Abbas Tyrewala is currently enjoying the humongous success of Pathaan. He acted as the dialogue writer in the Siddharth Anand spy thriller. Now, in an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon.com, the writer-director opened up about the success of the Shah Rukh Khan-headlined film.
Abbas spoke to us about creating an old-world charm with his seeti maaro dialogues, the post-credit scene featuring Shah Rukh with Salman Khan, the connection between John Abraham's Jim and Hrithik Roshan's Kabir from War and choosing to focus less on jingoism and shed light on humanity.
Excerpts from the interview:
Earlier films were getting postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and now, they are moving dates due to Pathaan. Can we call the film a happy wave or a pandemic of love and magic?
I was a copywriter around 30 years ago and I would have called it so back then but now, all I can say is it is a happy time for future projects. For a while, we have been struggling to figure out what we want to tell in our stories and what the viewer wants to hear. People were questioning whether people have fallen out of the habit of watching films in theatres and enjoying them on big screens, is it because of OTT content and South movies? The most wonderful thing about Pathaan is that it is a huge celebration and gives assurance to everybody connected with the Hindi film industry that if you tell a great story, the audience hasn’t gone anywhere.
Through your dialogues, did you pay an ode to the era of angry young men in Indian cinema?
It was never intended to pay an ode to ‘angry young men’ as Pathaan or Tiger are not shown to be young. Yes, there’s a certain old-fashioned quality to the telling of the story; definitely not with the technique and style obviously. It is in terms of the conflict between the hero and villain and the dialoguebaazi that takes place between them is a throwback to the era of larger-than-life angry heroes. Such dialogues do give you an old-world charm and have the audience respond to them with seetis and taalis.
Was ‘Pathaan abhi zinda hai’ dialogue a dig at haters who believed the Hindi cinema is dead and Shah Rukh should take retirement?
I wish I could say that but when the dialogue was written, neither did the pandemic happen nor had any South films come and become such big hits nor had we known that Shah Rukh wouldn’t have any release in 4 years. We were just making a very cool Shah Rukh film with this line to make it sound cool.
The censor board has reportedly asked the team Pathaan to add titles to the film's OTT version to make it more accessible to people with special needs. Do you see this as a positive step forward to make the film a wholesome experience for everyone?
This is the first time I heard about any such instruction but I am certain that there are ways for every person to watch the film. When I was working with Aamir Khan on Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, he told me, "Don’t wait for the censor board to tell you what your audience should be. If you want the film to be only for adults, ask for an A certificate. If the film is for a mature audience, ask for a UA certificate." I don’t believe in censorship but if you want to take it to a specific audience, then do what requires to be done for that sensibility. You should never compel filmmakers to cut anything because the rating is more than enough. You should never interfere in a filmmaker’s vision.
"Ghungroo Toot Gaye,” is obviously taken from War. What was the idea behind that? Was it a way to indicate a crossover film with Shah Rukh and Hrithik?
The universes are definitely intersecting and Ghungroo Toot Gaye was a throwback to War indicating there’s a certain common universe that’s taking shape. When there’s a joke referring to a certain character without throwing the audience much out of the story, it gives you that extra laugh.
Pathaan indicates a connection between Hrithik’s Kabir and John’s Jim..
At various levels, there will be more and more connections because it is decided that there is a commonality in their universes. I am sure that the plots will also intersect and such connections will be drawn that we never even thought of. It is like the Marvel universe where now you know that everyone is a part of the story. Characters, villains, memories and backstories can crossover. The beauty of setting up a spy universe or any universe is that it allows you to constantly surprise your audience with unexpected stuff and catch them unaware. It starts a healthy game of entertainment.
The post-credit scene is the talk of the town. What were the aspects you had to keep in mind while writing the dialogues? How did you strike a balance between Tiger and Pathaan?
The post-credit scene was supposed to occur right after Pathaan-Tiger’s train sequence. They said the dialogue while they were waiting for the chopper to come and rescue them. I was very scared because we were very shamelessly talking about Shah Rukh and Salman rather than Pathaan and Tiger. The audience was in for a good laugh out of it but I was nervous wondering will they watch the rest of the movie remembering it is Pathaan or if are we throwing them out of the illusion of the characters. Fortunately, someone came up with the brilliant idea that putting it at the end of the movie can be the perfect goodbye to the audience.
Coming to the balance between Tiger and Pathaan, it wasn’t a major thing to take care of because if it is a film headlined by Shah Rukh, you cannot suddenly give Salman all the great lines. Also, Salman is coming in a special appearance in Shah Rukh’s film so you cannot make him not feel so special. You have to balance that. If any one of the characters fell weak, it would have been the audience’s loss as they wouldn't enjoy it. To make sure the audience enjoys the film, you have to balance the dialogues and give the Karan Arjun rush.
As compared to Tiger & Kabir, Pathaan is more compassionate. What was the process to create this character graph through dialogues?
While I cannot comment on Tiger because I wasn’t a part of the writing team. Compared to Kabir, Pathaan wears his humanity on his sleeve. You have to wait for Kabir to reveal it. He has a tough exterior but he became affectionate while pushing Khalid’s boundaries before becoming his mentor. There’s no reason to believe Kabir is less compassionate than Pathaan. Yes, Pathaan is a more passionate person and wears his emotions on his sleeve. That’s the fundamental difference in the portrayal of Kabir and Pathaan.
Are you of the opinion that Shah Rukh & Salman are possibly the last superstars of Bollywood, as indicated in the film too?
Anybody who tries predicting what’s going to happen in Bollywood is living in a fool’s paradise. When Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor were at the top of their careers, I’m sure people would say never ever anybody’s stardom would come close to these three. When people were writing letters in blood to Rajesh Khanna, nobody expected an angry young man like Amitabh Bachchan would come and change the way movies are viewed and how many times. When the Khans were ruling with Hrithik, Akshay, Ranbir, etc, nobody knew that films from the South would come and actors you never heard of would come and be such big hits with the audience. A few years ago, Bahubali was viewed as a fluke, and never imagined that such phenomena would be recreated again and again. You cannot predict what will come and hold your neck. Yes, it is true that the span of attention has reduced. Whether someone is able to hold that attention for another 30-35 years, then that’s up for speculation but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who can have stardom we have never imagined.
Pathaan is less of jingoism and more of compassion. What it a conscious effort?
It is not a conscious effort but it is the nature of the people involved in making the film. Aditya Chopra, who is one of the most softspoken people in the industry, Siddharth Anand, who isn’t flashy, Shridhar Raghavan, who has done so many films, and myself who is the most vocal of the lot want to be nicer towards each other, kinder and positive. Shah Rukh is one of the most positive humans and spreads love. When a bunch of people believing in positivity comes together, you don’t have to plan a lot.