Coming to actors, was Irrfan Khan an automatic choice for the role originally played by Tom Cruise in 'Collateral'?
Yes, he was our immediate choice. While we were doing screenplay, we wanted to have the faces ready behind the characters. When it came to the character of the killer, Hasnain mentioned Irrfan Khan and I said "Wow, let's go for it"! For the role of cabbie, we thought of Emraan. Then we approached Bhatt saab with the screenplay and he said, "What a rocking screenplay! Can we have Irrfan play the killer?" To his surprise, we said we have already thought of it while for Emraan too he readily agreed for the cabby’s role. This is how the principal starcast was formulated.
How about Nisha Kothari who had earlier been working only with the RGV camp?
Well, in case of Nisha, it was just the case of her being at the right place at the right time. Earlier the name of Meera [who had made her debut with 'Nazar'] was brought in but while developing the screenplay, we realized that the need was for someone slightly younger and fresh. Bhatt saab agreed and gave a go ahead to search for another girl. It so happened that Nisha had come to Mukesh Bhatt's office to discuss about any prospects for her in Vishesh Films. As luck would have it, we were in the adjoining room with Mahesh Bhatt and Mukeshji just walked in. He asked that since we were looking for a new face in 'The Killer', why don't we just walk over to his room to have a look at a visitor. We saw Nisha and it was all over in 5 minutes. The girl was ON!
How long did the film take to complete?
Approximately 7 months since its inception. The actual shoot took 55 days while the pre-production too around 3 months. We shot for 5-6 days in Mumbai in December and then proceeded to Dubai for around 30-35 days stint. Then again for around 10 days we were in Mumbai to shoot the film's climax. The film's running length is 2 hours 5 minutes, something that suits the thriller genre quite well.
There have been number of films shot in Dubai before. So what is it something new about Dubai that the audience would see in 'The Killer'?
While we were writing 'The Killer', we had it clear in our mind that the film's setting would be in Dubai. It's a place that we had picked up at the very beginning since the city is so good to be cinematically captured. See, ours is not a romantic film and instead is a thriller. It belongs to a road genre, something that is rarely attempted, and most of our film is shot in the night. You would be amazed to see the way Dubai looks at night because generally what you have seen about Dubai is romantic numbers set in eye candy locations. We never attempted to capture something different on camera but it has just happened in the final print!
What sort of target audience do you have in mind?
Ours is a commercial film with lots of 'masala' and 'masti' and hence the target audience ranges from 15 to 50 years [laughs]! Emraan is a popular star and while earlier his popularity was primarily limited to single screen theatres, the success of 'Gangster' has proved that he can now pull in multiplex crowds as well. This shows that whether it is a A, B or a C center, 'The Killer' has enough scope to get the audience in.
Finally, what's the USP of the film, if any!
Yes, there is indeed a USP of the film and that is the chemistry shared between Irrfan and Emraan. There was a certain element of it that was missing in 'Collateral' but in 'The Killer', I believe we have been able to recreate the Tom & Jerry kind of chemistry. In fact it was just a delight to see them interacting in the film that we would use to tease them about getting married! We have gone with their images and they are pretty much playing themselves. Also it helps to have the two together since Irrfan is an actor par excellence while Emraan is a natural to the core. So there you see! Also people who have seen the two during trials have gone wow with their performances. It's a nice film with a lot of dark humor from beginning to end. People were clapping while the trial was on and I am sure you would hear a lot of them as well when the film releases. Take my words!