Mahabharat: Juhi Chawla bowed out as Draupadi, Puneet Issar was looking for work after Coolie accident

The casting for Mahabharat was no less than a big mathematical formula. Here are some anecdotes from the making of the show.
The casting for BR Chopra’s Mahabharat was a very tedious process.
The casting for BR Chopra’s Mahabharat was a very tedious process.
Updated on Apr 21, 2020 02:13 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Mahabharat is back on screen after three decades but the stories about the making of the show continue to amuse the viewers even today. Casting for the show was a mammoth task with each character having a significant part in the story. Gufi Paintal, who himself played Shakuni in Mahabharat, took command of auditioning around 5000 artists for the show in order to find the perfect fit for the pivotal roles.

Sharing about his experience of being the casting director on the show, he had told Hindustan Times in an interview, “It was a tedious job. We conducted the most extensive auditions in the history of TV back then.”

Talking about how he happened to cast Puneet Issar and Nitish Bharadwaj for the roles of Duryodhan and Krishna respectively, Gufi had said, “Puneet had accidentally punched Amitabh Bachchan in Coolie (1983), and was out of work. Nitish was spotted in an ad made by the Chopras.”

Puneet Issar (second from right) as Duryodhan in Mahabharat.
Puneet Issar (second from right) as Duryodhan in Mahabharat.

Puneet Issar as Duryodhan

Puneet was eager to play the role of lead antagonist Duryodhan but was considered for the role of Bheem due to his height. He told RJ Anmol in a recent chat, “I recited the Jayadrath Vadh in front of Chopra saab, Pandit Narendra Sharma and Dr Rahi Mazoom Raza and they were convinced with my powerful speech and finally decided to cast me as Duryodhan.”

Mukesh Khanna as Bhishma

Meanwhile, Mukesh Khanna had auditioned for the role of Duryodhan. He said, “I was against playing a villain after playing a protagonist in 15 films. I wanted the role of Arjun or Karna which were already taken up by others.” But Vijayendra Ghatge was already roped in for the role of Bhishma. Mukesh Khanna recalled, “Maybe he wasn’t sure about playing the role of an old man which required whitening of hair and a beard. I was called in for the role at the last minute, my beard was made and clothes were stitched in a jiffy and rest is history.”

Govinda, Chunky Panday, Juhi Chawla chose films over Mahabharat

There were many Bollywood actors who were considered for various roles in Mahabharat but they ended up choosing films over television. Govinda and Chunky Panday were signed for the role of Abhimanyu, said no to the role in order to work in films.

He had revealed short listing six actors for the role of Draupadi, including Juhi Chawla. Confirming that it was Rupa’s command over the Hindi language that made her bag the role, Gufi had said, “Ramya Krishnan and Roopa were the final names, and we chose Roopa as her Hindi was good.”

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Juhi Chawla was also offered the role of Draupadi but the actor soon bagged the role of the female lead opposite Aamir Khan in the 1988 film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. While she chose to give preference to the silver screen. QWQT was her second Bollywood film and her first lead role in a Hindi film.

Arjun Firoz Khan, who played the role of Arjun, was initially rejected during the auditions. He recently said in an interview that he posed alongside Juhi for the photoshoot of the show.

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