Bollywood's most awaited franchise, 'Tiger Zinda Hai', a tale of two spies -- one Indian and the other Pakistani -- is largely a story about humanity, says director Ali Abbas Zafar, who feels handling sensitive topics can be a "double-edged" sword these days.
Even at the best of times, tackling a movie based on two rival nations India and Pakistan can be tricky. How did he handle it?
"The film is a very human story... it is not political at all. The idea is that when there is a fight between right and wrong, what is at stake is humanity. And there's nothing bigger than humanity," Zafar told IANS over phone from Mumbai.
Given the current times, there's a question mark on the creative freedom of filmmakers in India, especially when it comes to sensitive topics. What does he have to say on that?
"It's a double-edged sword," he said.
"As a filmmaker and a creative person, I need to be sensitive to what is happening around me. I always personally think that no matter what happens, everything can be solved through dialogue. We should not take ourselves too seriously. At the end of it, it is a film... We work because of our conviction... at the same time it should not offend anyone."
"Tiger Zinda Hai" is the sequel to the 2012 actioner "Ek Tha Tiger", which was directed by Kabir Khan. The film featured superstar Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif as Indian and Pakistani agents, and the two stars are back on-screen after five years in the same roles.
Working on the sequel, produced by Yash Raj Films, has been challenging for Zafar.
"But we are hopeful that the second part is going to live up to expectations. The story is the most important aspect of the film. Of course, Salman and Katrina are there. Both of them came on board after hearing the story, and they said that irrespective of whether it was a sequel or not, we had to do the film," he said.
"Both of them are so comfortable with each other off-screen that as soon as a little bit padding from a scene or song happens, their chemistry blooms on camera. I think that is an asset for a director because I don't need to push for it too much."
Zafar describes Salman as a "director's actor".
"He has given me what I have required from him and he has worked really hard to make the film look a certain way," he added of the film, which is said to be laced by some stunning action sequences.
The film's visual appeal itself will be enhanced by the picturesque destinations in Austria, Greece, Morocco, Abu Dhabi and India, where it has been shot.
Admitting that it is a "big budget" film, Zafar said: "I don't know the exact number. But it is bigger than 'Sultan' (his last film). We were very clear -- both Aditya Chopra and I -- that a story like this can only look real and authentic if we pay attention to the details and for that you need a certain amount of budget."