It’s hardly a surprise that Salman Khan chose to remake superhit Korean film Ode to My Father, a tearjerker with a selfless hero who always keeps family at the forefront and nation not too far behind. Khan saw potential in playing a hero who battles innumerable hardships in his lifetime and wins over hearts by the end of it. He relied on one filmmaker who could tell this epic tale with the emotional resonance of the original. His name: Ali Abbas Zafar.I was finishing the first draft of Tiger Zinda Hai when he called and said watch this film, said Zafar. The writer-director of Sultan did and he was impressed enough to finally do his first film outside the Yash Raj Films banner. The way Salman works is almost like a family, said Zafar. That’s how even Yash Raj [Films] works. You need production support to realise your vision. You have creative liberty to do what you want to do. I had that from writing to executing it.Here’s one thing Zafar will tell you about Bharat. It’s his most emotional story to-date. It’s like making seven short films. Every chapter has a beginning, middle or end, he adds. Through it audiences see various shades of Bharat played by Salman. Katrina Kaif, who filled in last minute after Priyanka Chopra walked out, has an instrumental part, one which requires her to exercise her thespian talent more than terpsichorean one. Kumud in the truest way is the soul of the film, said Zafar. She is the only person who keeps showing the mirror to Bharat.advertisementZafar is all praise for the actress who is also a dear friend. Kaif acted in Zafar’s directorial debut Mere Brother Ki Dulhan. What Katrina has brought to the table is phenomenal. The role has much more spark, said Zafar. It superseded my expectation of what I wrote on paper. Her performance has a lot of theraav [sobriety] and patience.Zafar’s last two films Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai both crossed the Rs 300 crore mark at the box office in India. He doesn’t have a formula for success but what he does prize is a diktat from his sports coach in school: If you run with the person who is running against you, you will never win. You have to run for yourself. It essentially implies that Zafar should be the best version of himself. When I came to Mumbai I was clear that I am not going to run in this race that my film will be better than the others, he added. I do the best I can.This approach has worked, earning him Khan’s trust (We are a little more comfortable with each other) and his films including Gundayfaring well with audiences. What it hasn’t done though is make Zafar a popular, recognisable director in the league of Rajkumar Hirani, Rohit Shetty, Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Zafar couldn’t care less. In fact he’s even willing to laugh over his lowkey presence among paparazzi. I go to Soho House and Bastian [popular joints among celebrities] but I don’t get clicked there. Ninety per cent of the time people don’t know me, he laughed. I have walked out with Katrina and Salman in certain places and the photographers have said, Aap side ho jaaiye [Please move away]. So I go sit in my car. I am more than OK with that. Till the time I am getting to do what I love [making films] I am happy.Up next for Zafar is a gig as a showrunner for an Amazon Prime original of which he may direct a few episodes. It’s an idea that I have wanted to do for a long time, he says. But what’s going to excite Salman Khan fans is the fact that he’s cracked a story for Tiger 3, he adds.