Director Vipul Shah never expected that his directorial debut, Aankhen (2002), starring Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal, Paresh Rawal and Sushmita Sen, would be a massive hit at the box office. It was the second highest grossing Bollywood film of 2002. As the film completes 15 years today, the director shares his memories of Aakhen. Excerpts from the interview:
The film had two endings. What made you do that?
Basically, we weren’t sure if people would accept the ending, which showed Big B was on the loose. When we held a screening of the film with the original ending, there was a lot of debate around that. So I asked him (Bachchan) if he wanted to change the ending, and wanted it to be more conventional. He liked the original ending. But I wasn’t sure, and after thinking for a long time, I changed it, just for the Indian theatres. Although I don’t regret anything, I do believe, in my heart, that people would have loved the original ending.
In the film, we see that Paresh Rawal’s character is tickled to death by Big B’s character. How did you come up with that idea?
My nephew was three years old that time. I used to tickle him, because he had a wonderful laughter and I loved that. One day, I tickled him too much, and he got breathless. From there, I got the idea that if someone was tickled uncontrollably, they could lose their life. So, from there, I asked my writer to use it in the story. And I remember, I was in a theatre, [and] there was pin drop silence, after he (Paresh) got killed.
Did you ever expect the film, your directorial debut, to do so well?
That time (the early 2000s) was quite interesting for Bollywood, because a lot of interesting stories were being made then. People were surprised when they learnt that Amitabh was the antagonist, and Akshay Kumar had no heroine in the film, and the industry had its bets that the film would not work. But I was sure that it would do well, because I had made a play on a similar story, which was appreciated by people from all over the country.
Did you expect it to become the second highest grossing Bollywood film in 2002?
No. In fact, I did not know about the numbers until I directed Namastey London (2007). I knew it had done well, and people had really liked the concept. But I never cared about the numbers, and didn’t bother to find out about it from others. When I was shooting for Namastey London, someone told me that it was the second highest grosser that year, and it was brilliant.
When did you first realise that the film had become a hit?
When there were rumours that Hollywood was interested in picking up the film. There were rumours that [actor] Robert De Niro was interested in the script, but for some reason, a deal couldn’t be struck. For someone to hear that their debut film was being taken by Hollywood was a big compliment.
Did you know?
1. The film had two endings; the makers felt that the Indian audience will not fathom Amitabh Bachchan’s character not getting justice. Hence the ending for the Indian audience had Amitabh repenting and being locked away by the police, the moralistic ending. The overseas ending shows Amitabh on the loose, having bribed the police, and chasing Akshay Kumar and Arjun Rampal.
2. The original title of the movie was All The Best, but while in production, the filmmakers decided to change it to a Hindi title, believing that an English title wouldn’t be so appealing to the Indian audience.
3. Actor Shreyas Talpade, best known for the film Iqbal (2005), makes an uncredited one-scene appearance in Aankhen as the tea shop vendor.
4. Towards the completion of the project, the director and producer (Gaurang Joshi) had a major fallout, after which they decided never to work with each other again. After this unpleasant working relation with the producer, Vipul Shah decided to turn producer himself and went on to direct and produce Waqt with Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.
5. Amitabh returned to negative roles with this film, after playing a villain many years ago in Parwana (1971) and Gehri Chaal (1973) and to some extent in Don (1978).
6. Aankhen was based on a Gujarati play that Vipul Shah had worked on before making the film. The play was titled Andhalo Pato.
7. The producers wanted the title Aankh Micholi, but that title was registered with another producer.
8. Akshaye Khanna was heavily considered for Arjun Rampal’s role.
1. Sach kalpana se bhi zyada vichitra hota hai: Amitabh Bachchan
2. Tumhari kamzori hi tumhari sabse badi taqat hai: Sushmita Sen
3. Sach ka nakaab pehne huye kuch namumkin kisse, aahista aahista wakehi sach ban jaate hai: Amitabh Bachchan
4. Wah re saali kismat, tu kaisi hai re bala; ek Majnu banke behta doosra Ranjha banne chala: Paresh Rawal
5. Tu hai aag, main hoon shola; aaja meri Coca-Cola: Paresh Rawal
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