A Director's Choice
Film-making is a multidimensional process and as the scenes and characters in the film were being fleshed out in director Karan Johar's mind, he began visualising certain actors in the important roles. Although Karan had not finalised the entire screenplay before approaching the artistes, his informal and intimate bond with most of the stars he wanted to cast, instilled a great amount of confidence in them. Interestingly, having once signed the actors, Karan imbibed some of their personal traits into the roles, so they seemed more believable, and allowed them to get under the skin of the characters with natural ease.

Yashovardhan Raichand
"As I wrote the film, I realised that Yashovardhan Raichand is the backbone of the film and I could only see one actor playing the role - Amitabh Bachchan," Karan admits. "For the rest of the cast, I had options, but I had no alternative for Amit Uncle. I was clear that I would not make the film if he refused." One afternoon, Karan, accompanied by his father Yash Johar, offered Amitabh Bachchan the pivotal role of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. It was a touching moment for Yash Johar, whose long association with the actor had resulted in hits like Dostana (1980) and Agneepath (1990). Karan informed Amitabh that the story was about a father and two sons and asked him if he would play the role of the father. He agreed instantly. "He didn't even ask me for any details of the story and that was great on his part," says Karan. An overwhelmed Yash Johar hugged Amitabh and the first of the cast was in place.


Nandini Raichand
Karan was certain when he conceived Nandini's character that Jaya Bachchan was the most obvious and logical choice for the part. "She was right for the role both in physicality and in histrionics, but as a film-maker I have a block against real life casting. I feel it always reminds the audience that they are watching a film and deters them from becoming a part of the story," he explains. But Jaya Bachchan's acting prowess and her stature cast the dice in her favour. Every time I saw Nandini's scenes, I saw Jaya Aunty," claims Karan. So his next stop was the Bachchans' residence once again. "Jaya Aunty shares a close bond with my mother. And she agreed to play Nandini even before I told her that her character was the soul of my film." The added advantage of this pairing was that after 18 years, Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan would appear together on screen again.


Rahul Raichand
"Shah Rukh Khan was Rahul Raichand in my mind," admits Karan. But this was never discussed officially till Karan offered the role to the actor on a sultry evening at his Bandra residence. The informal discussion took on a professional note and Shah Rukh in his characteristic casual manner agreed to do the film. To formalise the deal, Karan went to Shah Rukh's office the next morning. "Of course Shah Rukh laughed at my formal behaviour when I pulled out a chart of the days I would require from him," muses Karan. "Although he was one of the busiest actors in the business, he asked me to take the dates from the rest of the cast and assured me that he would adjust his schedule according to theirs. I don't think that in the years of working as a producer, my father has ever met a more accommodating actor -- someone whom my family can take completely for granted."


Anjali Sharma
"I was not sure if Kajol would agree because she was married and would be starting a family soon," states Karan. "Yet no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't see any other actress in the role." Karan met Kajol at Filmistan Studio. "I was quite nervous when I went to see her," he laughs. "For some strange reason I assumed that she was going to refuse my film." Karan gave her a brief outline of the character and clarified that while it would break his heart if she didn't do the film, her decision would never affect their friendship. Kajol was moved by the conversation and hugged Karan as tears flowed down her cheeks. "It was an unexpected reaction," remembers Karan. "We gave in to the moment and didn't speak for a long time. I was relieved when she agreed to do the film, but she wanted to consult her husband, Ajay (Devgan) before giving me the final go-ahead!" Five days after their conversation, Kajol called Karan to say she was in the film.


Rohan Raichand
Hrithik Roshan was the only one of the cast who had a fair idea of what the film's story was going to be because Karan had narrated it to him a few months earlier at a common friend's office. Karan saw the rough cut of Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (1999) and decided that Hrithik had all the qualities of Rohan Raichand. Karan met Hrithik at his home a few weeks later and formally offered him the role. Hrithik, who had liked the story immensely, was glad to be a part of the project.


Pooja Sharma
"I had seen Kareena at the BOMBAY TIMES party and I instantly knew that she was my Poo!" recollects Karan. A month or so later, he bumped into Karisma (Kapoor) at the Bachchans' residence immediately after his meeting with Jaya Bachchan. As they walked down the staircase together, he asked her if Kareena was free to meet him that evening for an important discussion. Later that night, amidst a lavish spread of food and immense Kapoor warmth, Karan finalised his Pooja. And with that the casting of the core players of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, was complete.


Naina Thapar
Another important part was a special appearance written with Rani Mukherjee in mind. "Since I was emotional about Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, I wanted the presence of Shah Rukh, Kajol and Rani in my second film too," smiles Karan. Of course, she was equally sentimental and agreed to do the film.

Every character, no matter how small, was important to the narrative and was adequately well rounded during the writing of the screenplay. "I had chosen wonderful actors and had to justify their presence," says Karan.

The Rediff Interview: Niranjan Iyengar


Design: Uday Kuckian

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