How do you describe someone who has written the screenplay of films like Main Hoon Na and Maqbool, dialogues of films like Munnabhai M.B.B.S and Salaam Namastey and the lyrics for films like De Taali and Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega? Well the world may know him as Abbas Tyrewala but we would just prefer calling him, 'Incredibly Multi-talented'.
Abbas who is a well known writer in Bollywood is all set to make the big jump to direction with Aamir Khan Productions' Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. In between countless interviews lined up for the day, the extremely creative Abbas Tyrewala takes out some time to speak to us on what's going through his mind two weeks before the release of his maiden directorial venture.
After having written the screenplay of films like Maqbool and Main Hoon Na and penned the lyrics and dialogues of a cult classic like Munnabhai M.B.B.S., you are all set to make the big jump to direction with your first film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na How is the feeling?
So far I didn't have too many feelings except fatigue and stress (laughs). But now that the film is over and I'm actually ready to watch the first copy in the next couple of hours, I'm more nervous then you can imagine. It's a frightening feeling.
When was the moment that you decided to take the plunge into direction and get behind camera?
I think the moment was when I had the biggest writer's bloc in the world and it was then that I realized that I have been writing continuously since the last twelve years. I was completely sick of it so I couldn't think of writing another word and I thought I need a new challenge and must do something different in life and that's how I turned to direction.
You have been associated with films which have been at times wacky, at times dark and at times outright funny. Why did you opt for a sugar-sweet romantic flick for your directorial debut?
Yes as you said, I've been associated with all kinds of genre because every time I wanted to do something new. So I was like wondering "Ab underworld ho gaya, Masala film ho gaya, Comedy ho gaya". If there was anything left, it was a nice, young romantic comedy.
A lot of expectations riding on the film since it marks Aamir Khan's nephew Imraan's debut. How does it feel launching a newcomer in your very first film?
To be frank, the film was never designed as a launch. It was a script, which was written because this was the story, which I wanted to tell. We then went ahead to find the right guy who would fit the role and zeroed in on Imraan. I got very lucky because even Aamir Khan as a producer doesn't believe in worlds like 'big launch' and all that. In fact, he made sure that we never treat Imraan in a special way just because he is his nephew. We just tried to stick to the characters and the script and not do anything special.
Not many know that Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na was earlier to be produced by late Jhamu Sughand. So how did Aamir Khan come into the picture?
Yes the film was to be produced by Mr. Jhamu Sughand earlier, but due to certain professional problems, the film kept getting delayed. In fact, it looked like Jaane Tu...many not happen anytime soon. Aamir had already heard the script when Imraan signed the film. When Aamir got to know of the delays, he again called me for a narration and after hearing the script again, Aamir said I will produce the film.
How has been the experience working with a perfectionist like Aamir Khan?
Honestly, I didn't get to see too much of him because at that time Aamir was busy with the shooting of Taare Zameen Par. I think people don't realize one thing that I'm no less of a perfectionist then Aamir. And between the two of us we have really worked very hard to come up with a good film.
After the entire episode that took place between Aamir Khan and Amole Gupte during the filming of Taare Zameen Par, were you at any point of time apprehensive of working with Aamir?
I was never apprehensive because this project had already been signed much before Aamir and Amole parted ways. In fact, it was Aamir who was a bit shaken up because sometimes you don't agree with the director's style and he didn't want the same thing to happen to Jaane Tu. So Aamir told me frankly, "Look Abbas, I know you are good but I have never seen you shoot. So it'll be great if you could do me a test shoot. If you could do a couple of scenes and show me how you intend in doing the film then I'll be a lot more relaxed." I was more than happy to do that for Aamir. I shot three scenes, and then he never questioned me again.
There have been many rumours of Aamir's over-interference and the fact that Aamir ghost-directs films...Any truth to these stories?
Like I said you'll have to be a very weird kind of a person to constantly look for weak directors whom you can replace and interfere with. I mean just look at the kind of people Aamir has worked with, be it Ashutosh Gowarikar or Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and look at the ambitious nature of the films that they have gone and made subsequently. These are very strong individuals. Of course they must have respected Aamir and he must have respected them, and they would have interacted as any director and actor would but to call it over interference is utter nonsense. Above all, I think Aamir trusts his directors completely.
Mansoor Khan makes his comeback with this film as a producer after a hiatus. How did he come on board and what has been his role during the making?
Well...I think when Aamir realized that he would have to take over the directorial reins of Taare Zameen Par, he needed someone whom he could trust, to take over the project as a producer and hence he convinced Mansoor Bhai to come and that's how Mansoor came into the picture. Mansoor bhai's role has been that of a mentor and guide. He is incredibly experienced person that we turned to whenever we were in doubt.
