Even as Jaan-E-Mann opens to excited audiences this Diwali/ Eid, debutant director Shirish Kunder calmly discusses his film and his star wife, Farah Khan, with Simi Garewal, on her popular chat show, Rendezvous With Simi Garewal.
Read on to know more about Farah's take on Saroj Khan, who calls the shots at the Kunder home, and their baby plans.
Rendezvous with Simi Garewal will be aired on Sunday, October 22, at 9:30 pm on Star World.
Simi: Hi Farah.
Simi: You know Farah, I've always wondered about you! We met at the Filmfare awards, when I was compering. In 1993.
Farah: You have a mind-blowing memory!
Simi: You remember how you were then?
Farah: I was very thin (laughs). And I think that's the first time I choreographed at the Filmfare awards.
Simi: That's right!
Farah: And you were very sweet to me and you were very encouraging. I was very touched, like a big star came and spoke to me!
Simi: If somebody had told you then that Farah, 10 years from now, you're going to make a name not just in India, you will be in London, on Broadway, you will be in China, you will also direct a super-hit film in Bollywood... Would you believe them?
Farah: No! I know it sounds very strange. Like, when I went to do Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams, I couldn't believe that I was having dinner with him because the last time I went to London, I stood for four hours to get a ticket for Phantom Of The Opera. And now, I was actually with him, discussing the play and giving him my points and telling him, this is not right...
Simi: But you know you wear your struggle very lightly... you also wear your success lightly! One can't tell looking at you, what you've been through.
Farah: I can make a tragedy out of my childhood and my traumas and my parents splitting up and my father literally dying penniless. He had Rs 30 in his pocket when he died. You can keep that in your heart and become bitter and become angry at the world. But I've chosen to remember the happier times and somewhere I feel God's been nicer now!
Simi: You've been through very hard times.
Farah: Yeah. Pretty hard. But we still remember it with a lot of laughter. Sajid and me make funny stories about how my dad would get angry and the gun would come out and everyone would run for cover. So it all becomes a funny story now which I think is nicer than getting all worked up.
Simi: But I still want to know, did that give you that extra will and drive to make it?
Farah: Yeah. Sometimes I feel if I had got everything that I wanted, I would not have that killer instinct that is required to do something. I have to be someone; maybe I'm just doing it for my father. When I made a movie, it had to be a hit because when he died, he was a flop director.
Simi: At 25, you became a choreographer. People who know you say that you acquired a tough personality to cope with the demands of your career. Is that true?
Farah: You know in those days, wearing jeans and a T-shirt and the choreographers were much older...
Simi: Guruju, Masterji types.
Farah: Yeah, yeah absolutely! Guruji, masterji, feet-touching types!
Simi: Did anybody touch your feet?
Farah: Yeah, they do! And now, I've just stopped stopping them because it's just easier for them to do it than to say please, don't touch my feet. But the first time Sridevi touched my feet, I was...
Simi: Sridevi touched your feet?
Farah: Yeah, this was like 10 years ago! She dived at my feet and I jumped a mile away and then I went home and said, "Sridevi touched my feet, yaar!"
Simi: (Laughs) Secretive thrill!
Farah: Yeah, very exciting! No, I guess I was just paranoid that once I go on the sets, people should take me seriously.
Simi: Did it flow easily or was it a struggle?
Farah: It wasn't a typical struggle because I got my first break pretty easily. You know I was the assistant director on Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar giving the clap while the mighty Saroj Khan was choreographing. I was watching and wondering how she does it. Suddenly it dawned on me, listen, I can do this. I can do this and I can do this better! Somewhere, she was doing the song wrong. It was supposed to be this young, fun song and I was not going to go and tell her that.
Simi: You would have got walloped!
Farah: But when Mansoor (Khan, director) offered me the film there was no doubt in my mind that I could do it. There was no hesitation, no nervousness. I was like, "Yes! Now I'll show you how it should be done!"
Simi: How many songs have you done Farah?
Farah: No idea. Must be more than 300!
Simi: And tell me, have stars ever given you a hard time?
Farah: No, no. They've been quite sweet!
Simi: Never? Not even in the beginning?
Farah: The stars that I've worked with started their careers almost at the same time as me. Whether it is Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan or Salman Khan.
Simi: But Shah Rukh I believe, you never choreographed. He can do whatever he likes and then everybody else has to do the same thing.
