Atlee on directing SRK in 'Jawan': To get it right, you have to become a fan first

"Jawan", which has crossed over Rs 800 crore at the box office since its release on September 7, marks Atlee's Hindi debut

"Jawan" continues its triumphant journey, crossing over Rs 800 crore at the box office (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)
"Jawan" continues its triumphant journey, crossing over Rs 800 crore at the box office (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)


If you want to get it right, you have to become a fan first, says filmmaker Atlee, crediting superstar Shah Rukh Khan for trusting his vision for "Jawan", a mass entertainer that is on its way to becoming one of the highest earning movies in Hindi cinema.

Atlee is known for delivering back-to-back hits in the South with superstar Vijay. "Jawan", which has crossed over Rs 800 crore at the box office since its release on September 7, marks his Hindi debut.

Asked how he managed to direct the superstar without getting overwhelmed by his persona, the 36-year-old director said he simply stayed true to his creative vision.

"I'm a fan of cinema and I'm a fan of Shah Rukh sir, Vijay sir. Whoever I've worked with, I first become their fan because if you want to get it right, you have to become a fan. Even with their beloved actors, a fan can always say about a film that, 'No, it's not right.' "As a fan, you will know which film is working and which is not working purely by heart... At the same time, if the actors are fans of a director's work or a cameraman's work and an editor's work, they also come up and say, 'Boss, I think you are not on the right track'," Atlee told PTI in a virtual interview.

The filmmaker said he developed "a give and take" relationship with SRK who protected and guided him throughout the filming of the big-budget movie. "Jawan" was made with a budget of over Rs 300 crore, the filmmaker had revealed earlier.

"I didn't guide him -- he knows much more than what everyone knows in the system -- but I said what works for me and what doesn't.

"And he trusted me. He was like, 'Yes, sir. It's not working for you. Let's do one more. Should I do it like this? Should I do it like that?' It was a good give and take. That's why I could give a (film like) 'Jawan' with everyone's 100 per cent," he added.

It was Shah Rukh who reached out to Atlee expressing a desire to work with the filmmaker, who has been praised for showing the actor in a new light with the blockbuster. The film, interestingly, was greenlit over a Zoom call during the pandemic.

Atlee has already established a name in the Tamil film industry courtesy his movies with Vijay -- "Theri", "Mersal" and "Bigil".

SRK's idea was to do a quintessential "Atlee film", he recalled.

"I was really surprised and blessed to get a call from Shah Rukh sir's side. When I met him, he said, 'Sir, let's do a film together. I've seen all your films. I love your films. And, I want to do an Atlee film'.

"I said, 'What is an Atlee film sir?' (He said) 'The films that you make, I want to be part of that world'. I said, 'Okay sir, I'll make something and come back'," he said.

The director shared it took him eight months to come up with a story that he could pitch to the actor.

"He didn't even question why I'm delaying. But one day I went to him and I said this is a (log)line. He said, 'Okay, develop it and tell me.' "He gave me some time, I developed but unfortunately COVID started. So then I came in and I requested a narration. We did it over a Zoom call. That's where the film got greenlit and started." A high-octane action thriller, "Jawan" takes on issues like farmers suicide, poor healthcare infrastructure, corruption and the nexus between politicians and businessmen through a father-son story.

Atlee said the intent was never to just entertain as he wanted to appeal to people's "emotions".

"It speaks about your heart and what you feel when you read a newspaper, when you take life seriously and when you are very responsible. As a filmmaker, you have to be responsible. You can't just entertain, go home and sleep. You have to entertain and you have to give something that people take home," the filmmaker said.

According to him, fans have "cried, hooted and whistled" while watching the film as the story is rooted in human emotion.

"'Jawan' is about Indian emotion and I think I have placed it in the right proportion," he added.

Asked how the mammoth success of "Jawan" has impacted him, the director said it has only added a "happy responsibility" on his shoulders.

"I've got a lot of footfall (for 'Jawan'). I've explored new territories and it is growing everyday. I think my next film should be bigger than this.

"It adds a happy responsibility and a happy pressure. I take home success along with responsibility. I will work towards it and make something greater for the country," he said.

"Jawan", a pan-India film, also stars Nayanthara and Vijay Sethupathi as well as Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Dutt in special appearances. 

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Published: 19 Sep 2023, 3:57 PM