Farah Khan is not an unknown name in India. If you have spent your childhood shaking a leg to songs choreographed by her, you’d understand the feeling of awe that enveloped me when I walked into her penthouse, spread across the top floor of a residential high-rise in suburban Lokhandwala in Mumbai, home of many Bollywood stars. Walking in, one can notice the irritation in her voice as she makes corrections to a voice-over script (“Who writes these things?”). The irritation disappears once the job is done and as the apologetic assistant leaves, Khan waves her off with a ‘It’s okay, darling. It wasn’t your fault’.
Best known as someone who has made many a superstar dance to her tunes, 50-year-old Khan has been a celebrated choreographer in the industry in a career spanning 23 years. An ardent Gene Kelly and ’70s Bollywood fan and a five-time awardee of the Filmfare award for best choreography, Khan decided to move to direction with her first feature film Main Hoon Na.
“When I wanted to make a film, I was expressly told not to direct a film. People who wanted me to work with them asked me why I would want to make films when I was doing so well in choreography. That was not advice that I bothered with. Advice can be given for free, and everyone wants to give it,” Khan says in her casual, confident manner. That confidence was in question initially, though.
Finding her way
“I was nervous when I was making my first movie. It took me time to start the movie — nearly three years from the time Shah Rukh Khan said yes and the time we started shooting. But if I didn’t believe I could make a movie and if I wasn’t passionate about it, I don’t think I could have made it.” Main Hoon Na was a hit and went on to become the second-highest grossing Hindi film in 2004. This was followed up with Om Shanti Om, produced yet again by friend and actor Shah Rukh’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment.
There is, however, one piece of advice that Khan decided to take seriously. Her husband, film editor Shirish Kunder, advised her to start her own production house