Magic of cinema happens without planning: ‘Pathaan’ writer Sridhar Raghavan


PTI, Feb 7, 2023, 5:22 PM IST

Image source: Twitter

”Pathaan” writer Sridhar Raghavan says he has seen his blockbuster film thrice, including with his 85-year-old mother in the front seats. And that’s when he knew it was working. ”I became a frontbencher again after 30 years. When you sit in front, the screen kind of wraps you in it. You feel you are part of the movie,” Raghavan told PTI.

He even has a favourite ”front row” — about the fifth from the front. ”The magic of cinema… it’s something that happens without planning, without knowing. You can attempt it, you can plan it and try to get as close to it as possible but finally it’s chemistry between the audience and what you see on screen. Everything else disappears, you can’t predict it,” Raghavan added in the Zoom interview.

The idea was to recreate the magic and memory of the larger-than-life entertainers where the hero’s entry mattered and dialogues were whistle-worthy, the writer, who is in his early 50s, said. If the success of the Shah Rukh Khan-John Abraham-Deepika Padukone starrer is anything to go by, it’s an idea that worked.

”Pathaan”, directed by Siddharth Anand and produced by Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films, has smashed several box office record since its release on January 25, spelling revival for the Hindi film industry. The film has made over Rs 800 crore at the global box office so far.

Raghavan likens the job of making a full-on commercial film to being in the kitchen with terrific ingredients.

The writer, who is the younger brother of filmmaker Sriram Raghavan, has written the screenplay for the high octane spy thriller on a story by Anand. Abbas Tyrewala has penned the dialogues.

Experiences from a childhood spent watching movies on a 70mm screen in single screen theatres shaped him. ”Sometimes the projection was not so good but they were large with a capacity of 800 to 1,000 seats. In Mumbai, I have watched films in theatres like Regal, Sterling, Gaiety and Galaxy. I remember theatres like Badal, Bijlee, Barkha. They advertised the 70 mm screen… It doesn’t compare to anything else.”

The writer, known for his work in films such as ”Khakhee”, ”Apaharan”, ”Bluffmaster”, ”Dum Maaro Dum”, ”War” and the upcoming YRF film ”Tiger 3”, said people of his age involved with movies today ”grew up” on a varied diet of films from different eras be it ”Guide”, ”Pyaasa”, ”Kaala Patthar” or ”Yaadon Ki Baraat”.

”When you watch a film in theatre, I think we become children again. Theatres do that to you, a good film does that you. You may enter a theatre as a 50-year-old but you become 17 again. When we were doing ‘Pathaan’, somewhere in our head was the idea to recreate the films that we grew up on, films that this banner and people behind this banner made,” he said.

Raghavan calls himself a huge movie buff and a fan who has followed Shah Rukh Khan’s career right from his television days of ”Fauji”. The writer said the challenge was to give the superstar an action film that would do justice to all the iterations he has done in cinema — the villain, the romantic hero or the boy next door.

”How do we now make a really cool, contemporary modern, fun, vulnerable film, keeping all of Mr Khan’s personality and energy and everything you like about him as a romantic hero and as a boy next door and bring it into the action zone instead?

”We knew this would be a fun, interesting new character. We were getting a chance to create a lovable action hero that even kids could have fun watching.” Many elements that are now part of the film emerged during their discussion with Shah Rukh, who, Raghavan said, added ”layers” to the character of Pathaan.

”He brought a lot of his own personality into it. He’s got a lot of charisma and a lot of charm, which is actually terrific in the action genre. When you get that charming person who you also enjoy, you actually enjoy it even more because there is something which makes us think he’s like us. At the same time, we know he’s like way tougher, bigger, superstar and all this stuff.”

Writing a film, he said, is a bit like ”time travel”. Writers are involved at a much earlier stage and have the distance and advantage to view it like an audience after the movie is ready two-three years later.

”When I was watching it, I wasn’t watching it like I’m part of the unit which got involved in making this film. I was a guy who’s like one of those first show, frontbencher types. I’ve seen everything of Shah Rukh sir, right from ‘Anjaam’, ‘Baazigar’, ‘Darr’, ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ to ‘English Babu Desi Mem’.

”One great thing for writers in this business, especially writers like us, who have been around 20 years plus… I got to work with Mr Bachchan. I got to work with Mr Shah Rukh Khan… It’s a great fun because you’ve been on this side. You’ve been on the front benches, you’ve been the one throwing the coins. Today, you are part of the unit involved in making this. It’s great fun.” Producer Aditya Chopra and Anand already knew Shah Rukh but it was a new experience for Raghavan to collaborate with ”a very down-to-earth, approachable and charming” star.

”So when we were writing, it was if we even have a homeopathic version of this guy in our script, then you know you have a great character because he’s too cool, too lovable a character.”

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