"The moment you get too big for your boots, people will give you a kick on your posterior" : Sajid Khan

On the tube, a show that he anchors Ikke-Pe-Ikka has crossed many a milestone and now he is hosting another show Sab Kuch Ho Sakta Hai on Sab TV along with Suresh Menon. He is also directing a series for Ram Gopal Verma's film. He has interviews scheduled back to back all day, followed by an overseas tour in the next few hours. All this, after he has completed radio shows. Did we mention that he had a late night yesterday?

Who said being in the entertainment industry was easy? And the expectation are even more when you are a hi-profile choreographer-turned-director's brother.

At his palatial flat in Juhu, the jocular Sajid Khan gets a trifle serious with indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani.



You have proved that you have a penchant for mimicry and acting. But you never pursued acting. Why?

I have been comfortable staging the odd act. But honestly speaking, I never wanted to be typecast. Today, actors are known by the characters they play. Someone like Pankaj Kapur, for instance, is still remembered as Karamchand. I have a different perspective; I want people to remember me, not any character that I played. I wanted to make it big as Sajid Khan.




But your entry hasn't exactly been smooth sailing.

(Laughs) The first show I did was Main Bhi Detective. Disaster would be an understatement as I remember the flak I, in particular, had received for this show. Critics had written me off. I often read articles, which said that I should be banned.

While I accept all criticism gracefully, I believe that a player is just a minuscule part of the game. Criticism should be directed at the game and not the player. The show was extremely amateurish in concept. Especially after the resounding success of Saap Seedi, the audience must have expected a lot more. The critics always kept reminding the public that I was a guy, who accepted a disaster Main Bhi Detective and rejected a blockbuster like Antakshari.



You rejected Antakshari? No kidding.

I'm serious! As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to establish my own identity. And when I was offered to host Antakshari, I immediately realised that the show is an outright winner - fantastic conceptualisation, lavish sets, great strategy. But the pressure of if I would be able to do justice to such an amazing concept or not got to me. I developed cold feet and refused it. But Annu Kapoor has done a fantastic job. He is someone who is just effortless. Whether it's acting or singing, he is at ease.


But then the audience realised that humour is your forte?

The turning point was a call from Kailash Gandhi. He offered me Ikke Pe Ikka on Zee Cinema. It was a resounding success and was followed by another hit show Kehne Mein Kya Harz Hai, which was basically a spoof-based show.


Why wasn't your third show 'Sajid No. 1' as successful. Why do you think that happened especially since your two earlier comedies shows had hit the jackpot?

After Kehne Mein Kya Harz Hai, the audience was expecting another spoof, I guess, while Sajid No. 1 was basically a show with a plenty of bedroom humour. It was something on the lines of Bottoms Up, with English jokes involving plenty of puns.

The language was a barrier. But something that irked me was the title. I was quite embarrassed by the title. I thought it sounded too high and mighty. But that was the phase when the 'No. 1' trend had started. I gave them the idea to spoof the title in the song. But the moment you get too big for your boots, the people will give you a kick on your posterior. I am sure that just like me, many others would also have been put off by the title.


After 'Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate', you stopped acting?

Because the offers that came were horrendous. I preferred to stick to my 'standup' comedy.

"The act of making an audience laugh is like facing a boxer whom you have never boxed against"

What are the basic criteria required to succeed as a standup comedian?

The people either need to like your eyes, your smile, your voice, your style - any one thing. You need atleast one USP.


And your USP is…?

Hmmm… my interactive nature. That, and also the fact that I prefer not to stick to the same, old cliché humour. I experiment and try my best to dish out something new. Pray that it stays that way.


Despite being successful, you have had a negative aura around your image. Comment.

Well, I think that's the price you pay for speaking your mind. I call a spade a spade and so, I guess, I often come across as brash and arrogant.


So do you get any hate mail?

I used to get it. Not any more. People have accepted me for what I am. They know that I basically just indulge in pulling people's leg. Does anybody now say that Salman Khan has not worn a shirt?


You have the unique ability of making people laugh. What is it about humour that it is so difficult to make people laugh?

The crux is that just like everything else, in humour too, different people have different tastes. In certain sections, vulgar jokes are a hit, in others, they enjoy wry, subtle and classy humour. Then, some sections enjoy slapstick comedy. That's the reason you have to keep experimenting.

Anybody who claims that he has prepared an entire standup comedy show, complete with a bound script beforehand, is a fool. The act of making an audience laugh is like facing a boxer whom you have never boxed against.


And what if the audience is not responding appreciatively to your jokes?

That's exactly why I said that working by a bound script is unwise. You have to change the track. I have always maintained that doing a live comedy show is 30 per cent preparation and 70 per cent spontaneity.