Coming to Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, how different is it from any other candy floss love story?
There is no point in me telling how different it is because at the end of the day, if the audience doesn't find it different then it is not different. And on the other hand, if I've made a cliched film but the audience finds it different then it's different. So I think it is very silly to ask a director to comment on his own film. What ultimately matters is the viewers' opinion.
The first promos of the film showed Imraan against a cut out of a beefy actor. Was it like a deliberate spoof on other star-sons big, much-hyped launches?
Of course it was a spoof on the whole idea of a grand launch of a new star but it was not aimed at any one in particular (laughs). I think it's a very Hindi filmy thing to give this larger than life first look to any star launch. So we just decided to have some fun around it. It was done in good humour and like I said earlier it was not aimed at any particular individual.
Now that the first copy is out and you are likely to see it in the next few hours, how satisfied are you with the way the film has turned out?
(Thinks) I'll find that out only today when I watch the first copy. Currently I'm too busy being nervous.
What made you cast Genelia D'Souza opposite Imraan, considering she really hasn't been very active on the Bollywood front since the last few years?
Well that was exactly the reason why she was so exciting. She brought in a certain amount of freshness. Actually I wanted to cast a complete new comer but she was so lovely and perfect for the part that I had no option but to cast her.
There is also Manjari Phadnis who is seen after a hiatus. She isn't seen much in the promos, so is she like the surprise element in the film?
Well, she is like a surprise element in terms of what she has done and the kind of performance she has given in the film. I think Manjari is going to give both Imraan and Genelia a run for their money. At the promo level, you may think that it's a love story of two people but when you go back after watching the film, you will remember it as a story with 3 characters. So yes, Manjari is going to make a mark after the film.
Is it true that Prateik Babbar (son of Raj Babbar and late Smita Patil) also makes his debut with this film?
Yes, he does. He plays a small role but a very important and very effective part. He's done a good job.
Even the rest of the cast seems quite fresh and new…Tell us something about them
We took years to find the right people who are perfect for the part and who could really bring the characters to life and I really hope I made the right decision.
With such a young cast and crew, were there a lot of fun moments on the sets. Did anyone play a prank or something like that?
I have no idea because we were working around 14-16 hours a day and there was no real time for pranks etc. But we all had a lot of fun together.
Describe the feelings you had during the first day and last day of shoot?
The first day of shooting was beautiful because my parents, friends and family were there. My father said a prayer, my mother broke the Nariyal and Aamir's mother gave the clap for the first shot. It was a really emotional moment. As for the last day...well it was plain relief that the film's done (smiles).
The film clashes with another biggie Love Story 2050 on July 4. With a lot riding at stake, would you have rather had an open week to release your debut flick?
I think both the films would have rather had an open week but when it comes to choosing between an open week and a really good weekend then people often chose not to let go of a good weekend. July 4 is the time around when colleges are re-opening and I guess both films are hoping to catch the college crowd.
The film releases on July 4-American Independence Day…so would you be declaring your freedom from writing after this?
(Laughs) I have no idea; you will only find my state of mind after the film releases.
The music of the film has caught on big time. You have written the lyrics and have worked with a maestro like A R Rahman, who is back after a long time with a young musical score...How do you think the music has evolved?
The music evolved from the characters and the story and because I have written the songs myself, it became very easy to keep it integrated with the style of the script.
Which was the most difficult or should I say challenging song to write?
(Thinks) I wouldn't say difficult because all of them have been written with an equal amount of honesty but I think Pappu can't Dance took the longest time to crack.
The film has been extra special for you as you also found your soul mate (Pakhi) during the making. How did this happen?
I didn't know Pakhi before this film. We just met and there was an immediate connection. I met her at a coffee shop and asked her to assist me on the film and before we knew it, one month later we were in love.
Your wife Pakhi has also been involved closely with this project, what has been her role?
She was the casting director of the film and she has also directed one of the songs.
Not much was known of you before you came on stage to pick up the Best Screenplay award at a Filmfare award function few years back...So what was Abbas doing before the movie bug bit him?
Well...I was just working hard to get where I am today. I come from a small Muslim home in Byculla (Mumbai) with absolutely no contacts or connections in the film industry. I guess I have been really lucky and I have had a lot of prayers and people's blessings behind me.
You have even acted in a small role in Maqbool? Do we see you in Jaane Tu... or any future movies?
No...not at all. Acting was something which I did at that time just for fun. It's not something which I do seriously at all.
Finally story writing / screenplay writing/ lyricist / acting / dialogue writer/ direction...what gives you the ultimate high?
The ultimate high would be, when you write a good script.
On a closing note could you list your top 5 all-time romantic films?
(Not in a particular order) Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, and strangely enough I really also like Yes Boss.