Nikhil Advani made his debut as a director with Kal Ho Naa Ho 14 years ago.
Nikhil Advani made his debut as a director with Kal Ho Naa Ho 14 years ago.

14 years of Kal Ho Naa Ho: Nikhil Advani understands Karan Johar’s regret of not directing the film himself

Director Nikhil Advani, who made his directors debut with Kal Ho Naa Ho, says filmmaker Karan Johar underestimated himself and later decided not to direct the film starring Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan.
By Samarth Goyal | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2017 01:09 PM IST

Although it was a dream debut for filmmaker Nikhil Advani, 14 years ago, when he helmed the romantic drama Kal Ho Naa Ho, he understands producer Karan Johar’s regret of not directing the film himself, chronicled in his book — An Unsuitable Boy. .

“I don’t blame him for regretting it. He wrote it from his heart. But, I think, he underestimated himself, and he thought that he won’t be able to do justice to it. Now when he says that, I feel his pain,” says Nikhil Advani.

According to Nikhil, the film had a unique concept, not explored much before. “It wasn’t a film about Aman and Naina (played by Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta respectively) or Rohit and Naina (Saif Ali Khan played the role of Rohit). It was about the friendship that Aman and Rohit shared. It was about a guy, suffering from a terminal disease, who couldn’t confess his feelings to his beloved but knows that his friend, loves the same woman and will be able to take care of her. It’s how he tries to get them together. None had attempted to make a film on those lines, and that’s why it was so successful,” says the filmmaker, rejecting the plot’s similarity with the film Anand (1971), starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. “No it isn’t. If anything, it’s similar to Rajesh Khanna’s Safar (1970) to some extent. The only thing similar is that, in both the films, the protagonists (SRK and Rajesh Khanna) knew that they were going to die and so they decided to enjoy each and every moment of their lives.”

However, Nikhil believes that the film’s success is due to the cumulative effort of the crew and not his alone. “It was a complete effort. From Karan Johar creating an extremely democratic working environment to actors being absolutely professional, everything was great. Even the music deserves a lot of credit. I personally feel Kal Ho Naa Ho was one of the best albums composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy,” he says.

DID YOU KNOW

Director Nikhil Advani also shared a few things about the film that you probably didn’t know:

1. Shah Rukh Khan almost pulled out of the project:

After the first four days of the shoot in Mumbai, SRK fell ill. He called Karan and said, ‘I think I won’t be able to do it’. But Nikhil told Karan to wait for Shah Rukh Khan to recover and the shoot began after six months.

Shah Rukh Khan almost pulled out of the film.
Shah Rukh Khan almost pulled out of the film.

2. Kal Ho Naa Ho’s tune was composed in German Bakery, Pune:

Loy Mendosa came up with the original tune of the film’s title track Kal Ho Naa Ho at the German Bakery.
Loy Mendosa came up with the original tune of the film’s title track Kal Ho Naa Ho at the German Bakery.

Nikhil and Loy (Mendosa) were sitting at the German Bakery, Pune and the filmmaker was humming the song, My Heart will Go On, because he wanted a similar song in terms of music for the film. And Loy came up with the tune that he recorded in his phone. Thereafter, Shankar (Mahadevan) and Ehsaan (Noorani) listened to it , and came up with the entire song.

3. Nikhil Advani was criticised for not showing a traditional death scene:

Nikhil Advani says he received a lot of flak for this scene.
Nikhil Advani says he received a lot of flak for this scene.

Film critic Komal Nahata called up Nikhil and had said, “How can you show death with such irreverence?” To this, Nikhil had replied, “I show everything with irreverence.” Even Shah Rukh wasn’t convinced about the scene. Nikhil, who didn’t want to show death on screen, said, “We wanted to show that Aman is still alive. So, in the final scene, after years later, Naina is shown talking to Jia, about Aman.”

4. The film was supposed to be shot in Toronto:

The film was initially decided to be shot in Toronto, Canada.
The film was initially decided to be shot in Toronto, Canada.

The film was initially set in Toronto. But later, the shooting location was moved to New York.

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