You’re doing another spoof, and the main theme and central character is again Osama Bin Laden. Don’t you think it’s a bit risky to do it a second time around?
Abhishek: Well, I’d say it’s not the same theme; it’s a very different theme. And it’s not a sequel, but more of a spin-off in a sense. The first film was about a post 9/11 world, this film is about the post Osama Bin Laden world, and as the title says, ‘Dead or Alive’, it’s also in the context of wondering what happened that night when they got Bin Laden. So it’s a funny take on the whole operation, it’s a funny take on Bollywood, and it’s a mockery of those times. So it’s not at all similar to the first film.
No, Ali Zafar is playing a special role in this film. It was a very interesting structure that we applied, I don’t think that this kind of a casting structure has been used ever in a sequel. What happens is that Ali Zafar is playing himself, his own fictional self, so it’s a take on his own self as well. And so at the time of making the film he couldn’t have played any other role, and nobody else could have played his character. So the protagonist, who is named Sharma (based partially on me) is being played by Manish Paul who is a fresh casting in this franchise. So yeah, Ali is playing a very interesting character, but you know he couldn’t have played the protagonist, that just wasn’t possible.
Speaking of characters, you’ve gone over the seven seas – so to speak- and you’ve taken on Iman Crosson who’s very famous in America for his Youtube videos and his rapping, and obviously his comedy. How did that come about?
When I wrote the film there was this Obama character, so I had to crack that because I wanted a good impersonator but I wanted someone with humanity because I didn’t want it to be a spoof, I wanted it to be a farce, there’s a big difference between spoof and farce. To make it more farcical I wanted some sort of element which would be original, and not just mocking of how Obama speaks. I first looked at Alphacat (which is his name on his YouTube channel) and I saw on there his raps, where he raps as Obama
A: Yeah it’s very unique, and I liked it. So I took the Obama raps out, you know in his press conference he is rapping, which is so unique. And you know, despite rapping he still remains the character of Obama, and that is what is so very special about him. He’s been to the white house twice and he’s actually met the real Obama, and he’s considered one of the best impersonators of Obama in the world. And he’s a great rap artist! So all these things combined kind of convinced me that he should play Obama in this way.
Anupum Kher, the veteran actor, has praised the film hugely – how does it feel when you get compliments from experienced actors such as him?
Well it’s very kind of him, kind words from him. Me and Anupum Kher have worked together and he’s a friend and somebody I look up to. He saw the film a while ago as my friend, and his son Sikander Kher is also in the film, and everybody is raving about his performance, because he’s not played this kind of a character. We were all there for the screening, but he told me that it was brilliant and he was blown away by the performances, by the film, and that’s something that’s really brilliant coming from a senior actor like him.
Who or what would you say is the scene-stealer of the film?
Scene stealer? Oh well, see all these characters are wonderful – Manish playing Sharma is an amazing character, Pradhuman Singh playing the lookalike of Bin Laden, which he did last time.
But you must have a particular favourite?
I think these characters are all unique, and I think Sikander’s character [US Agent David Chadhda] is the one that people will definitely hear about, because it’s a beautiful character. He’s a white Texan who transforms into a brown Punjabi guy and comes to hunt for Paddi, the Bin Laden lookalike, to cast him in a so-called Hollywood film and acts as the producer. It’s a very good character and I think that could be the dark horse in the film that people will look forward to his character and want to see him.
Finally, what’s next after this for you Abhishek? Do you think there’s going to be a part three, or will it be something else?
Tere Bin Laden is the franchise that was never intended to be a franchise, I got the idea of making a sequel only after Osama died. You know, I was never intending to make it. And the story in this sequel is more of a spin off, and from another perspective. So I have never thought about it as a continuing idea, and I’ve not really thought about it, a part three or anything. But, you know, I didn’t know that I’d be making the second part after the first film, I didn’t know how it would turn out. Basically the tone stuck with the news and whatever was happening, and I came to an idea. So if there’s an idea which kind of excites me, then definitely because this is the world that I really love and it’s crazy and it’s farcical and it makes fun of a lot of people. So as of now I don’t think that I’m looking at a part three, because as I said, this isn’t even part two, it’s just a spin off. So I don’t know whether that can happen, but like they say, never say never. Apart from the last two films, one I’m working on now is a big studio that I can’t say much about and somebody else is writing it and I’m directing it, and there’s another film that I have written which is on the issue of intolerance, another subject which is in the media right now.
Fantastic, we’ll definitely be looking out for that and all the best with Tere Bin Laden Dead or Alive