Tiger Zinda Hai marks Ali Abbas Zafar’s second collaboration with both Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif, and the director said that he is under tremendous pressure as the film readies for release, for many reasons. “There is a lot of pressure, obviously, because it is such a big film with huge stars like Salman and Katrina, and then it is a franchise. I also have the added baggage of Sultan,” said Ali immediately after the trailer launch of his much-awaited sequel to the spy thriller Ek Tha Tiger.
“However, we have made an effort to tell a story based on a real life event, which you can understand from the trailer,” he added. As can be inferred from the trailer, Salman and Katrina are on a mission to rescue a group of nurses who have been held captive by a terrorist outfit, loosely based on the 2014 incident involving Indian nurses who were held hostage by the Islamic State.
Ali Abbas had earlier assisted director Kabir Khan on Ek Tha Tiger, which was a blockbuster success of 2012. However, Ali said that when he wrote the story of Tiger Zinda Hai, it wasn’t meant as a sequel. In fact, it began life as a separate story altogether. “It was only when I felt that the story was worth being told that I decided to take it further. There were two intelligence agents in my story and then we already had this film where Salman and Katrina were agents, so we decided to merge those agents in this story and then it became a story of two characters people already know,” he explained.
“When Salman, Katrina and Aditya (Chopra) heard the story, they found it exciting and only then did we think of taking the Tiger franchise ahead,” said Ali, adding, “Tiger Zinda Hai is very different from Ek Tha Tiger. The first part was romantic but this is the story of a mission. In the earlier part, you saw Salman and Katrina’s characters as lovers but in this you will see them as agents. The scale and action sequences are more real and gritty. The film talks about many important and current events which are affecting us.”
Talking about working with Salman for the second time, Ali said, “We share a great relationship and we work together very well. Also, he is such a big superstar and there is a certain way people like to present him… the way he is perceived. So between us, we have an understanding that I look at him in the way lot of people want to see him. He is the quintessential hero who can be real; he is not a superman. He is real but at the same time he can do what we want him to do, especially on screen.”
Ali Abbas says Katrina is a close friend, and he didn’t have a tough time convincing either her or Salman to do the film. “Both of them reacted very strongly to the story. The way cinema is progressing, we are going more for realism. We want to tell real stories that people have heard or want to see. So when Salman and Katrina heard the story about the rescue mission…what happened to those captured nurses in those 10 days… they were very keen to do this film. It is a completely fictional film we have written around that event,” said the director.
When asked about shooting in extreme weather conditions, and across various destinations in Austria, Greece, Morocco, Abu Dhabi and India, Ali replied in jest: “I can only say that the kind of abuses Salman hurled at me, I can’t share in public [laughs out loud]. He keeps telling me that I push him too much. Even in Sultan I made him do so much and shot in difficult places. But he knows what we are trying to do, and when you see those snow boarding sequences, shot when the temperature around us was at minus 23 degrees, on the big screen, you’ll understand.”