Zayed Khan recently completed 20 years in the film industry. His thriller, Chura Liyaa Hai Tumne was released on March 21, 2003, and on this special occasion, the actor put up a dashing picture on his Instagram handle and promised his followers that his next release is around the corner.
A few days after this post, which got loads of appreciation, Bollywood Hungama exclusively spoke to Zayed Khan. The actor looked quite dashing and seemed excited as he opened up about his comeback film, TFTNW, where, in his own words, the butt of jokes is him. The film’s idea and concept came from actor Aseem Merchant, who also produced the film. Aseem, Zayed and Mohit Srivastava and Kavin Dave have penned the script while Mohit has also directed this mockumentary film.
As per reports, the film stars 15-20 prominent Bollywood personalities in cameos like Riteish Deshmukh, Farah Khan, Suzanne Khan, Jackie Shroff etc. Zayed Khan remained tightlipped about this aspect, the meaning of the title and on which digital platform it’ll premiere. However, Zayed was more than happy to share how he became a part of the film.
Zayed Khan began by saying, “For the first 10 years, I gave it my all. I lived out of the suitcase as I went for shoots, events, performances, shows etc. I also had children at a really early age. I read the biography of a very famous gentleman who stated how he missed out on the growing years of his children. It just struck me that my kids are growing up and I want to spend time with them. I consciously decided to step back. That’s the worst thing to do! On one level, it was really nice as I got to experience a lot of things I wanted, as a father. I took them on holidays. I am a sportsman myself and introduced them to sports like diving. But when you completely disappear from the radar, people forget easily.”
Zayed Khan continued, “When I wanted to come back into the industry, I realized that it was very hard. Of course, you have friends and people who can help you out. They are, however, not the ones who take the call. The audience is the one who makes the call. The studios represent what the audience demands. Also, things had changed a lot. People don’t have the time and patience to watch a 2 ½ hour-long film. Many will of course ask, ‘Who the hell is Zayed Khan?’.”
He added, “Also, my kids had never really seen me in action, on a film set. Everytime I go out with family and friends, there’ll be people taking pictures with me. They didn’t really get why this frenzy was there around me.”
It’s Zayed Khan’s children, Zidaan and Aariz Khan, who gave him the much needed push, “One day, my kids came up to me and said, ‘Why don’t you resume acting?’. I replied, ‘If that happens, I won’t get time to see you guys’. They were fine with it and insisted that they would want to see me work in movies. They helped germinate the idea.”
Zayed stated, “Then, I met a lot of people and tried to produce. But the warmth that was given to me when I was a star was very different. It dawned on me that this is a star-based system. One can believe that writing is now paramount and things are streamlined. But at the end of the day, everyone wants to know who’s starring in your film or show. You can write a work as great as that of Shakespeare but nobody will give a damn if a star is not mouthing your lines.”
Things, however, changed for the better for Zayed. He narrated, “One day, I was a little low. A friend, Aseem Merchant, walked in. He looked at me and asked, ‘You are such a lovely, good-looking guy. Why the hell are you not doing anything?’. It’s an easy question to ask but very difficult for me to answer! How do I tell him that I tried, went to a lot of places and irrespective of where I come from, it didn’t work out? I didn’t say that. I replied, ‘I don’t know, man. Let’s see what happens’. This is when he said that he has an idea and wants to cast me. I looked at him with dodgy eyes and asked, ‘Why do you want to do a film with me?’! Aseem simply said, ‘The best is yet to come from you’! It was nice to see somebody having some faith in me.”
Zayed further said, “Aseem then narrated the idea of TFTNW. On the face of it, it sounded promising. But I was apprehensive. I mean I was already down and then I do a film where the butt of the jokes is on me. What if things get messed up at the execution level? However, I have been brought up with the attitude that ‘No risk, no reward’. I also asked, ‘What do I have to lose?’”
Zayed described the writing process and said, “When I read the first script, I could see that the writers (Aseem Merchant, Mohit Srivastava and Kavin Dave) had a lot of reservations about not trying to hurt me too much! I told them to push the envelope. I was ready to be the butt of all jokes. I told them, ‘If you feel some jokes are going to hurt my sentiments, make it f*****g funny while you do so’! That’s when they cleared their feathers out and came back with another draft. From here on, the writing went to another crazy level.”
Zayed is all praises for Aseem Merchant, “I’d like to make a special mention of Aseem and his daughter Sasha. They both are an incredible team. They made a blind bet by signing me. I want to also specially mention Mohit Srivastava, the director. He is very sound technically and never bogged down under pressure. The whole unit was like one big happy family. So overall, it was a great journey. I discovered so much about myself all over again.”
Zayed then explains why he’s so confident about TFTNW, “We had a focus group screening. It had 100 people from the ages of 10 to 90 years old and different walks of life. My kids also attended the screening. Their response blew us! My kids watched it 7 times. They have never seen any of my films 7 times besides probably Main Hoon Na (2004)! Every time we’ll have a focus screening, they’ll ask me, ‘Papa, can we watch it again?’. I asked, ‘Do you really want to watch it or are you saying it to make me feel good?’. But they assured me that they loved the film.”
Zayed Khan signed off by saying, “It was so heartening to see not just children but even teenagers, the elderly, and middle-aged people – all loving TFTNW. It’s very hard to achieve this feat. We are all gearing up for the final phase, that is marketing, PR etc.”