Almost 10 years in the making, the director Farah Khan's latest Bollywood project Happy New Year is finally scheduled for a Diwali release.
This heist film was conceived in 2005, but put on hold for another project of Khan's: 2007's Om Shanti Om, which featured Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone (making her Bollywood debut) in leading roles, and went on to break box-office records.
Though Happy New Year shares the same stars and like Om Shanti Om features an ensemble cast, the director insists the two films could not be more different.
"Happy New Year is a musical heist," says Khan. "A film like this has not been done in Bollywood before. For me, filmmaking is not just a technical or commercial process. When I go to watch a movie, I am not thinking how much money the movie has made. I, as an audience, really love watching movies.
“When you see a sad scene and get emotional, when you hear a song and dance to it … those are the things that make people love films and I want to make films that people love.”
Besides Shah Rukh Khan and Padukone, the film stars prominent actors in supporting roles, including Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood and Jackie Shroff.
“Once you sign a star as huge as Shah Rukh Khan, getting everyone else on board is easy,” says Khan about the casting process.
Sood said the fact that Happy New Year was to be the first full-out Bollywood heist film played a big part in his decision to be a part of the project.
“I have never seen a heist film that had music and dance associated with it,” he says. “So the best part for me about this film is that it is in the typical Bollywood masala style, which is very dear to me.”
“This may be a heist film but it is also every bit a Bollywood commercial film,” says Irani. “It is all set to be a blockbuster. There are some amazing actors, the script is brilliant and Farah Khan is directing.
“You can see from the films she has made before that the energy she puts into her work translates extremely well on screen. As a director, I would say that she is probably the most successful commercial director in the world. Nobody knows how to entertain an audience like she does. She is a woman in a man’s world and teaches even a man how to do his job better.”
Khan is known to be a tough taskmaster on the set and the actors take that as a positive.
“I wouldn’t say she is strict, I would say she is honest,” says Vivaan Shah. “Brutally honest. And it’s a good thing for an actor. It keeps you on your toes.”
Just as the actors are full of praise for their director, she returns the compliment.
“Everyone in the film has done a great job, is a wonderful actor and a wonderful human being,” she says. “Take Deepika, for instance. She is a complete package. Someone who can dance very well, looks beautiful and acts superbly.”
Shah Rukh Khan agrees.
“Deepika is an amazing asset to this film,” he says. “The best part of this film, the core, stems from the lady character of this film, which is played by Deepika, so she really stands for the spine of this film.”
A modest Padukone is overwhelmed by such high praise and credits the bulk of her success to her debut in Om Shanti Om, for which she won a Filmfare Best Female Debut award.
“My debut was one of the biggest debuts any girl has ever gotten in Bollywood and I was extremely lucky in that way,” says Padukone. “Every co-star, director, every success, every failure has taught me something, but to get that special push right at the start will always mean a lot.”
Shot largely in Dubai and at Atlantis The Palm, Happy New Year already has a special place in the hearts of Bollywood fans in the UAE. The city is now abuzz with excitement about a grand concert to mark the local premiere of the film, which is scheduled to be released here on October 24 and globally the following day to coincide with Diwali.
Khan confirms that the cast will be in Dubai for the film’s opening.
“We will be here for the premiere on October 22 at the Atlantis,” Khan promises. “This is where we started our journey and this is where we want to end it.
“Dubai has been wonderful to us, both personally and business-wise. We would like to come and show everyone what we have made Dubai look like in this film.
“The premiere will be on a grand scale. We promise you a good show and a great film.”