Farah: (Laughs) No, that's not true, but when we're teaching the steps, he does it his way and all the dancers have to do it so it looks like he's doing what they're doing!
Simi: So, I am right?
Farah: Yes, you're absolutely right!
Simi: I'm not going to ask you who's the best dancer? Because I think that's Hrithik!
Farah: I think so too! Absolutely, I mean it! I saw Justin Timberlake at the MTV Awards. He was fabulous and I was like Hrithik would beat him hands down!
Simi: True! Who's the worst, according to you?
Farah: Oh god! Nana Patekar! I've done a full number with him, completely off-beat! I mean for someone to be off-beat for five and a half minutes, is an achievement.
Simi: You do five-six films in a year for 13-14 years?
Farah: Yeah. It'll be 14 years now.
Simi: No boyfriends during that time?
Farah: There were, but not from the industry.
Simi: I've never heard of any relationships.
Farah: I'm a good girl.
Simi: Ai Hai! Discreet girl?
Farah: No, I'm a good girl, I think. I'm not promiscuous by nature
Simi: So there was no serious relationship.
Farah: Not really. I had one before, around three years before I married my husband.
Simi: Did you miss not having a relationship?
Farah: Yes, at sometimes you feel but I was never ever ready to get married, never!
Farah: I don't know! I always thought I'd be single.
Simi: All your life?
Farah: All my life! I was very happy! I'd made my peace and literally I wasn't getting married because there's something missing in my life. It wasn't like that! I had my set of friends, my family. I had a good career and then I just met Shirish and fell madly in love.
Simi: Hi Shirish! It's lovely to have you both here together. You know when I first heard about you, they said Shirish is the Mercedeswala editor. I said, "What do you mean?" and they said, "He's the only film editor who has a Mercedes."
Simi: And before that you were working with Motorola?
Shirish: Yeah, as an engineer. Electronics engineer.
Simi: Tell me, between the two of you, who first chose whom first?
Shirish: I chose her!
Simi: Tell me about it.
Shirish: Other than beauty, one thing that really attracts me is intelligence. There was a silent crush but I never did anything about it. So when she offered me to edit Main Hoon Na, I agreed to do that at much lesser the price than I ever did.
Simi: And you didn't know anything about it?
Farah: I had no idea. He had short hair and he used to wear specs and you know...
Simi: So for how long did you never tell her on that you had a crush on her?
Shirish: There was no point. I saw no hope.
Simi: Why did you see no hope?
Shirish: Well, I was an editor. That's how it was. I honestly didn't expect anything to happen. I had no clue that we would get married someday.
Simi: So when did you finally tell her?
Shirish: There was a party at her place and I got drunk and told her.
Simi: So what really impressed you about him?
Farah: I think the more I spoke to him, the more I realised that he was extremely intelligent, because I was just going and shouting and screaming in the editing room. Just generally not taking him seriously as a person. He was an editor and he was doing his job.
Simi: You used to scream and shout at him?
Farah: No, not at him. But generally at the walls.
Shirish: At the walls. No one can scream at me.
Simi: So how did you finally propose to her?
Shirish: I threatened her.
Farah: He said, if you don't want to get married, darling, just get out. I don't want to be seeing you and wasting my time. If you are serious and want to get married, then we'll take it further. Then I thought about it. He actually gave me an ultimatum. Normally, the girls do that.
Shirish: No, I am scared of being hurt. I can't take break-ups. I can' t. She was the second girl I fell in love with. I did have a lot of flings... I would never meet a girl for the second time. I was scared of breaking up and then being hurt. She was the only girl I wanted to meet again and again. I was scared that if I lose her, I will not be able to take it. So, I gave her an ultimatum. If you want to get married, fine. Otherwise, forget it.
Simi: Were you shocked?
Farah: Because he did that, I realised that I did not want to lose him.
Simi: You had three weddings.
Farah: We had a registered wedding, a south Indian wedding...
Shirish: I was drunk again... I don't remember...
Farah: Don't lie! You weren't drunk at the wedding. Don't make it an excuse. We had the nikkah, and he was not allowed to drink.
Simi: So, Shah Rukh did the kanyadaan.
Farah: Yes, he and Gauri.
Simi: Tell me, Shirish, you are referred to as "Farah Khan's husband." Does that bother you?
Shirish: It's a matter of time. She started quite early.
Simi: A few years...
