On April 29, 1988, 23-year-old
made a successful Bollywood debut with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT). One would feel that he must have been ecstatic that time owing to the overwhelming response to his first film. But as it completes 27 years on Wednesday, the actor recalls how he actually experienced the "weakest stage" of his life in the first two years following QSQT’s release.
Recently, you told HT that after QSQT’s success, you made some bad film choices.
At the time, I felt I was working with people I couldn’t connect with. I didn’t know how to get out of that situation. I had committed to some films, so I couldn’t have gotten out of doing them. I did those movies, but I was unhappy. At that traumatic time, I made a promise to myself to not do a film till I was satisfied (with the script).
Was that a low point in your career?
Within the first two years of QSQT, I experienced the weakest stage of my life. The films I had signed started releasing and flopping one after the other. So, I was like, "I am finished. There’s no way I can survive this onslaught," since I knew how bad my other unreleased films were. I was called a ‘one-film wonder’ by the media, and rightly so. I had a feeling that I was stuck in quicksand.
VIDEO During that period, did any tempting offer come your way?
Yes, I got a call from Mahesh Bhatt, saying he wanted to narrate a script to me. I was thrilled because at that time, after Arth (1982), Saaransh (1984) and Naam (1986), he was at his peak. It was like oxygen for me. I knew if I did a film with him, all my problems would be solved. I went for the narration, but at the end of it, I was devastated because I didn’t like the script.
How did you manage to turn down Mahesh Bhatt’s offer?
I went home and told Reena (Dutta; ex-wife), "I don’t know what to do. I don’t like the script." Since she was not from the industry, she told me, "I can’t give you any advice." So I introspected. If I had said yes at that time, I felt like it would have given me the power to stay in the industry, but I didn’t like the story. And I had told myself that I won’t acceptan offerif I am unhappy with it. The next day, I told Bhatt saab that I wouldn’t be able to work with him as I didn’t like the script. He was very sweet about it, and said, "No issues. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it."
Turning down such an offer at the start of your career must have been difficult.
I don’t know how I got the courage to do so at such a young age (smiles). When I look back, if I had done what was tactically correct, and accepted the film by making a compromise, my career wouldn’t have been here. I would have compromised on many levels. In hindsight, it was an impractical step. But I have never been tactical. I have gone against market forces or what was considered safe throughout my career.