You need to have this huge bank of one-liners stored in your memory and use them to break the monotony now and then. And also, you need to attempt to find the pulse of the audience.

When I go for shows abroad, I travel across different countries. How can the people in LA react the same way as the people of Manchester? In Canada, there are more Punjus (Punjabis). In New York, there are more Gujjus (Gujaratis). Ditto for different cities in India. Someone who just stands and rattles off joke after joke won't be as liked as a person, who interacts with the audience and involves them too. You actually have to be one of the people and not just pretend that way.

It is always better that you are not a six-foot Greek God. Average lookers would always make better standup comedians and I, for that matter, come in the below-average category (laughs). Another important quality of someone, who wants to make people laugh, is being able to laugh at oneself.


But what is your take on standup comedians getting into trouble? The recent Shekhar Suman-Shakti Kapoor controversy being one of the instances…

That's the most difficult part about humour. Humour always tends to affect the sensibilities and sensitivities of people. In standup comedy especially, the joke is usually targeted at a certain person and it depends on that person how he takes the joke. But the key is subtlety.

It is an art wherein you make your point and yet do not offend the target. For example, if I have to comment on Govinda's clothes, instead of a rude statement like "Chi Chi looked like a clown", I would rather comment "Chi Chi, you were looking good, but who on earth designed your clothes? Calvin Clown?"

I cannot comment on the Shekhar-Shakti controversy as I have no idea about it, though I must say that Shekhar is fabulous at his work, simply the best. And then, in India, you cannot avoid controversy. You are not supposed to joke about politics, religion is a no-no as well. Sex is another thing we cannot joke about. But pray tell me, what isn't it shown in films and television. So eventually what on earth are you supposed to joke about? (Shrugs).


So do you mean that you, Shekhar and other similar artistes would have done better abroad?

Maybe yes and maybe no. For all you know, we may never have got a chance abroad. It's a very hypothetical question. It's easy to say that there are more opportunities and scope abroad. But the real game begins when you land there.

Haven't several people returned to their roots unsuccessful in almost every sphere of life? I won't crib because I feel it's extremely immature to blame your country for what you are. Many youngsters today feel that they would have been better off had they been abroad, but what I want to tell these youngsters is that they should be thankful to their country for bringing them from nowhere to where they are now.

"I call a spade a spade and so, I guess, I often come across as brash and arrogant"

Going to Shah Rukh Khan on stage. Do you think it has been fair on his part to have made digs at so many people in the industry, courtesy the recent award functions?

I don't know why people made such an issue of it. Shah Rukh entered the industry with a lot of brashness. Pre Deewana, he said in an interview that he is a much better actor than Dilip Kumar. Along the way, he lost that hard-hitting negativity. I think he came to the forefront again with Filmfare.


You spoke about Punjus and Gujjus being a part of your audience overseas. Do white men come to see your show?

Not many. They prefer seeing Britney Spears (laughs).


Abroad, there are schools teaching stand-up comedy. We have nothing of that sort here…

I am not going to complain about that. If you are a journalist, that's because there's a journalistic streak in you. You want to find out about other people's lives (laughs). Tell me, how many journalists have done a course in journalism?


Factors you weigh before taking up an assignment?

If I get to know you well in the next ten days and we gel with each other, I am ready to act in your show. I think that I have answered your question!

I would rather be a Survivor than a Super Star (smiles).


Does Indian television have enough laughter?

As I told you, we have inhibitions about cracking humour on politics, religion and sex. Thus, Indian television is quite weepy. And I am yet to come across a person, who says that he hasn't experienced any stress during a given day. Sad state of affairs, actually.


Whom do you idolise?

Nobody can beat Groucho Marx. Kishore Kumar would come second, Kader Khan a close third. I can never forget Khan Saab's dialogues - so stupid but yet so witty and whacky.


How did direction happen? How was it directing a portion of Ram Gopal Varma's forthcoming 'Darna Zaroori Hai'?

I always had an urge to direct a film. I've one of the largest personal collections of DVDs and have been following the finer points and nuances, discussed after every Hollywood film on the DVD.

Ramuji approached me for a role in one of the segments of Darna Zaroori Hai. I wasn't comfortable acting and suggested a story which I have been thinking about. He, without much ado, asked me to direct it. My whole point of view towards directors has changed. Earlier I didn't know what a director meant.


He offered you a film, despite you making some uncharitable remarks about his films 'Daud'...

I've always been honest in my annotations and Ramuji appreciates honesty and understands and appreciates humour. Hypocrisy doesn't work in the long run. Why do you bypass the fact that I showered praises on his Rangeela and Satya?


What next on these lines?

I am ready with two scripts, an out-and-out comedy and an out-and-out action film. I have signed up with a producer whose identity I cannot reveal until he makes a formal announcement. We start with our first project next year. For the action flick, I would prefer having Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgan.


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