Farah: Not even years, a few months.
Simi: You won't change!
Shirish: No, I won't. I can't.
Farah: Change! His ego, his head will be swollen!
Simi: That's what I am worried about.
Shirish: Ego and self-respect... there's a thin line.
Simi: You got an amazing break with the terrific film Jaan-E-Mann. How did that happen?
Farah: At the same drunken party...
Shirish: At the drunken party...
Farah: We are sounding like alcoholics! (laughs)
Simi: I have never had such alcoholics on my show!
Farah: No, no. It was at that same Main Hoon Na party.
Shirish: Booze has a major role to play in our lives!
Simi: It gives you the courage to say things.
Shirish: Yeah, courage. You know wherever I go I always think of stories. So a lot of stories I bounce off to her. At the party, she happened to mention one of my stories to the producer.
Simi: To Sajid (Nadiadwala). You mentioned it...
Shirish: Yeah, she mentioned it. I don't talk to anybody.
Farah: I didn't tell him it was his. I just told him I have a damn good story and this is the one line. And he was like, 'This is fabulous. Whose is it?' I said it was Shirish's.
Simi: But tell me something, working with top experienced stars like Salman, Preity Zinta and Akshay Kumar, you are a first time director, were they ever skeptical about your abilities?
Shirish: Experienced actors, when they see the first shot, they know this guys knows his job or not. Complete trust takes a while but the fear is gone in the first shot.
Simi: You know Farah has had to struggle a long way. People say you have had a short-cut to fame. Would you agree?
Shirish: No, I haven't had a short-cut.
Simi: No, but you were lucky you got such a big break quickly in an industry where there are so many people who are waiting...
Farah: You can look at it that way but also he had a script that is worthy.
Simi: I don't doubt that. It's very fortunate that... when there are so many people...
Farah: But, you know, Simi, in our industry, who do you have access to? Like I have access to Shah Rukh, I have access to a lot of people because I work with them. So it becomes easier for me to... Otherwise getting to them takes a lot of time. So that's the lucky factor. You can get them to hear your ideas.
Shirish: Also, I was not looking for a break. I was not pushing it. I just believe that if things are supposed to happen, it will. I can never go and beg to anyone -- any producer or actor. I just wait for things to happen, and things just fell into place.
Simi: So, Farah would you say he is less ambitious than you were, or more?
Farah: No, I think he is ambitious but he is very righteous and principled. In that way, he is an idealist. I can still be nice to people even though they are doing the wrong things but he won't, which doesn't go well in our industry because nobody likes to hear the truth. In that way, he is ambitious but he has that righteousness...
Simi: But Farah, for you what he is going through is like been there done that. So do you guide him?
Farah: In the beginning I used to. Because I was like, don't do this. He has to learn it his way. It would lead to a lot of arguments and stress. I was just doing it to save him from the stress and the agony. But it doesn't work like that, Simi. He has to go through it, feel it and then realise.
Simi: You won't listen to her. Is that what it is Shirish?
Shirish: I do, but I had my own principles.
Farah: He was like, don't spoil it.
Simi: Tell me, there is an eight-year age difference between the two of you. Does it change the equation at all?
Shirish: See, basically. Otherwise, she is eight years younger to me. She is a kid, I am the Buddha.
Simi: But you are very over-protective?
Farah: I didn't realise when you get married, you have another heart. Your heart is somewhere else and you have to look after it. I never got so stressed during my own film, or when things go wrong. But when something happens to him or he is upset, oh God, it is terrible.
Simi: But tell me one thing Farah. If he becomes a success, would you worry?
Farah: No, I would be jumping on top of the world. I will be dancing.
Simi: But you know people change with success?
Farah: I will keep him grounded.
Simi: Farah, you had to change your personality somewhat to become a choreographer. Have you undergone another personality change after your marriage?
Farah: Oh yeah. I think good marriage is also about keeping your mouth shut. You may want to say many things, you have to learn how to keep quiet, and that's what he has taught me.
Simi: Who calls the shots really?
(Farah points out towards Shirish)
Simi: What do you mean?
Farah: I quite like that. It's nice to have someone in charge. I mean I take care of the house and all that...
Simi: And who's ready for kids?
(Both raise their hands)
Simi: I hope you two are not going to slow down, Farah.
Farah: No, no. I am going to be carry one kid here, one kid there, having a mike here, and screaming on the sets!