No Filter Farah



The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences. Now, through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time. Steven Spielberg Wit, humour, honesty, and of course a high dose of gifted IQ & EQ: That’s how Farah Khan rules the roost and slays the world! Just like Steven Spielberg’s beautiful explanation , each and every piece of Farah Khan’s signature storytelling, through the reels or the dance steps, is quintessentially a ‘set of unique experiences’, handcrafted with love, skill and mind-boggling sincerity.A director with her penchant for multi-starrers (and the ability to manage superstars), an actor, a master of matching steps, a scriptwriter, a mother to triplets, a beloved judge on the small screen and a wife of a talented editor and filmmaker – Farah Khan continues to live life her way and amazingly never fails to make it all look absolutely fabulous! The glory of unmatched success and being there at the zenith for so many years— importantly, as a woman— makes journey a fairy tale that has been decked with hard work, passion, sincerity and the ability to channel one’s creative fervour into many ways and excel in each of them.

What makes Farah more admirable is the spontaneous simplicity, the ever radiating warmth and humility that has the ability to make anybody around her feel special and truly cared for— in minutes! She has energy and with her gifted sense of humour she can makes wisecracks non-stop. She can gives you the feeling, which is rare from acelebrity, that you are not just an invisible ‘spoke in the wheel’ of her dazzling life. Not many can match this unique trait of hers, the outshining brilliance of her professional greatness, and the friendliness and approachability of a next door well wisher!Think of some heartfelt and awesome films like Kaho Na Pyaar Hai or Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander and you will realise that we remember them not just for their storylines but also for the way their songs were picturised and dance moves were choreographed. After all, what’s Bollywood without song and dance! And the one person who changed the way Bollywood moves is not just one of the most loved choreographers and a winner of the National Film Award for Best Choreography, but also a very successful director of some ofIndian cinema’s biggest blockbusters like Om Shanti Om, Main Noon Na, and Happy New Year! Having judged close to 21 reality shows which include the likes of “Indian Idol’ and ‘Jhalak Dikhla Ja”, she is even a household favourite, as a TV host.

The effortless clarity that Farah personifies, necessarily comes out of the authority that she has mastered her art over these years – be it behind or in front of the camera! Quite intriguingly, this seriousness of a master craftsman co-exists with her famously “crazy” side, where spontaneity and repartee reign supreme! Set aside the recent backlash and whirlwind of animated reactions in extremes that she faced for her jibe at home work-out videos of Bollywood celebrities during the pandemic hit lockdown days or her way of wearing her heart out on her sleeves – even her tweets (she has around 7 million Twitter followers right now) are always hilarious! She happily gripes about anything and everything that can one think of or even everything that is unthinkable – starting from traffic jams and her take on co-stars to updates on her shootings and the likes. The ‘metaphysical conceit’ has been a permanent trait of her dynamism and arguably it has given her all the laurels. As Choreographer Terence Lewis put it, who was co-judge with Khan and Shilpa Shetty on Tv reality show Nach Baliye 5, that there’s a strong heart andmind under all that bonhomie. We quote him: “Farah is a riot; sharp, honest and witty,” he says. “At the same time, she can be the Mommy on set. She’s fed us delicious home-cooked yakhni pulao. As a choreographer, Farah’s understanding of the camera is her biggest strength.”

The Farah Khan genre of film making is simple. She makes what she loves to watch! So we can find a well-knitted blockbuster of a package in all herfilms that has been painted with broad and robust brush strokes. Farah loves to tell stories with an overdose of dramatic flourish, gorgeous visuals, sensational fight sequences, picturesque locations, rich overflowing emotions of every kind, a lot of ‘dialogbazi’ and of course song and dance sequences remain her celebrated strengths as always. Look back in pride…. Farah Khan’s big break as a choreographer came in the most unexpected of circumstances. Celebrated choreographer Saroj Khan, who was the original choreographer of Mansoor Khan’s directorial venture- ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’, reportedly had to head out to Kodaikanal, leaving the shooting of the song ‘Pehla nasha’ in a lurch. Farah had to take the baton in her hand as she was the assistant director of the film. A 27-year-old Farah showed no signs of nervousness as she took it over and gave the audience a memorable number in ‘Pehla nasha’. As she herself sums it up pretty well: “I’d joined the industry to become a director. I had no intention of being a choreographer. I used to do dance shows and choreograph for ads because I loved to dance. However, being a choreographer 27-28 years ago was not an option at all. But serendipitous coincidences happen in real life at anytime! I was assisting Mansoor Khan in direction because I wanted to learn to be a director. So that (Choreography) just happened, and because it happened, it just took off and for 10 years I only did that.”

