“Bajrangi Bhaijaan” is Kabir Khan’s most loved film and it is also that one movie he has watched maximum number of times thanks to his daughter who loves to catch it during its multiple TV runs. Children love the message of unity that the film tries to convey in the guise of an India-Pakistan drama, which is what Khan said he set out to do by casting Bollywood superstar Salman Khan as a simple-minded Hanuman devotee, Pawan, who crosses path with a mute girl, Munni, from Pakistan after she strays accidently into India. Kabir said the strength of the film was that it was greatly enjoyed by children.
Rest of the story of the much-loved blockbuster, which completes five years on Friday, revolves around Pawan's, also known as Bajrangi, (Salman) attempts to unite the child, played by Harshali Malhotra, with her parents across the border.
There is a fairytale element to the story, which is a cross-border drama about the neighbouring countries on the surface, but also a metaphor for the artificial boundaries that people put up around them, Khan said.
"When I was writing the film, it was not about cross-border. It was about the borders that we put within our country. The first half is about his (Salman) prejudices about a different religion; it is about how we as human beings put artificial boundaries and segregate people on artificial lines,” Kabir told PTI in an interview.
"It is all unnatural whether it is (on the basis of) religion or caste or nationality. These are man-made boundaries that we have put up,” he added.
The director, who grew up admiring the composite culture of the country and still believes it to be an intrinsic part of India, said “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” was his response to the growing religious discrimination.
The film was lauded for its sensitive portrayal of India-Pakistan relations, while retaining its sharp political commentary.
The filmmaker said he believes common people from both the countries—India and Pakistan— should not let politicians or politics hamper the love and peace between them.
"Unfortunately, we get swayed by the politics of two countries. Politicians will always be hostile and they will play this game for thousands and thousands of years.
"But politics should not come into the life of a common man. Why should we carry the hostility and burden of politicians and unnecessarily start hating people whether it is of different communities or nationalities. That is what basically the film was talking about," he added.
As a filmmaker, Kabir said "Bajrangi.." was a reflection of what he had observed in the society around him.
"There is sad polarisation that is happening in our society, the unnecessary division of people on the lines of religion. It is definitely not what India stands for. We have to celebrate what India stands for. One of the strengths of India is its composite culture. It is inherent, you cannot take it away," he said.
"'Bajrangi...' is a reaction to the fact that polarisation has happened more and more and I felt I needed to address that in my film," he added.
As a politically-aware filmmaker, Kabir said he cannot make a film without a social or political context.
"All of us have some politics in us and we look at the world in a certain way and we react to it (accordingly). Politics is not about which party to vote for, that is a very narrow way of looking at it. Politics is about the way we look and react to the world," the Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University alumnus said.
Kabir further said all his films have a certain tone -- either fairytale, fantasy, real or logical. With "Bajrangi...", he wanted to create "fairytale-ish" quality about a man of good heart.
"Bajrangi Bhaijaan" opens with the shots of snow-clad mountains. For the film’s climax, Khan created India-Pakistan border in Sonmarg, Jammu and Kashmir with around 7,000 people. Kabir said as it was a Salman-starrer, the end needed a grand setting.
"This is the fairytale part of the film. It is where you want people from both the countries to come together. In reality, that’s not possible. But in the film, I was trying to show the goodness in people so the Pakistani guard steps back, seeing the huge number of the common people and allows them to break the fence for Pawan to enter India.
Talking about the casting of the film, Kabir said Salman as Pawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Chand Nawab were his initial and only choices.
When writer K V Vijendra Prasad, who wrote the story, brought the idea to Kabir for developing the screenplay, he wanted Salman as “he has this magical connection with children and if I can capture that with Munni, it will fly and I also know that Salman feels strongly about the politics of the film”.