With one of India’s most renowned screenwriters as father and elder brother for a superstar, he knew that his career was in the film industry. Unsure of which direction to head in, Arbaaz Khan opted to try his luck as an actor. Along the way, he developed an interest in filmmaking, but decided to focus on the decision he had already taken. However, when he turned producer with Dabangg in 2009, also working on the project in the capacity of a creative producer, Arbaaz realised that film direction is where his calling lay. “But the time had to be right. So when Abhinav Kashyap opted out of directing Dabangg’s sequel, Salman (Khan) encouraged me to step in. Since I had been creatively involved in the first project, I decided to take the plunge,” says Arbaaz, whose directorial debut, titled Dabangg 2, will release on December 21.
For many decades, role of a producer was limited to that of a financier in the Hindi film industry. Mostly businessmen, they were rarely involved in the creative aspects of filmmaking, a department considered as the director’s forte. Over time, actor-directors such as Kishore Kumar and Raj Kapoor did venture into production but rarely was it the case the other way around.
Arbaaz attributes his leap of faith to his stint as a producer. Vikas Bahl, credited for UTV Spotboy’s success, is another person to make such transition. Instrumental in selecting the scripts of Dev.D, Aamir and Welcome to Sajjanpur — each of which was a success — to produce under the banner, Bahl, in the process, developed a desire to tell a story of his own. It took a few years before he could realise his dream. Bahl turned director with Chillar Party last year. Similarly, Sajid Nadiadwala, who currently heads Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, a production house that has been in business for over six decades, has already announced his first project as a director. Titled Kick, the film will be shot in 2013. It follows his “creative stint, first as a screenwriter” of Sajid Khan’s comedies Housefull and Housefull 2. Nadiadwala replaced Shirish Kunder as the director of Kick — the remake of a Telugu film by the same name — because the idea was his in the first place.
Most of the producers-turned-directors believe that the move has provided an outlet for their creative instincts. Producer-actor Aamir Khan directed Taare Zameen Par (2007) as he found the story moving. The transition to direction, however, has not been easy for most. “I had been in the business for so many years, helping new talent come to the fore with unconventional stories. But when it was time for me to do the same, it took me a while to find a producer,” Bahl had told The Indian Express in a previous interview. He is currently working on his second directorial venture, Queen. Arbaaz adds that as a producer, one understands there is money at stake — sometimes one’s own — which makes one second-guess oneself.
These men may have found their calling behind the camera, but all of them want to continue in their current roles as producers; and in Arbaaz and Aamir’s case, also as actors. Currently one of the four founders of Phantom Films, Bahl is of the opinion that it is about the love for storytelling. Arbaaz seconds him, adding that he intends to work with new talent in future. On his part, Aamir has decided upon the film he is going to direct next, but will take time before he occupies the director’s seat. “Right now, I’m enjoying acting,” he says.