In a time, when pre-set steps were the order of the day, Farah gave Pehla Nasha a dreamy, slow- motion quality, which at ones brought a breath of fresh air in the Bollywood of the 90s. Let us all be reminded of the fact that Farah Khan is not a dancer herself, though the camp song alongside Javed Jaffrey in 1987’s Saat Saal Baad indicates otherwise! She was the 4th assistant director in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (JJWS). There were almost 50 men and one woman in the team— and that was her! What she saw basically was only the actressor the hair dressers were women, rest all were men. Before this film, she had some experience in choreography, but mostly in ad films. But she hadn’t planned it like that and never thought she could make a career out of choreography. The most celebrated choreographer of those days, as we had mentioned, was to do the choreography of JJWS, and when she came everyone including Farah were at awe of her. But when the rehearsalsstarted, she was doing the same routine, so typical of hindi films. JJWS was a very young and fresh movie and Farah didn’t think that this is how it should be done. Luckily for her, Saroj ji had to leave in three days from where they were shooting—Ooty.Mansoor Khan. who saw Farah making everyone practice every evening, asked if she could do it instead! Farah said, “I knew I could do it! And no, I wasn’t nervous at all! It was rather, ‘yeah!!!’” And the rest, as they say, is history! Farah points out, “People think my career took off from that point though I know, it did give me a boost but it never really took off. People were still wary. They thought I was for westernized songs and not traditional Indian songs. I just did 1942 A Love Story and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na. And yes, Ruk ja aye dil deewaane in DDLJ. It’s only after I did Virasat that I started getting everything.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dil Se and then there was no looking back”.Farah’s success as a choreographer and then later as a filmmaker and even as a realtyshow judge lie on the fact that the amount of improvised innovation she can bring in everything! For instance, at the time of Main Hoon Na, everything around was goody goody love stories. And in that milieu, she wanted to make a hardcore masala film, that she grew up watching, in a contemporary style. To quote her, “People need to offer something others can’t, else you will be always second and third choice as people will always seek out creative guys. The main problem lies with one’s attitude to work.” She adds, “People get success and they lose the plot. They tend to think we are the industry.” But, as Farah sounds the warning bell, it can be indeed too costly at times as had happened with some of the biggest names in the industry. As per Farah, what everybody expects is a good attitudeand learned professionalism. Industry takes less talented person if you have ethics.

Farahreminiscence fondly, “I came to the industry thinking I will be director not choreographer.Once I jumped into the tide of choreography, years just passed— back to back shoots, planning, travelling. But that was my film school— working with so many good directors, learning from them. From Kundan Shah I learnt everything about shot breakdown. Priyam taught me lensing, from Karan Johar I learnt scale. “After 9 years of Joh Jeeta Wohi Sikander, I thought now I will only make films and started doing my script. I wantedto make films that I love to watch! No one loves Bollywood more than me.’’Film making for Farah is making herself stand in front of a many sided mirror – and each side reflects something different form the rest. Behind all the humour, fun and banter – a calm, well trained, calculative, thoroughly disciplined and hardworking brain of a film maker is at work. Before any film hitting the floors she does her homework with utmost honesty, sincerity and dedication and can command the same level of commitment and sincerity from every professional that she is working with, be it in front of the camera or behind. And it’s her enigma, the authority and gritty experience in the medium which ensure that shegets the best out of everyone she works with. As Farah quite rightly explains “… I am the opposite of uptight.

I am too cool and chilled out. To get the best out of people, the strict reputation does help because they know that I mean business. My entire cast and crew knows that I can question them on anything, anytime and they need to know the answer to it. Someone was asking me, ‘What is a director’s job?’ It is to answer questions from morning to night and knowing the answers as well.‘What should my actor wear? Where should I place this glass? Where to put the camera? How will my character enter?’ The same way, others who are working on the project should at least should know their own jobs. The Camera man should know his lighting; actors should know their lines. If they don’t know, then they are inefficient. I am not strict but I don’t like inefficacy. But, anyone who has worked with me will tell you that we have the most fun set. People are laughing, there has to be good food, etc. I am not the kind who is like I-am-a-genius-so-I- have-to-be-quiet.” One of the real reasons for her success liesin the fact that how pragmatic she is and what an unbelievable level of professionalism shehas under her command. She puts it simply, “I am fun to work with. And why should it be otherwise? We work at highest efficiency, but we bring in great fun. The approach should never be like just another job you are doing. We are lucky but seriously that is not at the cost of your efficiency.

