Sajid Nadiadwala: Whenever I have paid well, I have earned also well

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21 November,2014: Sajid Nadiadwala has completed over 25 years as an independent producer. It was in 1955, when his grandfather Abdul Karim Nadiadwala first came to Mumbai and started producing films including films like Taj Mahal. His father Suleman too continued the tradition of making films. Sajid became an independent producer and not surprisingly, named his production company Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment Pvt Ltd. 25 years later, he turned director with his friend Salman Khan’s ‘Kick’. Over an hour-long conversation, he talks to Bombay Times about having a kickass 2014, the value he places on oral commitment and how he financially gains by being a generous producer. 
Your family has been in the business for 60 years, you have been a producer for over 25 years and this year you debuted as a director. Which has professionally been your best year?
2014 was phenomenal with Highway, Heropanti, 2 States and Kick. My grandfather started in 1955 with producing Inspector. I don’t think from that time till now, more than 2 or 3 production houses have survived, the rest have shut down. Just thinking about that, I get gooseflesh. We have been making films for 60 years now. There have been some good years and some bad years, but to survive for 60 years is not a joke.

What was special about 2014?
First, I made films with risk. They were brave films like ‘Highway’ in different genres. So far I had been otherwise making films of a certain kind that I wanted to make. For the first time, I took the liberty of joining hands with someone like Karan Johar for ‘2 States’ that I had never done before. Earlier, I had always been an independent producer. I have always launched newcomer heroines, but had never launched a new boy that I did this year with Tiger Shroff. And fourth was to launch myself as a director after 25 years of struggling as a producer. And that film became my biggest hit and the biggest film made by a debut director in Bollywood. Over 60 years, no one had been a director in my family. And while my nani and mother were skeptical and worried whether I would be able to pull it off, my wife Warda had always been confident that I could do it.

Your plans for next year?
To start with, we have Kabir Khan’s ‘Phantom’, Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Tamasha’, Rohit Dhawan’s film with Varun Dhawan and John Abraham, Sabir Khan’s film with Tiger Shroff and then Farhad Sajid’s ‘Housefull 3’ with Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan and Riteish Deshmukh.

Talk about your childhood memories related to films?
My grandfather used to love filmmaking, but he died when I was in Class X. I remember, going on his set and sitting on his lap. People would come and touch his feet and call him sethji. In those days, the first shot would not be taken till the mahurat ladoos came. I remember eating those ladoos and having ice creams at film trials. There was no medium of publicity then, no trailers and that was the era of pure trial. If we were going to see Taj Mahal, nobody knew anything about it, so people who saw the trial were the lucky lot. We had our own theatres and my grandfather had a lot of property, not just buildings, but he owned roads in Malad. He worked with the best directors and stars and would sign Manmohan Desai, Prakash Mehra, Mr Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna for three films each. I am happy that I have carried his baton forward and have also worked with top stars Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar in multiple films. It has been a great journey, not just making films, but also doing well for 60 years.

Talk about the values you stand for while making films?
We have always stood by our commitment as producers. Paper work has started in the industry some 10-15 years back, but earlier, it was only oral commitment. Till date, my actors have always been on oral commitment. Earlier, this quality of standing by your commitment was not available in the 50s and 60s when there would be many defaulters, sirf zubaan ki keemat hoti thi. At that time also, my father’s USP was that if Mr Nadiadwala gives his word, that commitment will be fulfilled. Now, it is no longer a USP, as everything is anyways documented through contracts.

You are perceived to be a generous producer who brings great production values to your films.
Yes, as I feel whenever I have paid well, I have earned also well. Whenever I have tried to negotiate, my profit has also reduced. As a producer, my success rate is 90%. That means somewhere, I greenlight my films very well. They may not be out of the box and I don’t take risks except in 2014 when I did and also gained from it. Actors are also insecure just as we producers are. So, for them to sit in a boat that is 90% safe is easier. The actor feels that we know our job well. We are totally committed to the film till not just its release, but even after. When a director comes to us, he knows that he will be taken care of, money being the last aspect. The colour of money is the same everywhere, but my office is committed to looking after his needs. Money used to be important for me earlier, but over the past few years, it keeps coming and does not matter now. Today, we greenlight films creatively, not just keeping money in mind. I want that any director who comes and works with us should do 5-7 films with us.

Some of the best directors like Imtiaz Ali and Kabir Khan like working with you. How do you manage that?
Besides being a producer, I am also an associate director. I take care of the creative needs of a director. During my learning stages, a lot of credit goes to my uncles, Farruk and Habib who made Ghulami. They treated me as one normal 7th assistant and not as their relative on the set. So, I grew up learning the protocol of knowing a director’s requirement. So today, when I handle top directors, I know how to handle them. I don’t interfere creatively, but know how to provide for him. I am servicing the director. Anyways, I feel what’s the point of taking a top director if I want to tell him what to do. For me, it’s a learning process working with Imtiaz or Kabir. Despite having produced 200 films, I still feel like an assistant. Filmmaking is easy if you have the right people at the right place, otherwise it can take ages to make a film. I don’t make a budget ever, as you then start cutting budgets even before the film is made, but I have my own way of looking after that. And it has worked very well for me. I studied Law and CA and therefore, my creativity and commerce run parallely. They don’t intercept each other.

Are your sons going to carry on your family legacy?
My younger son is too small, but my older son, who is 12, has decided that he wants to be an actor. So it seems that 60 years in cinema is looking like it will be 100 years for our family.

Source:The Times of India

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