‘Nikamma’ Director Sabbir Khan Believes Art Is Hardwired With Commerce


Sabbir Khan, who is gearing up for the release of his upcoming movie ‘Nikamma’ which stars Shilpa Shetty, Abhimanyu Dassani and debutante Shirley Setia, feels that films are not made in a vacuum.

A film has to have commercial viability as it is an effort of a lot of people coming together and each stakeholder needs to have some sort of financial security. In short, art needs commerce to sustain.

The director, who has earlier made Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon’s debut vehicle ‘Heropanti’, recently spoke about the process of putting the film together, the choice opf fresh faces for the film, working with Shilpa Shetty on the film and the importance of commercial bent of mind for any filmmaker.

‘Nikamma’ is one film that finds its roots in the pre-pandemic era as Sabbir says, “Sony Pictures approached me as they wanted to produce a movie with me. Initially, we had a lot of brainstorming sessions but I wanted to make the film with a new cast and fresh faces. Eventually, Sony agreed and we went on to choose a really good story where one could get their entire family to the theatre.”

Revealing the idea behind the casting process, the director shares, “I also had an idea of taking actors who have not done a lot of work. So, we went around auditioning people and we met Abhimanyu, who did only one film (Vasan Bala’s ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’) which wasn’t even released at that time and he was just meeting people while auditioning for different roles.”

“With Shilpa, the role was a bit tricky as I needed a very dignified and slightly mature minded person who also looked very young and could understand the youth. When I approached Shilpa with the ideas, she just loved it and said that she hadn’t done a movie in the last 13 years. However, I convinced her to just listen to the film once and eventually she loved her character in that film and the result is in front of everyone”, he adds.

But, was working with a diverse cast of 3 film old Abhimanyu, seasoned actress like Shilpa and debutante Shirley a tough process? Well, not for Sabbir by any stretch of imagination

He says, “It was actually pretty easy because Shilpa was behaving and she also requested that she wanted to be treated as a newcomer. She in fact did this film completely like a newcomer and at that moment I felt like I was introducing 3 new actors. She is such a warm person and everybody is there supporting each other and that’s why it was pretty easy to place them all on the same page.”

Sabbir may belong to the commercial or mainstream line of cinema but he believes that the industry should give equal room to off-beat, arthouse and parallel cinema. For him, it’s all about “striking the right balance” with commercial and arthouse elements in a film.

He shares, “It is important for every filmmaker to have a commercial sense of mind because eventually you want people to come to see your film and you want that to convert in business, that is what makes your film successful. Having said that, if you can get the balance right of saying something important with entertainment and economics then nothing like it.”

Lauding his fellow filmmakers, he says in the ending note of the conversation, “Directors like Rajkumar Hirani, Prashanth Neel, Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Rajamouli infuse high concepts with entertainment which is always good and brings larger audiences to the theatres.

–By Akshay Acharya

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