I used to save all my producers lot of money. One will never Never hear that 200 dancers were waiting whole day in my films. It’s a criminal waste of time.If you are a captain and you have 300 crew under you and you have to take care of all their time and you should be clear to understand that time is money. As a film maker, I find it funny when directors say I want to make a film for myself. That approach is disastrous fora commercial film – which you have decided to make to recover money! The bigger a hit, the more critics want to tear it down that aggressively. At of the day, numbers don’t lie. It’s an unfair process! They are like, oh I had a great time and then it must not be artistic. It is actually good that I don’t understand, nor did ever I tried to decode what actually “Want to make for yourself ” means. If you want to that honesty, then make it on your iPhone! It’s a moral responsibility that everyone’s getting their money back. You have to clear in your head what you are doing. I love actors but I am not going to make a film of 100 crores based on guys who can’t give even a ten crore opening.” The core of this contagious confidence of course comes from her family. Puri, who’s alsoworking with her on the new film, has seen how the family had changed her.

“She’s now much calmer and sober,” he says and further adds, “When I met her again for Happy New Year, she’d written out the script on one of those lined green- paper foolscap notebooks. Then her daughter tore some up by mistake, so she wrote it again! She’s passionate about her relationships; it’s either all or nothing. Directing a film like this is akin to doing the work of 20 people on the sets. But she was equally concerned about what went into her kids’ lunchboxes and what we should be doing for the next birthday party.”Let’s hear some of the most fascinating stories behind her iconic films and these stories itself can become blueprints for future film makers! And who could tell them better the Farah herself! “I was doing Bombay dreams…. I was living in London for 3 months. The script of Bombay Dreams was too dated, so I started writing on a piece of stationary a story of my own.. I didn’t think a slum boy can become a superstar – he can only become an extra. But what if he is born again in a filmy family and achieves his dream.. Karz was one of my favorite films. I wrote the story in a matter of hours . I kept the paper in a bag Forgot and was busy making Main Hoon Na . then after that started making Happy New Year. Shah Rukh didn’t like the first version and obviously was very disappointed. So cameback home and suddenly Sirish reminded me of that draft of mine, from that Bombay Dreams time. And then wrote I finished the script in two weeks— Bombay dreams helped a lot, London theatres scene, phantom of opera, Hollywood, Singing in the Rain, I incorporated everything. Review in London said it’s a very Quentin Tarantino kind of film with lot of inspirationsfrom all around.”

Farah started film production company after her kids were born and made Tees Maar Khan – a film that made the maximum money of all her films even though it was written off! Now people say they loving it when they are seeing it again after a gap of many years! Under her banner, she has already completed a movie for Netflix, ‘Mrs. Serial Killer’, with Jacqueline Fernandez, Manoj Bajpayee and Mohit Raina in leading roles. And here too she adds a lot of her signature novelty into it – “This is the type of content which you can’t normally do. It is thoda atrang (a little unusual), without having commercial stipulations on you like music, songs and all. Three’s Company will be producing more stuff like TV shows and even concerts.” –as farag beems with self confidence, all hard earned and cherished dearly.

When being asked what all suggestions she would like to offer to budding filmmakers – and too many of them look upto her all across the globe, quintessential “Farah’s take” immediately follows with a pinch of handmade salt of course– “ Young filmmakers are only giving us suggestions. In fact, we want suggestions from them. You should go for whatever works for you. I would surely want to send my kids a university and learn filmmaking. The whole experience of going there and watching great movies really works. I would have given my left arm to learn filmmaking back in my days, but we never got the opportunity. But, if it worked for me, does not mean that it will work for anyone. There are no set rules about filmmaking. Someone might just come as an assistant and pick up. If you can afford to go to a
school, you should. I would love to go back right now and do a summer course and see the new age
movies. I tell my kids, ‘Abhi 7th grade mein school chorr do aur film school jaao’. That’s the Farah
Khan we all love and our level of expectations from her will always be limitless!