Habib Faizal
Filmmaker, writer and lyricist. Writer of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Fan

In Salaam Namaste, the whole idea was to do a film about live in relationships. Now the understanding was to see a live-in relationship in a space that was outside of India because the exotic nature of the relationship would be organic to the exotic nature of the space. People wouldn’t be able to digest a live-in relationship in cities like Delhi, Bombay, or Bhopal. But still, through this exotic form of relationship and space, we would be able to talk about the nature of relationships.

A certain maturity did occur in films set in other countries. If earlier it was for scale, then gradually it became about people with more life experiences, maybe people who had stayed there. When they were brought in, they tried to make it more believable. In terms of demographics and economics. So if the lead character of the Hindi version was somebody from a middle or lower-middle-class background, I created a similar kind of person, but now in Southall. The concerns were similar. I have also always been interested in communal politics everywhere. So that was something that I brought up, that we have a female protagonist who’s Pakistani (Jhoom Barabar Jhoom).

Shaad chose to shoot in these tiny places. But their love stories were all upscale. So if Abhishek is imagining his love story, he’s imagining it in Paris. Preity makes up these Madame Tussauds Superman stories. But they come down to this tiny, grimy, kitchen-sink, John Osborne kind of space. Small, narrow shops.

The chase in Fan has to do with the ecosystem of a star. Then there’s the issue of logistics—where is it more or less expensive? So because of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik has become a very accessible place to shoot. And then it also created a new, different kind of imagery. The rooftops, chasing a smaller, lesser-known Europe, seemed attractive. In the first draft of the script, the cat-and-mouse game was all over the place. And everyone was excited. Then came the Executive Producer and the budget, and it all got shrunk.

In the case of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, the entire germ was born here. Now to transplant that in terms of Shaad’s vision and mine was complicated. I told Shaad, if someone is speaking in French, we’ll keep it like that. Not the kind of dialogue writing where you speak a line in French and then translate it into English. For Bobby’s character, we studied Punjabi and Southall accents because they speak differently. I had a great time learning Southall lingo, which is Pakistani-UK lingo. And they also play a lot with each other. And then Lara speaks French like the French. There was a word for translation. It wasn’t just a question of space. It was also about how these people were.

In Salaam Namaste, the radio channel that Preity works for is called Salaam Namaste, after Sun Radio, which the UK has. But there, the whole story was about this Pakistani girl, Ambar, and this guy, Nick—they start living together. So it’s not just about living there, it’s about the dynamics of having this India-Pakistan gang in this space (the original plot )

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