  13 January 2019
    •  748

    "I’m naturally used to writing masala scripts!" - Farhad Samji

    The screenwriter behind the smashing one-liners of 'Simmba' in an SWA Exclusive interview
    The dialogues in director Rohit Shetty's latest mass-entertainer ‘Simmba’ absolutely hit the mark with the audience! I watched this movie in a Calcutta theatre and it is the women who were hooting and clapping each time Ranveer Singh spouted his one-liners, the credit for which lies solely with one man – the writer, Farhad Samji. Apart from Ranveer’s undeniable enthusiasm and acting and director Rohit Shetty’s acumen, a large part of the movie’s success is owed to the dialogues. “Thank you,” says Farhad bashfully. He also tells us how the crackling dialogues of ‘Simmba’ came about; how Kader Khan, the master of one-line punches, is his biggest influence and much more. Read on.


    How do you manage to have this finger on the audience’s pulse and get it just right?

    “I always focus on keeping the key element of the story alive through all dialogues. The underlying moral of fighting against rapists was the focal point - and that kept audiences wanting more.”

     

    Can you tell us some more about the homework you put in on this film to get Simmba’s lines so right, in keeping with Ranveer’s own flamboyant personality as well as the character he plays? The two most memorable lines the audience has carried away are, of course: “Mind iz blowing” and “Bhau, je maala mahith naahin te sannga.” How did these come about?

    “I wanted a catch phrase that catered to Ranveer’s conceited, yet sensitive character in the film,” he says ruminatively. “The atmosphere of the film was primarily Maharashtrian based, which is why I chose to write a witty English phrase (‘tell me something I don’t know’) into Marathi, which made it all the more funny and catchy.”

     

    ‘Simmba’ has a stronger Marathi flavour than ‘Singham’ and there was the danger of many audiences not understanding the local patois. Were you ever apprehensive that you would be alienating a large part of the Hindi-speaking belt who do not understand Marathi?  

    “The characters needed a Maharashtrian touch as the story was based in Goa. Also, the dialogues were kept simple enough, so that a normal Hindi-speaking audience could comprehend what the character was saying,” explains Farhad.

     

    Just before the film’s release (post the trailer launch) Rohit Shetty went on to record to say that he thought the film would do well, because one just knows when everything comes together and there is a rhythm to things. Did you too anticipate ‘Simmba’ would be such a colossal hit?

    “With the current atmosphere against women, I had anticipated that audiences would like a justified story of actions taken against brutal rapists. Apart from that, I had full faith in Rohit sir’s vision, execution and conviction,” states Farhad himself with conviction.

     

    Earlier too, your dialogues have been the backbone for ‘Bol Bachchan,’ ‘Chennai Express,’ ‘Golmaal,’ ‘Singham Returns’….how do these lines come to you? Do you closely observe people around you, the common man’s reactions and store them away in some virtual bank, or is this a result of your background milieu, your upbringing?

    “I always keep my prime focus on what the character demands; along with that I’ve always been a keen observer of people’s body languages and their personalised way of expressing themselves. I have been brought up in a family of movie buffs, and my childhood consisted of a lot of humor and mimicry from my father,” he says smilingly.

     

    You seem to prefer writing dialogues rather than the entire screenplay. Is there any particular reason for this?

    “I’ve been writing screenplays as well as dialogues, but I always see dialogue writing as my forte and strength. God has been kind to me that whatever I pen down is appreciated. After writing 40-films, it now comes naturally; it is like a singer practicing. Every day I learn something, even till this day…there is a dialogue of mine inSingham’: “meri zarooratein kam hain, isiliye meri zameer mein dum hai;” similarly, shayad mera take-it-easy attitude kam hai isiliye meri writing mein dum hai;” although said laughingly, Farhad means every word of it!

     

    How important do you think it is for a dialogue writer to spend some time in the city or surroundings the script/characters are set in, to absorb the background?

    “It is important to a certain extent, however I believe it’s subject to one’s creativity and comfort,” he says reflectively. “I personally find it peaceful to write in the comfort of my own home.”

     

    Some of your lines are extremely reminiscent of the Kader Khan style of one-liners, something the audience retains long after the run of the movie. Who has been the inspiration/influence on you as a writer?

    “Kader Khan ji has been one of my biggest influences and inspirations for writing witty dialogues!” says Farhad unequivocally. “He was a master of one liner punches, which I try to inculcate in my scripts as well.”

     

    As a writer, you used to team up with your brother Sajid, but you both have now decided to follow your creative pursuits separately. My question is: is it easier to work on one’s own, or with a partner who has the same sense of fine-tuning as you?

    “There are separate tones of working with someone and without; I don’t particularly prefer one over the other. Working with Sajid has and always will be comfortable; however, some projects can be pursued individually, while others are mastered with team-work.”

     

    You seem to have teamed up the maximum with Rohit Shetty. Is he a hassle-free director to work with, or is it that you both have a similar bent of mind?

    “Like I said earlier, I have faith in Rohit sir’s vision, execution and conviction when approaching films. He is brilliant with capturing audiences, and knows how to transform scripts into a sure-shot masala entertainer!”

     

    Rohit’s movies are unashamedly for the masses, as are your ‘Housefull’ series. Is this a calculated move you have made (to cater to the masses in order to guarantee a successful revenue) or is it that writing masala films is your forte? This is a specialized genre that not everybody can handle.

    “It’s not a calculated move per se but I believe I’m naturally used to writing masala scripts! On the other hand, I have branched out and started writing drama-based scripts as well. However, the granted successful revenue of any film also depends on acceptance from the audience,” says Farhad candidly.

     

    Coming back to ‘Simmba,’ the movie straddles two issues – corruption as well as rape, with references to the Nirbhaya case. Did you ever think that the movie is losing its focus, especially with the second half which suddenly showcased more of rape and women’s issues?

    “I believe corruption and rape go hand-in-hand with reference to this script. The first half of the film focused on corruption, which was solely a build-up for the second half which included an emotional story surrounding rape and moral issues against women,” he says somewhat defensively.

     

    Do you find it easier being a dialogue writer than a lyricist? What is the essential difference?

    “It’s not that one is easier than the other. Dialogue writing allows you to convey the story in a lengthier process, whereas as a lyricist, you have to convey the story in a shorter period of time keeping rhythms and tones in mind.”

     

    What led you, as a writer, to explore the dimension of directing feature films?

    “As a screenplay and dialogue writer, you visualise the script on a larger scale, also, some scripts excite you not only as a writer, but as an eager audience-member, which eventually led me to want to bring these scripts to life.”

     

    Since you too are a director with a penchant for commercial cinema, is there ever a clash or difference of opinion while writing for Rohit?

    “No, not at all,” he says immediately. “As we have worked on eleven films together, there is a sense of understanding, tuning and similar vision for cinema between us.

     

    You have now taken over the directorial baton for ‘Housefull 4.’ Although you have directed films before, is this placing an undue burden on you on account of the ‘MeToo’ backdrop to it? Are you more nervous?

    “It wasn’t a difficult task at all; I have written screenplay, dialogues and narrated films with voice modulation mimicry before. Taking over ‘Housefull 4’ wasn’t a creative jerk technically, it was, rather, a pleasant transition,” signs off Farhad.

    Punam Mohandas is a film buff, a journalist, an author, an accomplished travel writer and an expert on South Asia. She also writes columns on film personalities. She has lived and worked in India, Dubai and Bangkok.