Abbas Tyrewala on Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan’s self deprecating humour in Pathaan: Both are extremely secure and self assured actors – Exclusive – Times of India
Abbas had earlier penned the dialogues for Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff starrer War, that is another action spectacle in the YRF spy universe. When asked about the obvious difference in the level of humour in the two action films, he says, “It really boils down to the vision of the filmmaker. Pathaan was conceived with a lot more chutzpah by Siddharth. The fact that Pathaan was Shah Rukh and Shah Rukh was Pathaan was a lot more fluid than Hrithik being Kabir and Kabir being Hrithik. He was very clear that Hrithik would create Kabir. But it was not so simple that SRK would create Pathaan. Pathaan and Shah Rukh almost became interchangeable. You knew that you were celebrating a star called Shah Rukh Khan, through a character called Pathaan. And when that is part of the conception, when the brief is ‘This time, don’t worry about your humour throwing people out of the illusion, it will just add to it. This time, give lines that are more memorable, it will not seem indulgent, because that’s the way we want to make it.’ So when the filmmaker is that clear on his brief, and if you have the capacity to be sincere to that brief and not violate it, then you get equally effective films every time.”
Another high point of Pathaan was Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan coming together on screen after almost three decades. “It was very clearly intentional to not just have Pathaan and Tiger on screen, but also have Shah Rukh and Salman and their decades of stardom, and the decades of love the audiences had for them, the decades of joy that we have had watching their films, the number of smiles that we have had from their movies, from the memory of Karan Arjun, from everything that they have given us. So it was when they were on screen together, it was very intentionally a celebration of these two superstars coming together,” Abbas explains.
The two superstars indulge in some slick action sequences and also manage to make the audience chuckle with their self deprecating humour as they pop painkillers after getting battered in a high voltage fight sequence. “Well, it just comes about from the director’s absolute intention to make the audience laugh when he wants to make them laugh, and to give them the thrill of their lives when he wants to do his actions and give them the rise of their lives when he wants to do something that is sexy,” says Abbas. “And when you have actors like Shah Rukh and Salman who are so damn secure after the years of superstardom, they’re not going to say silly things like Yaar mujhe dard kaise ho sakta hai? Main to star hoon. All that insecurity of how you appear on screen is okay for people who are yet in the process of proving themselves or are struggling to be more. These two have done it all and done it many times over. So the last thing that happens to them anymore is ke koi samjhega yaar main mard nahi hoon. It doesn’t even cross their mind ke koi samjhega main good looking nahi hoon. They’re beyond that. They’ve done it all, so they are able to have any amount of fun with the character. Which is why the most secure an actor is, the more fun you’re able to have with these inside jokes. And both of them were absolutely secure with the fact that while the fight was going on, they will look like Superman. And at the end of it all they wanted the humour of being human saying yaar ab nahi hota hai umar ho gayi. And I think that just shows how cool and how self assured they are in who they are.”
Talking about the ending sequence where SRK and Salman break the fourth wall and take a dig a current generation of actors that was perceived by many as a jibe at poor box office numbers, Abbas says, “One of the saddest things to have happened to Hindi cinema is how we managed to get the audience thinking in terms of box office numbers. I mean, how should it be their concern, whether a film has earned 200 crore, 50 crore or 300 crore if it entertains them? It is absolutely an acknowledgement of two guys in a slightly self deprecating, slightly arrogant way. Yeah, they’re being cheeky as hell. It would be very sad if people took it seriously as a judgment on the younger generation. It’s obviously a good natured ribbing of the younger generation of stars. And that’s all it’s meant to be. It’s supposed to be a grill with the two OGs. Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir would really be the OGs of this generation of actors. So I have seen two OGs having almost a little bit bullying fun at the younger generation. But while it’s perfectly funny and harmless, I think that is the joy of it, not to talk about box office numbers and all. That would really be a sad way to interpret it.”
Even though he worked on Pathaan before the pandemic, Abbas knew from the beginning that the film had blockbuster written all over it. “But what we did not know at the time was how long we would have been deprived of that joy of the cinema experience where people actually whistled and people actually danced in the aisles,” he says. “We didn’t know that we were going to see for two years, a world where nobody was dancing for anything. And nobody was whistling for anything. People were so deprived. And times have been so tough, that this joy which we were hoping to see a celebration had now become unprecedented. And it’s become so much more magnified in its impacts because of what we as humanity and we as a country have been through recently that people having this joy is almost… rather than feeling kicked about, ‘Oh, I have a success, or I made a hit,’ it is that ‘we made people smile’. And that I think is a whole new way of looking at success where you are just grateful that you gave people something to be happy about rather than something that sent the box office counters rolling.”
While that’s that, Abbas, just like others in team Pathaan, cannot stop grinnng from ear to ear. “It’s wonderful to see people having the kind of party that they’re having with the film. We haven’t seen that in a while and to see that joy, which is why any of us do what we do, but unfortunately we haven’t seen in a while, it’s wonderful,” he signs off.