Director and writer Anees Bazmee spoke to Guardian 20 about what triggered his interest in scriptwriting. He also touched upon various other topics—from his love for the comedy genre to his upcoming film, Pagalpanti.
Q. You started your career in the Hindi film industry as a child artiste in Kitaab (1977), Bhayanak(1979) and Naseeb(1981) among others. How did the shift to scriptwriting happen?
A. I started my career as a child artiste, only to realise later that my place is behind the camera, which I was most curious about and had an interest in. I worked in various departments, like art and editing. I also assisted reputed directors like Raj Kapoor. I was simultaneously writing as well. I received a lot of encouragement from industry legends for the same. That was when I decided to write films. My father was a poet. I believe that I got it from him. I wrote a film called Swarg . It had actors like Rajesh Khanna and Govinda and it proved to be a big blockbuster. It was followed by films like Shola Aur Shabnam ,Bol Radha Bol , Ladla , Aankhen  and many more.
Q. So as a writer, you were inspired by your father, Abdul Hameed ‘Nerang’ Bazmee, who has also written some great poems?
A. Yes, my interest in writing has definitely come from my father. He used to write a lot of poems and shayari that was a part of our lives as we grew up. He made sure that I heard all the poems and understood the meaning of each and every word even as a child.
Q. You have worked with Raj Kapoor as an assistant director in Prem Rogin 1982. Any memories from that time that you like to share?
A. My experience of assisting Raj Sahab in Prem Roghas left a big mark in my life. I have learned a lot from him. He used to breathe cinema, which inspired me to make films. His passion for filmmaking was unmatched. It made me work harder.
Q. As a scriptwriter and filmmaker, what are your thoughts on the way stories are written and narrated these days? And how different is it from the time you first started out in the 1990s?
A. Change is the only constant in our lives. Not only writing but everything else has changed, too. I believe in the ’90s audiences were a little naïve, so the scripts were written accordingly. Every minute detail of the scene had to be explained and made clear. However, now the audience has a lot of content available on various platforms and is informed and aware. So scripts are written considering today’s time. I have always written according to the time and need of the audience. But my writing has always come from my heart. A film written with heart and emotions will touch the audiences’ hearts.
Q. You seem to be more comfortable with the comedy genre if we look at the kinds of films you have been associated with in recent years. Films like No Entry , Welcome  and Mubarakan among others are a testament to that. Does writing comedy come naturally to you?
A. I love writing comedy films. Today, everyone has their own issues, difficulties. So what better than making people forget their worries and give them a good 2.5 hours of laughter? To be honest, I have made a lot of films of different genres, too. For instance, a romantic comedy like Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha , a suspense thriller like Deewangee  and many more that have proved to be massive box-office hits. But comedy comes naturally to me. It does not require much effort since in real life, too, I like humour and I want to see people around me happy. I am stereotyped as a filmmaker who only makes comedy films but I take that as a compliment. Having said that, I have made films in various genres and I wish to do the same in the future.
Q. What do you think was the turning point in your career?
A. There have been three turning points in my life and they have come with three films, all belonging to different genres. First was Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha,which got me a lot of appreciation. Second was Deewangee, a suspense thriller. I remember the industry people telling me how well I managed to pull this film off. It also changed the perception of people about me. The third one was No Entry. Everybody believes that making a comedy film is an easy task and does not require directions but I feel making a comedy film is an extremely difficult job, especially, with an ensemble cast. No Entry gave me a lot of recognition and proved to be a game-changer for me. Everybody said Anees has arrived and this will stay with me forever.
Q. You have been a part of the industry for more than three decades now. Does it get difficult keeping up with the times and current trends?
A. Making a film is a challenge on its own. One has to be updated and in sync with the times in order to keep up with the present generation and trends. I try to keep up with the generation by trying to find out what they want and understand their mindset. I also try to learn the current slangs. My whole crew is a young and extremely talented team, which not only helps get young energy but also eliminates the generation gap. My crew is like my family and friend. They can talk to me anytime and about anything. We all grow together here.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming film, Pagalpanti?
A. Pagalpanti,as the title suggests, is madness and a larger-than-life film. It has every element of entertainment, from romance and comedy to action, songs and tragedy. As they say, it’s a hardcore commercial masala film. The star cast is amazingly talented. John [Abraham], Anil [Kapoor], Ileana [D’ Cruz], Arshad [Warsi], Pulkit [Samrat], Kriti [Kharbanda], Urvashi [Rautela], Saurabh Shukla, Zakir Hussain, Mukesh Tiwari, Ashok Samarth, Vijendra Kale, Inam ul Haq and many more. And each actor is just perfect for their parts. It is going to be a laughter riot. I hope people enjoy the film.
Q. You seem to share quite a bond with Anil Kapoor. Tell us about your equation with him and how you complement each other’s style with your filmmaking and his acting?
A. I have known Anil Kapoor since the time I was assisting Raj Kapoor Sahab. I have also written a few of his films, like Ladla. He always told me that I would make a good director and when I finally worked with him as a director, it was a great experience. He is an exceptional actor and also a very humble human being. He is someone who does a lot research and reads his scripts well. We are great friends and we always have a ball of a time while shooting together.
We complement each other’s working style very well. Our bond is very special. He understands what I require from him as an actor and vice versa.
Q. What’s next after Pagalpanti?
A. After PagalpantiI have a few films lined up. Aankhein 2with [Amitabh] Bachchan Sahab; a rom-com with Kartik Aryan; and then there is a Hindi remake of the Telugu film Fun and Frustration, where Boney [Kapoor] Sahab is the producer.