Bollywood director Farah Khan could easily pass for one of the many tourists staying at Atlantis, The Palm this week, in her bright yellow shirt, capris, colourful sneakers with green socks and that happy-go-lucky grin that holidaymakers wear so comfortably. Cut to one day ago, however, and she claims she didn’t cut such a relaxed figure.
“Today is our last day of shooting in Dubai,” she told tabloid! on Sunday. “It’s been wonderful here but so hectic. I need at least three days of sleep to get over it,” said Khan in an interview with on Sunday morning. Khan has been filming Happy New Year starring Bollywood’s top stars Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and Abhishek Bachchan since September 1. She had kept a helicopter shoot for the last day since it did not require her close supervision.
“My cameraman and a military personnel who looks after the security aspects are the only ones allowed into the helicopter. So I am taking it a bit easy today,” said Khan. She will continue with her shoot in Mumbai on her return.
The director, behind blockbusters Om Shanti Om and Main Hoon Na, called the Dubai leg of filming “a fun adventure”.
“We like it so much here that some of the stars have stayed back to spend one last day together,” said Khan. She has also purchased a few jalaybiyas and abayas in memory of Dubai.
“I bought around seven of them. It’s so comfortable that I am going to wear those in Mumbai while I work,” said Khan.
Produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, Happy New Year will premiere next year at Atlantis, The Palm, where much of the filming took place, with the stars in attendance. The Happy New Year team were spotted at several landmarks in the city such as The Dubai Mall and the Dolphin Bay at the Palm-based hotel, making for some intense star-spotting for movie-mad Indians.
In an exclusive interview, Farah Khan opens up to tabloid! about her month of steering Happy New Year in Dubai, working with King Khan, re-uniting with her discovery Padukone and of course our city...
Q: How was the experience of shooting for Happy New Year in Dubai?
A: For my earlier film with Shah Rukh Khan called Main Hoona Na, we shot in Darjeeling for 23 days – around the same time as we spent in Dubai for Happy New Year. At that time, we thought that it was the best experience of our lives and no other work experience could beat it. I was wrong. I called ‘pack up’ for stars in Dubai on Saturday but they are still staying here at the hotel [Atlantis, The Palm] because they don’t want to say goodbye yet. In fact, Shah Rukh flew back into Dubai last night [Saturday] from Mumbai to spend a day with the rest of the crew today. It says a lot about our working experience in the last few weeks. Very often once you wrap up a shoot, stars just want to catch the next flight home and move on with their lives. Here, they just want to catch up one last time and play games, like how we all did during our filming days in Dubai.
Q: Tell us about Happy New Year and the role of Dubai in it?
A: It’s too early to speak about the plot of the film but it’s a mix of two genres. It’s a heist-meets-musical film. Also, the new year celebrations, an important scene in the film, take place at The Atlantis, The Palm, leading up to the climax. This city is like a character in our film. I am not making an art film here, I am making an out-and-out commercial film here. A word about the people here: they don’t trouble you at all. There are thousands who came to watch the filming but they never got in our way. I wish I could make the rest of my film here. Also, we experienced surreal moments when we set out to capture the fountains at The Dubai Mall. We could hear the music of Doom Tana from our hit Om Shanti Om. All of us got teary-eyed, it was an emotional moment for us because here we were — Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika and I – shooting for a brand new film. It brought back memories of Om Shanti Om and how far we have come.
Q: What changes have you seen in Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone since Om Shanti Om?
A: I have seen a different side of Shah Rukh Khan during the Happy New Year shoot. He’s always been involved with scenes and the script. But this time around, he came on time and that was a shocker to me. I would always joke that Boman [Irani] and he were having an affair because they were constantly stuck to each other playing games on a PlayStation.
Q: Shah Rukh Khan’s recent blockbuster Chennai Express recently smashed the box-office. Are you hoping that Happy New Year will break that record?
A: It’s too early to predict that but I am happy that his film has done so incredibly well. Every movie has its destiny. I want to make a good movie because we have invested 120 days of our life for this film. So the process of making should be as enjoyable as the film itself.
Q: Boman Irani, at a recent press meet in Dubai, said you are the only woman director in Bollywood who can deliver blockbusters…
A: He was being kind. But he said that because I make purely commercial films. But my job is not a gender-based one, like an actress’ role in a film. A director can be asexual, bi-sexual or a eunuch, how does it matter? I prefer not being boxed in as a ‘woman director’, but I definitely have more balls than most male directors.
Q: After your acting debut in 2012’s Shirin Farhad Ki To Nikhal Padi, will you make an appearance in Happy New Year?
A: My hair doesn’t deal with this humidity and I like wearing comfortable shoes [pointing to her green socks and her colourful sneakers]. Plus, I hate wearing make-up. So I may end up looking like Monica from Friends with her hair spread out due to all this heat.
Q: You have always presented your heroines such as Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Na and Deepika Padukone in Om Shanti Om in sexy avatars. What should we expect from Happy New Year?
A: I presented Sushmita Sen in a sari in Main Hoon Na and she looked incredibly sexy in our Indianwear. I strongly feel that sex appeal lies in a person’s face and eyes. In Happy New Year, Deepika Padukone plays a bar dancer so she will be a bit raunchy. But she has such a good body that she will never end up looking cheap or vulgar. And she is athletic and is never conscious about her body, so that’s always a good thing. Also, look at Shah Rukh Khan, he can be fully clothed and still look incredibly sexy. It’s all in the eyes.
Q: You are an ace choreographer. So are you in charge of choreography as well?
A: We shot a song in Dubai and I did the choreography. But I am seriously thinking of hiring a few international choreographers for Happy New Year. We will have over ten dance teams competing in a contest, it’s too much for me to handle. Happy New Year will be like the Olympics of dance.
The director’s cut:
Farah Khan gives us the inside scoop on her Happy New Year stars:
Abhishek Bachchan: “He’s one of the finest actors with great comic timing. He just needs somebody to push him. He can get a bit laid-back. I am like his mother – younger mother – who can slap him out of bed. When I miss my son, I call Abhishek. He’s got a double role in the film and he’s done such a fine job of both roles.”
Shah Rukh Khan: “I love working with him and the time I didn’t work with him I didn’t enjoy the process of making the film. As a producer, he’s become madder and bigger. I try to control budgets and he goes: ‘spend, spend, spend’. He’s a dream producer.”
Deepika Padukone: “In Om Shanti Om, she was so raw. Her voice was bad and her dialogue delivery wasn’t good. And I had to tell her to look right or left. Now, I have begun to trust her so completely. All I need to do is give her a brief and she acts out the scene brilliantly. I saw that growth in Cocktail and Chennai Express. I don’t know if it’s her life experiences or her heartbreaks, but her focus is now on her acting. She’s doing a kick-ass job of it.”
Boman Irani: “He’s the best dancer in our HNY set. I love him to death and he’s my pal. I was particular that he act the role I had set out for him. He was like the father figure that we needed on the sets. He may not like us calling him a father figure because he considers himself a sex symbol … Plus, he gives the best foot massages in this world.”
Sonu Sood: “He brought me these sneakers and he’s this gentle giant. He cleared up his working calendar to accommodate Happy New Year. Shah Rukh Khan and the crew had never met him but they all love him now. They call him Sonu Smooth.”